The Hunchback of Notre Dame

by Bill Slavin, Tim Wynne-Jones,
40 pages,
ISBN: 1550137735

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Children`s Books
by Jennifer Andrews

This rewriting of the classic story couples the grotesque carnival world of Quasimodo's Paris during the Feast of Fools with Esmeralda's struggle to escape the evil archdeacon, Dom Frollo, through a series of excellent drawings by Bill Slavin. The text is more difficult to follow. Wynne-Jones's use of choppy sentences and his sophisticated vocabulary (with words like "jumblement", "sanctuary", and "balustrade") detract from the story and seem unsuitable for younger readers. As an adult reader, I had to consult a dictionary while reading this text. Nonetheless, Wynne-Jones offers a compelling depiction of Quasimodo, the monstrous creature who is rejected by society and finds comfort in the bell tower of the cathedral. The story concludes with Esmeralda's reconciliation with her long- lost mother and her escape from Dom Frollo, a fairy-tale ending that differs from Hugo's resolutely tragic conclusion. Quasimodo's return to Notre Dame does have a bitter edge: his final words, "Would to God I were made of stone," returns him to his initial state of despair and leaves little hope for a happier life. This picture-book is beautiful to look at, but the text may prove distracting. Wynne-Jones's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is better suited to those who already know the narrative and can enjoy the artistry of the book, rather than its story-line. l

Jennifer Andrews is working on her Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Toronto


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