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*The Fantastic Adventures of Baron Munchausen* by Heinz Janisch, illustrated by Aljosche Blau
The Fantastic Adventures of Baron Munchausen
by Heinz Janisch, illustrated by Aljosche Blau
Ages 6-12 32 pages Enchanted Lion Books May 2010 Hardcover    

Although European children are more familiar with these stories than Americans, the tall-tale adventures of Baron Munchausen have been told and retold for hundreds of years, more recently in picture books and movies. This newest picture book version captures these delightfully fantastical stories with illustrations which will ignite the imagination.

Introducing the book, Janisch’s forward introduces the historical background of the real Baron Munchausen and claims to have come into contact with a notebook detailing the stories he told – both familiar and previously unknown – while on a trip visiting Count Zweritzky in Vienna in 1778. The Munchausen short stories begin with a “handwritten” note introducing written versions of the stories he told to the Count on his visit.

The short stories are linked together: episodes in the Baron’s travels, tall tales explaining astonishing circumstances and feats related to weather, warfare, rescues, escapes, and companions gifted with extraordinary speed, hearing, strength, sharpshooting and wind-making. Escaping many a dangerous situation, the Baron travels throughout Europe and Asia, meeting with a Sultan, Russian Czar and musicians under the sea, riding a cannonball, etc.

One story leads into the next so they are best read in order but can be read independently as well. Teachers can use the stories to compare with traditional American tall tales, to review geography as the Baron travels to real places, and as stories for students performing storytelling in forensic meets.

With older students, teachers may wish to mention the psychological disorder known as the Munchhausen syndrome wherein a patient tells stories regarding physical ailments, exaggerating their own or their children’s illness. In this edition, readers cannot distinguish whether or not the author is telling the truth about newly discovered tales or not. This enigma can lead to additional research into past editions of the stories or the 1943 and 1988 movies about the Baron.

These stories are an important component of children’s literature which no library should be without; many will be wise to update the aging collections on their shelves with this one to make the stories more accessible to current readers.

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  Kristine Wildner/2010 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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