Tag Archives: Christina Balit

The Arabian Nights

When I was quite young, I read what sounded to me like a boring story collection; Tusen och en Natt (i.e. The Book of a Thousand Nights and One Night). I soon discovered I was wrong, and that it made for fascinating reading. I was under the impression it was a children’s book, and so is – I think – this version of The Arabian Nights by Robert Leeson.

The reason I’m giving it some thought is the fact that deep down it’s quite adult, content wise, isn’t it? It’s about sex and marriage and killing people on a whim. But I believe I knew this back then and thought it perfectly acceptable, so perhaps it is adults who find the concept too grown-up.

Robert Leeson and Christina Balit, The Arabian Nights

Robert’s re-telling of this classic is another gorgeous volume illustrated by Christina Balit, telling new readers about Shahrazad who tricks the King into letting her stay alive for three years, as she tells him story after enticing, exciting, story. (And, it seems, there were a few babies made as well.)

So, not terribly boring at all. And this particular book has far prettier pictures than the one I read all those years ago.

Queen Guinevere

I actually surprised myself. With my long-standing allergy to most things Arthur I somehow didn’t expect to sit down and read Mary Hoffman’s reissued Queen Guinevere. But I thought ‘it’s a rewriting and a picture book. It can’t hurt.’

Mary has written the story (well, stories, I suppose) about Arthur and Lancelot and Galahad and all those other knights with the names you have always known, as seen from the points of view of the women. It’s really interesting.

Mary Hoffman and Christina Balit, Queen Guinevere

This is not a picture book for small children. To begin with, Christina Balit’s truly gorgeous illustrations are quite grown-up, and you could get by with just looking at them. I can’t begin to guess what age group this is aimed at. It’s about sixty pages of text, and the stories are anything but innocent, with incest and killings.

But as I said, I enjoyed reading it. There was a most useful family tree to guide me as to who’s who (although I wish they weren’t all called M something, or G something), and hearing the story through the women, you presumably get a clearer view of what went on.

Here’s to Ragnell, Nimue and Elaine, and all the rest of them.