Since Cora discovered the fairy tale section of our library it’s been hard not to come home with a least one princess story. We’ve read about Cinderellas from all over the world and seen various artists’ depictions of Rapunzel. But last week’s selections genuinely had us thinking differently about familiar stories. They had us thinking postmodernly as we followed non-linear and self-referntial narratives that highlighted multiple perspectives of shared experiences.
Nobody Asked the Pea (Stewig/Van Wright, 2013), is an alternative version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea.” Each page highlights a different character’s voice (in a unique font) including Queen Mildred, Prince Harold, a couple of princesses, Mother Mouse, the Head Housekeeper, The Pea, and others. The story unfolds through their experiences related to the grand narrative, rather than focusing on that storyline itself. The illustrations support the first person narration with some characters breaking the third wall and looking directly at the reader.
The introduction to The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Scieszka/Smith, 1989) at the top of this post sums up the plot of the book. This story is told from the wolf’s perspective. It is a memoir of sorts, dictated from a prison cell where the wolf is serving time for the murder of two out of three of the pigs. His voice is simultaneously sincere and sarcastic. The illustrations are richly textured and reward dedicated viewers.
When I was in graduate school postmodernism was all the rage, until some philosophers declared it’s untimely death. Regardless of what you might think on that subject, it’s hard to argue that children can be authentically challenged cognitively by picturebooks that might be categorized as postmodern. Books that don’t merely tell a story starting at point A and ending at point B. Books that confront beliefs about beauty, power, and representation.