When we go on vacation, I usually grab as many soft-cover picturebooks as I can find on our home library shelves. They pack nice and tight and they don’t weigh much. When Cora and I went to the beach with my family last month, I brought along The Story Tree: Tales to Read Aloud (Lupton/Fatus, 2005), a book she received for her first birthday (thanks Shannon!) but we hadn’t really spent much time with yet. The book contains stories from around the world including a few classics that have been retold and become classics of their own. For example, fans of Tomie de Paulo’s Strega Nona (1979), will surely recognize” The Magic Porridge Pot,” a story attributed to Germany. And one of Dan’s all time favorites, Caps for Sale (Slobodkina, 1940), appears here as “Monkey-See, Monkey Do” (India).
We read The Story Tree from cover-to-cover on the airplane and, as we were getting off, the woman in front of us actually thanked me for the readings. We read the stories again throughout our trip at breakfast and at rest time with my niece and nephew. Perhaps that set us up to see more fairy tale books when we returned to our public library back home. Here are a few we’ve liked.
Lucy Cousins’ Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales (2010) is a thematic collection based on stories that all involve food. Most of the them actually involve one character eating another character, or characters, which made for some difficult conversations with Cora. For example:
Cora: “Why did the wolf eat the pig mommy?”
Me: “Because that’s what wolves do sometimes, sweetheart.”
Lame, I know. What would you say? I’m open to suggestions. The illustrations are bold and bright, though I’m not wild about some of the captions. For the most part they are redundant with the text and seem superfluous.
People who know me well won’t be surprised that I have been avoiding princesses and princess stories as much as possible – I don’t want Cora to be a pawn in Disney’s business plan – but we found a nice version of Cinderella (Eilenberg & Sharkey, 2008) that offered a decent introduction. The drawings are soft yet stylized, using colors and shapes to help evoke the step-mother’s wickedness and the sisters ugliness. As a step-mother I have some issues with this story, but in the end that’s all it is, a story. And a classic one all children, boys and girls alike, ought to read at least once.
I’ve saved the best for last as far as both text and image are concerned. Goldilocks and Just One Bear (Hodgkinson, 2012) offers a great spin on the classic tale. A bear gets lost in a big city and finds himself in a penthouse that belongs to a dear old acquaintance. Nevermind that in any city with a building this fancy – the elevator opens directly into the apartment – one would likely find a doorman who would have kicked the bear to the curb. The text is fun to read with enough that is like the old story to make kids feel like they know what’s coming next and enough that’s new to keep them paying attention. The illustrations are quirky and full of silly details that make repeated readings exciting.
Summertime seems just the right time for fairy tales; a time of suspended reality. You tell me, what should we read next?