Cover image for Mother Holly : a retelling from the Brothers Grimm
Mother Holly : a retelling from the Brothers Grimm
Stewig, John W.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : North-South Books, 2001.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 30 cm
Retells the Grimm tale of the two sisters who visit Mother Holly with very different results.
General Note:
Based on the Grimm brothers' Frau Holle.

"A Cheshire Studio book."
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.6 0.5 55172.
Added Uniform Title:
Frau Holle.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PZ8.S64 MP 2001 Juvenile Non-Fiction Fairy Tales

On Order



Two sisters--kind, industrious Rose and vain, lazy Blanche--experience two very different adventures when each tumbles down a well and into the magical world of Mother Holly. Rose's journey begins accidentally, but because of her generosity to all she meets along the way, and her hard work for ugly but kind Mother Holly, she returns home in a shimmering gown covered in gold. Envious of Rose's good fortune, Blanche decides to visit Mother Holly herself, but her pride, laziness, and foul temper earn her an apt and well-deserved punishment. John Warren Stewig's retelling of this little-known tale by the Brothers Grimm offers children a satisfying new ending that demonstrates how with help, redemption is possible. And Johanna Westerman's lovely, intricately detailed illustrations, as spellbinding as Mother Holly's magic door, are pure enchantment.

Author Notes

Jacob W. Grimm (1785-1863) and his brother Wilhelm K. Grimm (1786-1859) pioneered the study of German philosophy, law, mythology and folklore, but they are best known for their collection of fairy tales. These include such popular stories as Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and The Frog Prince. Commonly referred to now as Grimm's Fairy Tales, their collection was published as Kinder-und-Hausmarchen (Children's and Household Tales, 1812-15).

The brothers were born thirteen months apart in the German province of Hesse, and were inseparable from childhood. Throughout their lives they showed a marked lack of sibling rivalry. Most of their works were written together, a practice begun in childhood when they shared a desk and sustained throughout their adult lives. Since their lives and work were so collaborative, it is difficult now to differentiate between them, but of course there were differences.-

Jacob, who studied for a time in Paris, was fascinated with variant spellings of older words. He articulated "Grimm's Law," the rules of which are still used today to determine correspondences between the consonants of German and languages in the Indo-European family. Jacob was bolder and more experimental than Wilhelm, and was rumored to be a lively dancer. Throughout his life, Jacob kept rigidly to schedule and could be extremely focused on work that demanded close attention to detail. He never married, but was a loving uncle to Wilhelm's children.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are buried side by side in Berlin.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5-8. Stewig breathes new life into a lesser-known story by the Brothers Grimm. Rose is the good, hardworking sister; her stepsister, Blanche, of course, is the spiteful, lazy one. When Rose follows her spindle down a well, she finds herself in a different land, where she helps an apple tree shake itself free of fruit and milks a cow whose udders are full. She also lives with the ugly but kind Mother Holly and is showered in gold for her trouble. Then Blanche goes down the well, but she finds that the choices she makes lead to thorns. In an ending of his own, Stewig has the girls returning together to Mother Holly, and Blanche is finally rewarded after Rose teaches her helpfulness. In his author's note, Stewig says the story reinforces his belief that with help we can all change. Kids will probably prefer the less-didactic original in which good trumps nasty. Still, this is an engaging retelling that captures the cadence of fairy tales as well as the genre's subtle lessons. Westerman's watercolor illustrations, a good balance of delicate and strong, overflow with lovely detail. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

John Warren Stewig offers a faithful retelling of the Grimm tale featuring the sisters, one kind, the other mean and lazy, who visit Mother Holly and receive vastly different recompense for their efforts while in her employ. Illustrations by Johanna Westerman convey the mean-spirited stepmother and her daughter, and the kind Rose, whose inner beauty shines forth. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-4-Stewig's retelling of this German folktale is embellished by an ending in which lazy, selfish Blanche and kind, industrious Rose return to Mother Holly's house, where Blanche redeems herself and is freed from the magical torture that had been inflicted upon her. Stewig says that he added this episode to illustrate, "-that with help we can all change the way we behave." It is, perhaps, a reassuring departure from the harsh traditional ending in which Blanche was left covered in pitch for the rest of her natural days. Otherwise, Stewig has combined various other tellings of the tale into a reasonably straightforward narrative. His work is greatly enhanced by the meticulous artwork of Westerman, who does not shy away from portraying unpleasant people in all their unpleasantness and whose thoughtful details do much to illuminate German country life in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many libraries may want to purchase this edition of the story because of the delicacy and beauty of the drawings.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.