Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Dulcinea who lived happily “with her father in a house on the edge of a large forest.” The forest, of course, was off-limits to all, for deep within it, an evil witch lived inside a castle, replete with a treacherous, monster-filled moat.
Such is the stuff of fairy tales, and this one, a chapter book for ages 5-9, is an especially well-crafted one, full of brilliant, droll details and delightful cartoon-style illustrations that enhance its dry humor.
On Dulcinea’s birthday, her father was making the breakfast she had chosen, pancakes with blueberries and whipped cream. “Because nobody made pancakes as well as he did.”
They had forgotten to buy blueberries! So her father zipped out to get some. Breaking his own rule, he slipped into the forest to gather just a few.
Unsurprisingly to those who have read fairy tales, the witch immediately appeared and decided to turn the gentle blueberry-harvesting father into a tree! She was so forgetful, though, that she first had to page through her handy-dandy spellbook to remember how the spell went. In the twinkling of an absentminded witch’s eye, the forest had a new, behatted, magnificently moustachioed tree.
Seeing that her father had entered the forbidden forest, Dulcinea courageously followed his path. She spotted her father-as-a-tree and quickly set off to find the witch and save him. Eventually she found the castle and within it, the yodeling witch, who was:
…sitting at an organ, singing as she played. It didn’t seem to bother her at all that she sounded hideous. In fact it seemed to please her. Because whenever she hit an especially jarring note, she yelped with pleasure and clapped her hands.”
An out-of-tune, opera-warbling, music-loving witch! If I hadn’t already been charmed by this witty story, I would have been right then and there.
You’ll have to read the rest of this modern fairy tale to find out how Dulcinea escaped the witch and reached her father-the-tree in the nick of time to save him from the proverbial passing woodcutter’s axe. But unsurprisingly for such a plucky, clever heroine, save him she did.
Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest
Written by Ole Könnecke
Translated from the German by Shelley Tanaka
2021, Gecko Press
You can buy a copy here.
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Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of 70 books and graphic novels for children and adults from French, Italian, German and Spanish into English, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Two of her translations, Luisa: Now and Then and California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas were chosen for YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens; Luisa: Now and Then was also a 2019 Stonewall Honor Book. Her translations released in 2021 are Magical History Tour #5: The Plague, Bibi & Miyu#2, The Sisters #7: Lucky Brat, Chloe & Cartoon, For Justice: The Serge and Beate Klarsfeld Story, LGBTQ YA manga Alter Ego, and the critically acclaimed A House Without Windows.