(CONTINUED FROM PART ONE)
Let’s admit something together right now. A certain strain of American has probably seen the Disney version of the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" at least once in their lives. As such, certain images and phrases from this book have a hard time separating themselves from that oddly faithful (just our luck) adaptation of the tale. Certain sentences in this book float through our mental ears to the sonorous tones of Bing Crosby. For the most part, Grimly does what he can to separate himself from Disney’s version, and as far as I can tell he only comes close to a direct reference once. That would be the moment where, in the midst of trying to escape the headless horseman, Ichabod briefly finds himself doing the running with his horse sitting on his back. Classic slapstick stuff, sure. Maybe too classic
Flaw: I read a few pages of this book then proceeded to stare at the cover intently for a good fifteen to thirty seconds sans blinking. I did this because I was convinced that the word "Abridged" was lurking somewhere in plain sight and I was just too thick to see it. Bemused by my inability to find it, I flipped to the title page. Nothing. The back bookflap? Nada. The front bookflap. Nothing a thi . . . . wait! Wait wait, I spoke too soon! What’s that teensy tiny itty bitty l’il nuthin’ of a sentence down there? That little snippet lurking beneath the description of the story? (removes magnifying glass from purse and peers closely) Ah. I see now. It says, "Be forewarned: The text has been slightly condensed for maximum fright." Knowing, as we do, the frequency with which such bookflaps get lost, perhaps the book beneath the jacket says the same thing. Yeah, no such luck. So basically, you’re going to get a lot of confused parents who don’t know their Washington Irving very well and will be more than happy to think that this is the complete story. Or, more likely, you’ll end up with a lot of fast-moving teenagers who have been told to read the tale for their autumnal English class and can’t see why this book isn’t the original story since even the publication page is absent of any warnings or notations. BAD, Atheneum, BAD! You did a killer job on the bookjacket (I’m loving the faux binding peering out along the spine and the buckled "leather") but when your author abridges something you need to let us know with big flashy lights. Seriously, now.
I anticipate so many kids falling under the thrall of this book that their parents seek out Irving’s original tale just to slake their headless horseman thirst for more. And anything that gets the kiddies reading real honest-to-goodness Washington Irving will have to be seen, even by the most jaded critics, as a good thing. Putting aside the question of whether or not the book should have been more forthcoming in the whole "is it abridged?" area of affairs, this is a great title and one that deserves a place in every library far and wide. Classy and keen. A keeper, if ever there was one.
Notes on the Cover: The muted palate of orange and sepia hues calls to mind a very different graphic novel out this year with very similar packaging. I doubt that many would think to pair “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” with Shaun Tan’s, “The Arrival”, but it’s truly amusing to compare the packaging on the two books and think about how the reaction to each title differs. I like it, though.
Misc: Check out the Gris Grimly website.