Reviews for Chaucer's Canterbury Tales


Booklist Reviews 2007 February #2
Williams, the author of several comic-book-style retellings of classic tales, brings Chaucer'sCanterbury Tales to life in a colorful, visually rich format. Each two-page spread, delightfully aquiver with boisterous, good-natured zaniness, uses visual detail to create a frenetic montage of the stories within the story of the traveling pilgrims, who try to best one another in tale telling. The pages are bordered with critters offering humorous peanut-gallery commentary on the stories, while the cartoon personalities within the tales speak in a pidgin Old English that children will delight in deciphering and replicating. Chaucer's ribald tales, which often veer into the juvenile gross-out antics of bawdy adults, are toned down a bit for cheeky young readers (though farts still fly), and the tales-within-a-tale structure of the book nicely matches Williams' multiple-level layouts. Some children may wonder what a Franklin or a Reeve is (curiously, Williams only explains a Summoner), but that won't distract from the fun of the lively, goofy stories and bustling artwork. An entertaining introduction to a storytelling classic. ((Reviewed February 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
Williams adapts nine tales, each presented in comic-strip-style panels. A chorus provides running commentary, unobtrusively allowing the author to braid Chaucer's storytelling contest into her retelling. The bright cartoons make the most of Chaucer's bawdiness, exaggerating physical faults and reveling in potty humor. The straightforward telling reflects an oral style and allows the illustrations to carry both narrative suspense and humor. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #2
Chaucer's famed band of pilgrims journeys from Southwark to Canterbury via Williams's signature graphic presentation of nine of the classic tales, including "The Knight's Tale," "The Miller's Tale," and "The Wife of Bath's Tale." Her style adapts itself well to the structure of the Tales, each story presented in comic strip-style panels beneath which readers see (and hear, in speech balloons rendered in the original Middle English) the pilgrims wending their way across the English countryside. A flanking chorus of birds and beasts provides a running commentary on the tales, unobtrusively allowing the author to braid Chaucer's storytelling contest into her retelling. The tales themselves are presented without their prologues, putting the emphasis on the stories rather than the characters telling them-an appropriate choice given both the child audience and the tales' folkloric origins. The bright cartoons make the most of Chaucer's bawdiness, exaggerating physical faults with glee and reveling in potty humor (the many farts practically levitate off the page); in the frame below the tales, the pilgrims continue their merry and messy progress toward Canterbury. The telling of the tales, necessarily stripped of the original work's metrical cadences, is straightforward, reflecting an oral storytelling style and allowing the illustrations to carry both narrative suspense and humor. Greet cheere for yonge rederes. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2006 December #2
Of Williams's string of recast classics, this is the best so far. In nine of Chaucer's broader tales, retold in brief prose passages between lines of small, comic strip-style panels over running scenes of the pilgrim storytellers regaling one another, Williams moves from strenuous tests of love or faith in "The Wife of Bath's Tale" and "The Clerk's Tale" to the romance (or tragedy, depending on one's point of view) of "The Knight's Tale." And from the hilarious hanky panky of "The Miller's Tale" and the bed-swapping "The Reeve's Tale" (featuring the occasional bare fundament, but leaving the sex implied) to the gruesome triumph of Death in "The Pardoner's Tale." The pictures, aptly filled with comical figures of many classes and walks of life, are also sprinkled with direct quotes to provide a taste of the original's language. After the Nun's Priest's version of "Chanticleer and the Fox," plus a full-spread view of the pilgrims arriving at Canterbury, Williams closes with a discussion-sparking invitation to judge which is the best story. Readers will want to revisit several of the high--and low--spots before deciding. (Graphic fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 February #1
Marcia Williams adds to her whimsically formatted explorations of Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare with Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Her signature style seems ideally suited to the interconnectedness of Chaucer's tales: cartoon-panel artwork highlights the events in the tales and a running narrative along the bottom margin shows the pilgrims in real time. For instance, the miller's portrait appears in the upper-left corner of his tale's opening spread, so that when the Reeve completes his tale (in which the miller is outwitted), readers can see the miller tossing his wine at the reeve at the dinner table. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 March

Gr 4-8-- Chaucer's pilgrims come to life in this energetic retelling of nine tales. The most familiar stories--"The Nun's Priest's Tale," "The Pardoner's Tale," and "The Wife of Bath's Tale"--are here, as are the earthier Miller's and Summoner's tales, and the clever Knight's and Clerk's tales. Quotes in medieval English are featured in dialogue bubbles, while the stories themselves are told in clear modern prose with a poetic bent. For example, in the "The Wife of Bath's Tale," the knight "glimpsed a group of delightful damsels dancing in a glade." As happens throughout the text, children are introduced to elevated vocabulary that captures the original intent of Chaucer's poetry, while elucidating the meaning of the unfamiliar words through the illustrations. Throughout, the juxtaposition of medieval and modern English adds to the comic feel. The watercolor-and-ink cartoon art displayed in a comic-book format is a perfect match for the raucous and sometimes-raw humor, with exaggerated facial expressions and purposely disproportionate body parts. For instance, in "The Miller's Tale," when Alison offers her bottom out the window for Absolon to kiss, it is a rather prominent derriere that meets his waiting lips, a fact that is sure to provoke loud guffaws from students. The essence of each tale is intact, allowing the audience to savor Chaucer's genius, with free use of words such as "fart." Williams's collection is an excellent opportunity to expose children to more accounts than the four in Barbara Cohen's The Canterbury Tales (HarperCollins, 1988). A sure way to hook kids into reading classic literature.--Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI

[Page 236]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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