I love reading my son fairy tales. I particularly love fairy tales retold. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszkca (1989) was a favorite of mine when I was a kid. I love hearing a familiar story from some other characters point of view! Also, my own son has gone through his own love-phase with one fairy tale in particular, the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story. So of course the fairy tale books on the Cybils 2012 list have simply called out to me.
The one I was most excited to read Raisin was Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems (Balzer + Bray, 2012), which I was eager to read long before I knew it was on the Cybils nomination list!1 Mo Willems has transformed a traditional story into an amusing new creation in Three Dinosaurs. Goldilocks is obviously trying to follow the script, and it seems the dinosaurs have set a trap so they could get an afternoon treat, but Goldilocks runs in to a few problems:
The first chair was too tall.
The second chair was too tall.
But the third chair — WAS TOO TALL.
The end of the story provides a silly moral for the child reader. Three Dinosaurs is a wonderful addition to the Goldilocks tradition. It still has me chuckling.
Goldilocks and Just One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson (Candlewick Press, 2011) tells the story from yet a different perspective. A bear who lives in the woods finds himself lost in the big city! The mixed media illustrations are just perfect for the mixed-up bear who just wants some peace and quiet. It’s lucky that he can try three bowls of porridge (which are really a soggy fishbowl, cat food, and crunchy toast), three chairs that aren’t really chairs at all, and three “beds” to try out to find the just right spot to rest. I love how this picture book requires the pictures to tell the full story, and the twist at the end is perfect way of bringing this mixed-up fairy tale full circle.
The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool and illustrated by Alison Jay (Knopf, 2012) is a fantastic new fairy tale with Jay’s uniquely characteristic illustrations (alkyd paint on thick paper, with crackle varnish). I love her art style: her unique varnish makes the pictures look aged, and the illustrations themselves are attractive and whimsical, which delightful things hiding in otherwise ordinary objects. Her style is perfect for a fairy tale since everything about it suggests a magical land. Her art reminds me of mosaics. Catchpool’s story is likewise noteworthy. In it, one small boy is able to spin the clouds. He makes himself a hat and scarf, but is careful to not use to much, despite how lovely and soft the fabric is. When the king spots the luscious fabric, he demands a coat made of the clouds. His greed grows, and soon the royal family is clothed in the clouds. Only his little princess notices the consequences of his greed and she must find a way to solve the problem. A well done picture book for child and adult alike.
The Tooth Mouse by Susan Hood and Janice Nadeau (Kids Can Press, 2012) covers the fairy tale tradition of the tooth fairy. I had not known that in many parts of the world the tradition actually relates to a “tooth mouse,” instead of a fairy. In this story, the retiring tooth mouse must find a worthy successor. Little Sophie is very young and the tasks are daunting but she is up to the challenge! I love the ultimate solution to the question I’ve always had: what does the tooth fairy/mouse do with all those teeth? Because this is a book that takes place in France, there are French words interspersed throughout. The artwork is done in pencil and watercolor and fits the wispy feel of the French story about a light-footed mouse.
The Unruly Queen by E.S. Redmond (Candlewick, 2012) is about a spoiled and unpleasant child, who will not listen to her nannies. When her 53rd nanny crowns her queen of Petulant Peak, Minerva is not quite so sure she wants to be queen there and goes about proving to her nanny that she does behave! I’m certain such manipulative reverse psychology does not really work on children, but then, have any of us met a child quite so spoiled as this girl? The Unruly Queen provides a humorous look at an exaggerated situation, but it surely will resonate with kids on some level. Pen, ink, and watercolor join to bring Petulant Peak (just beyond Wit’s End) to life.
Do you have a “tooth fairy” or a “tooth mouse” tradition for disposing of baby teeth? We have a family tradition of who collects the teeth, although my son is still too young to meet him (Thaddeus T. Firefly is his name).
- Funny story: the other day after Raisin did his two or three spelling words for me, he gave me a spelling quiz. One word he gave me was “Mo” with the sentence “Elephant and Piggie is written by Mo Willems.” ↩