This is a clever romp-in-rhyme through the characters of familiar fairy tales and folktales that will bring back memories of loved stories as well as suggest new ones to explore. Who is Herd Boy? Why was the Nymph protecting her tree? And why is ‘ugly’ just a disguise? Perfect for extending children’s reading into traditional tales from a range of countries as they try to match character with story.
But while the illustrations are quirky, I’m not so sure that the target audience is attracted to these muted, retro colours that seem to be so prominent in children’s books at the moment. My experience of 45 years with littlies is that children will view the cover as quite dull and pass it over in favour of something more eye-catching, so that while the text is brilliant it will take an adult’s encouragement to entice the child to explore it.
Way back when, fairy tales involving all sorts of terrifying, evil creatures that were all eventually defeated by the powers of good were told to children as a way of exhorting them to make the right choices and stay on the straight and narrow.
In 1812 German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began gathering and publishing the tales in a collection that eventually spanned seven volumes. Right from the beginning there was criticism of their content because even though they were marketed as ‘children’s tales’ they were deemed too gruesome for children and changes were made so that some of the scarier elements were softened, such as making the wicked mothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel in stepmothers (an image which modern stepmothers still battle.) Over the years, more and more changes have been made with the myriad of interpretations and reprints until we have the more acceptable versions we have today.
But in this collection Gris Grimly, (an apt name) has faithfully reproduced the original text of forty one tales, some familiar and some not-so, and adorned them with his own inimitable artwork. “The result is a Grimm collection unlike any other, set in a world that is whimsically sinister, darkly vivid, and completely unforgettable.”
This is probably not a collection that you would pick up and read to a Kindy kid as an introduction to fairy tales or a before-the-bell time-filler but it could be one to give a slightly older child who is craving the horror stories being read by older siblings or peers. It might also be the collection that you share if you are doing a comparison of versions of the same tale and how they have changed or been changed or if you are investigating childhood of different eras and want to look at the literature of the times and the purpose for it.
This book is exactly what the title says – it is all to do with princesses and royalty from stories to recipes, games and activities, things to make and how to be a princess. Richly illustrated, it begins with half a dozen traditional stories of princesses from around the world and then moves on to a section bursting with all sorts of recipes fir for a secret garden tea party, a cottage picnic and a pink princess party . There are tips for serving the food, correct table manners and etiquette including how to wave and curtsey and even a guide to the members of the Royal household. In fact there is little about being a princess that is not covered.
Going through a ‘princess stage’ is almost a rite of passage for little girls, enhanced by Disney’s adaptations of many of the traditional fairy tales, and there was always a big demand for anything of this nature in the school I was in last year, particularly with those girls who were learning English as another language and who saw this as a way into the language of the playground. This would be like a bible for them as the stories and concepts are already familiar so as well as speaking the ‘same language’ they can now read it too.
With is lavish hardcover protecting its spiral bound contents, it is attractive and would be one to recommend to grandparents looking for something special for the Christmas stocking.
Once upon a time (although quite recently in this version), Cinderella lived with her stepmother Mrs Ugly and her three stepsisters. But this isn’t a story about Cinderella. It’s about the youngest Ugly sister, Gertie. Unlike her mother and sisters who lived up to their name, Gertie was kind and gentle and very hard-working. While Cinderella lazed around and did nothing, Gertie did all the chores of the original story.
Gertie’s niceness was the cause of great shame and despair in the Ugly family and so she was hidden away, not allowed to go anywhere with them. So when an invitation comes to attend the Grand Ball, there is no question of Gertie going – unless she can prove that she can be bad and mean. But to be bad and mean will take lessons so she is sent to the Wicked Queen who is on her way to deliver a poisoned apple to Snow White. But unable to help herself, just as Snow White is about to accept the apple, Gertie warns her that it is poisoned. The Wicked Queen is furious and immediately sends Gertie home to her very angry mother. Gertie’s pleas for a second chance see her protecting Hansel and Gretel from the Wicked Witch and again, sent home in disgrace. It is not until she meets the Big Bad Wolf who is determined to eat Little Red Riding Hood that her chances of going to the ball improve.
This is an hilarious twist on a range of familiar fairytales with a most delicious ending. The bright, trendy illustrations bring it into the 21st century and into the world of today’s young reader. They will delight in revisiting characters they’ve already met and seeing a whole new side of the Cinderella they know and love.
Apart from being fun to read for its own sake, this would be an ideal story to use as part of an investigation into perspective because not only is the story told from a different character’s point of view, bringing it into modern times offers a range of new possibilities too. Thus it will have a broader appeal than just the very young who are fairytale fans
If you are looking for a new fairytale for the Share-A-Story guide, this might be the one.