Book Reviews

Book Review: Greatest Magical Stories


TITLE & AUTHOR: Greatest Magical Stories by Michael Morpurgo

GENRE: Children’s/Fairy Tales/Fantasy/Short Stories

PUBLISHED : October 5th 2017, by OUP Oxford





A good idea but poorly developed.

I’ve loved fairy tales and folktales since childhood, so I’ve read most of these stories, both the best and the worst, and the most known ones in their original, gruesome versions. Having so many to choose from, it’s obviously not an easy task to pick them through and chose ‘the best ones’. This is what the author tried to do, including the famous tales such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the lesser known ones like Yoshi the Stonecutter, The Selkie, and The Merman.

There are twelve tales in total in this collection, most of which I liked, but I felt some were cut too short except the last one, Jack and the Beanstalk, which was much longer than the other ones. That was a weird decision, since it really sticks out, especially because it was also the only one written in first person pov. But that weird move didn’t ruin the overall experience. What did ruin it were some of the illustrations.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

The Sleeping Beauty and The Twelve Dancing Princesses were illustrated by the same unfortunate soul who basically destroyed this book. I may come off as too critical, but the illustrations should be important here, right? This is a children’s book after all.

The Queen: “Kill me please.”


After the ghastly experience provided in these two stories, we get to The Pied Piper, a story I really love. This one was the only one done in silhouettes. Why? But actually, not in silhouettes, because they had some hints of color, and the backgrounds were fully colored.

Why? Just why?

I don’t think this would appeal to a child. After all, kids are imaginative creatures, and they need something called colors to keep them interested. This one is beyond ghastly.

That is the worst. Now we get to the semi-bad. Jack and the Beanstalk was all mushy and ugly, but at least it had some murky colors. Cinderella was poorly done in a vector program, where the prince was obviously copy-pasted from scene to scene, with an anatomically incorrect eye placement, unless he’s an alien, and yet again the story was chopped down.

You’ll poke her eye out with that nose, prince.

The Princess and the Frog featured an African American princess, which would seem like a cool move, were it not already done by Disney. The illustrations are semi-bad. Rumpelstiltskin was poorly retold, but the illustrations were nice and had a classic feel to it. Tom Thumb features extremely quirky illustrations, but the story is like two lines long and has a weird message in the end. Tom just ditched his parents forever so he can live with the royalty. Ka-ching.

Bye parents! Hellooo money!

Yoshi the Stonecutter is a beautiful and interesting story I haven’t read before, and I enjoyed it very much. The illustrations were really nice, but my enjoyment was yet again destroyed, this time by pixels.


There are some clear ones, and some blurry ones in the same story, so the pixelation was obviously not on purpose. Throughout the whole book there are also randomly blurred images. I don’t get that in the slightest.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a story I really love. It was cut short too, and the illustrations are nice but very blurry.

I like the quirkiness.

And now we finally get to the two stories that made me rate this book with a 3 instead of a 2. I’m weak on cute illustrations. I’m also weak on Scottish folktales. The Merman is a beautifully illustrated tale I haven’t had the chance to read yet, but as you may have guessed it’s about merpeople. It seems to be a part of Scottish folklore, so I’ll have to find a different, longer version to read.

The Merman

The Selkie is a retelling of the selkie myth/legend, and it’s one of my absolute favorite ones. The animated movie Song of the Sea is my heart and soul. So it was obvious I’d love this one, but we cannot ignore the fact it’s also the one with the most beautiful illustrations. Both The Selkie and The Merman were illustrated by Victoria Assanelli. I had to google her because she’s really good. If she’d been chosen to do this entire collection, I would have given it a 5+.



I can’t do an ‘all in all’ here, because half of this book is horrid, and less than a third is beautiful, but as these kind of books mainly depend on the illustrations, I would recommend skipping this one, and choosing one done by either a single good artist, or several good ones.

11 thoughts on “Book Review: Greatest Magical Stories

  1. The concept for this book is confusing me. So OUP wanted a fairy tale collection, but only had twelve fairy tales included? And different illustrators were chosen for..some reason? I guess I don’t understand because I can get something like The Blue Fairy Book and have far more stories included.


  2. Beautiful post, Marina!! It seems there was so much potential regarding the approach of the illustrations but there is a distinction between a minimalistic, abstract style and plain bad depiction of the tales. Judging by the images, I fully agree with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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