As a child, I loved to be read Yoshiharu Suzuki’s (Japanese Illustrator) version of Swan Lake. His delicate, almost childlike but compelling drawings drew me into the world of Odette and Prince Siegfried and made watching the ballet performance many years later that bit more meaningful. Fast forward to the more recent past, I came across another of Suzuki’s books whilst rummaging in a charity shop. This one is Grieg’s Peer Gynt, a depiction of the the play that inspired Grieg’s musical interpretation of Ibsen’s 1867 play. Our Swan Lake book is buried in a box in storage back in the UK, but in the meantime I love reading Peer Gynt to my three. What better way to introduce young children to stories from the ballet or opera than depict the tales within the colourful and characterful pages of a storybook.
In this story, we follow the adventures of roguish, boastful Peer in Norway from kidnapping a bride at a wedding, to joining in with the festivities of devilish trolls, to escaping to Africa where his greed makes him a wealthy man before ultimately repenting of his avaricious life and finding solace in the arms of Solveig, the only girl he ever loved.
First published in 1970, this gem of a book is sadly now out of print. But you just never know what a rummage in a charity shop or second hand book shop might produce. So do keep an eye out for Peer Gynt or Swan Lake or indeed any of his other ‘Stories from famous music.’