Archives

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There Is No Big Bad Wolf In This Story

Lou Carter

Deborah Allwright

Bloomsbury, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781526608161

The Big Bad Wolf is late AGAIN and is ruining stories as he rushes through the forest to Grandma’s house. When the Three Little Pigs get seriously grumpy AGAIN, Wolf tells them he’s had ENOUGH. There will be no more HUFFING and PUFFING from this Big Bad Wolf. The fairytale characters aren’t worried – they can totally manage without him!

But Big Bad Wolfing is harder than it looks … And what happens when they realise that they really need a Big Bad Wolf in this story.

Like its predecessor, There is No Dragon in this Story, this is another charming romp through Fairytale Land, this time The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, particularly, with some other familiar characters thrown in.  This is more for readers who are familiar with the original tales and characters that are commonly found in fairytales as that will help them appreciate the nuances of the story and its irony. Would the little pigs really want their houses blown down and would the wolf really want to end up in the pot each time? There is also a subtle message about taking others for granted and working as a team that threads its way through  and it offers an introduction to investigating the role of the ‘villain’ in these sorts of stories, as well as the original didactic purpose of the genre itself.  On an even deeper level, some could consider whether stories such as The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood colour a person’s perceptions of the wolf from a young age leading to situations like those of Fourteen Wolves allowing for real differentiation of the curriculum through one apparently simple book.

Nevertheless, even without the maturity to view the story through those lenses, this is one that little ones will enjoy because of its familiar characters, bright illustrations and fast-paced action. But I’m glad it allowed me to dig deeper for possibilities, as all quality picture books do. 

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage

Marie Sebag-Montefiore

Usborne, 2021

208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781474989657

In  Children’s literature: A reader’s history from Aesop to Harry Potter. ( 2008, Chicago, IL., USA: University of Chicago Press) Seth Lerer contends that “Ever since children have learned to read, there has been children’s literature” and having children learn lessons about life through literature has been a constant thread. Didacticism has been a hallmark of children’s stories from the 18th century moral tale to the modern problem novel as using realism to instruct its readers has always been its central aim. Although this has changed from trying to inculcate better, more mature behaviour to presenting a problem without suggestion of a solution, nevertheless for generations of readers education has always been placed before entertainment.

And that is the central thread of this collection of forgotten fairytales, as common in their time as those of Snow White, Cinderella and their ilk today but lost throughout the years.  With their focus on the many ways we can be courageous or kind, they feature both genders as heroes and diverse cultures demonstrating that essentially, children are the same the world over. With their message of being kind to ourselves, having the courage to stand up for what we believe in, and being compassionate towards others, even though the stories themselves are over a century old, their message today is as applicable as ever.  

Fairytales remain a part of the study of literature across the age groups and this collection offers some “new” stories to compare to the more well-known ones to investigate whether they have a common structure, theme or message that children in 2021 can learn as well as those in 1821. Have things changed so much? 

 

 

Good Question

Good Question

Good Question

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Question

Sue Whiting

Annie White

Walker, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760650841

Remember the story of Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky and their mates who were on their way to tell the King that the sky was falling when they met up with Fox? Well, this is the story behind the story that explains just how Fox came to be in the right place at the right time to get himself something to fill his empty tummy.

There is a hint on the front endpapers that there is more to this story than meets the eye with a number of familiar fairytale characters in the woods, although the main story starts with Fox high in a tree talking to the reader and ready to explain why he is there.  It’s an intriguing tale of cause and effect that takes the reader back through his frustrating day told in a monologue that engages the  reader and makes them want to turn the page.  How do all those characters fit in to one story?

Accompanied by action-packed illustrations that enrich Fox’s narrative in the best way, there is a repetitive refrain that drives the story on until we are back to why Fox is up the tree.  And what happens then? Good question.  I thought you’d never ask.  And to discover the answer you have to look closely and follow right to the final endpages.

As well as being a most entertaining story, this has so much potential to be a model for a class or individual story.  The great storytellers always say they start with the end in mind – they know where their main character is going to finish up and then it’s a matter of working backwards to untangle how that happens and how they got there.  So the story end becomes the story start. Younger writers might all start with the same stimulus of a particular picture that has a character in an unusual situation and track the story backwards, offering the potential for a class book of imaginative interpretations while older students might choose their own character and situation.

This really deserves its place as a CBCA Picture Book of the Year Notable for 2021.

The Daring Princess

The Daring Princess

The Daring Princess

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Daring Princess

Susanna Davidson

Alessandra Santelli

Usborne, 2021

48pp., hbk., RRP $A9.99

9781474969796

This is a re-telling of the Grimm fairytale, ‘The Iron Stove’, in which a princess frees a prince from an iron stove, after he was trapped there by a wicked witch. But no sooner has she freed him, than the witch appears and snatches the prince away. Now the princess must climb a glass mountain, cross a lake and a field of swirling spikes to save him.

When the collectors of traditional tales started writing them to preserve them, they focused on those which reflected the ideas and ideals of the time, so we have stories like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in which the princesses were patient and polite, and there was a strong message that encouraged children to do the right thing or else….  Those stories featuring feisty, girls able to fight their own battles were ignored, but as times change new collectors are searching for and recovering other stories.  Many of these have been included in Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls and now Usborne is releasing a new series of single stories especially written for the newly independent reader.  Featuring short chapters, larger font and plenty of illustrations, they are ideal for supporting a fairytale focus enabling young readers to be able to access something different that supports their needs.

 With this year’s CBCA Book Week theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds, now might be the time to visit the old stories but view them through a new lens. 

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls

Forgotten fairy tales of brave and brilliant girls

Forgotten fairy tales of brave and brilliant girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls

Lesley Sims (editor)

Usborne, 2019

208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781474966429

Ask a young child for the title of a fairy tale and you are likely to be told Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel or Rapunzel or whatever the Disney princess-du-jour is. But in fact, there are many more fairy tales than those that were collected and written down by the great storytellers like the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen. Fairy tales were told orally for many generations before they were preserved in print, each being shared a little differently by the teller according to time, place and circumstance, but each having a fundamental truth at its core. 

For whatever reason, the tales that were collected and written share common characteristics of strong men and weak women who needed to be rescued by the male’s prowess and those in which the females were the leading protagonists were almost lost to time. The story of their discovery and recovery is almost as fascinating as the stories themselves, and shows the slowly changing attitudes towards women and their place in society. Food for discussion and debate right there!

In the meantime, this remains a collection of very readable and beautifully illustrated fairy tales that deserve to be as well-known as their more famous counterparts. Perhaps the next Disney heroine will arise from this anthology. Regardless, stories about brave and brilliant girls are always good for the soul.

 

 

 

Fairy Stories for Little Children

Fairy Stories for Little Children

Fairy Stories for Little Children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairy Stories for Little Children

Susanna Davidson

Lorena Alvarez

Usborne, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781474951784

This selection of five well-loved fairytales – CinderellaGoldilocks and the Three BearsJack and the BeanstalkLittle Red Riding Hood and The Princess and the Pea – has been lovingly recreated in words and pictures to appeal to the young reader, either as a read-along or one who is verging on independence and knows the stories well enough to predict the text.

Fairytales never go out of fashion and there is always a new generation of children coming through to enjoy these age-old tales so a new, revamped version is just the thing for sharing with them. The illustrations in this edition are very modern although still retaining the charm of the past, making this a suitable book for those children who are older but who are learning English as another language, and who are expected to be au fait with these traditional tales.  They may even have similar tales in their own language that they can compare and contrast these with.  Cinderella, for example, has a version in many different cultures.

Similarly, the stories could be used to compare other versions of the same story or even the movie versions so their appeal is not limited to just emerging readers.

 

 

 

The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Restless Girls

Jessie Burton

Angela Barrett

Bloomsbury, 2018

160pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781408886915

 

For her twelve daughters, Queen Laurelia’s death in a motor car accident is a disaster beyond losing a mother. Their father, King Alberto, cannot bear the idea of the princesses ever being in danger and decides his daughters must be kept safe at all costs. Each girl – Frida, Polina, lorna, Ariosta, Chessa, Bellina, Vita, Mariella, Delilah, Flora, Emelia  and the youngest, Agnes – has her own special talents and interests, talents and interests that had been encouraged by their mother but of which King Alberto knew nothing.  To him, girls were of little value, useful for getting married and bringing further wealth to his kingdom of Kalia and so as they grew up, he knew nothing about rearing girls and certainly didn’t approve of them being educated – “a girl may as well have been a sunflower or a trumpet”. So deep in grief at his wife’s death and afraid his daughters will suffer a similar fate because their mother had encouraged their independence and freedom, he removes all the things they love – their lessons, their possessions and, most importantly, their freedom. When Princess Frida defies him, as in the traditional tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses from the Brothers Grimm that the story mirrors, the girls are locked in a small room where they spend all their days and nights, except for one hour a day in the garden “to stretch their legs”.

When they find an escape from their cell-like room, sneaking off through a hidden door to a different world 503 steps down underneath the palace, life becomes a bit more bearable but Frida is made aware that there is always a price to pay for such freedom.  And, just as in the original, it is the girls’ worn out dancing shoes that give them away and Frida finds she has to use all her intelligence and ingenuity to keep her sisters safe and eventually free them…

This is a modern day version of that old German tale and by expanding on it, describing the settings, giving the girls personalities and emotions,  breathing life into characters that are usually one-dimensional, although it is somewhat disappointing that when the pilot arrives to try to solve the mystery of the worn out dancing shoes, that each is struck by his looks at first.

This is a story for independent readers who like a bit of meat in their fairy tales, while setting up the question, “Is freedom free?

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760523541

Fairytales have a history much older than the sanitised Walt Disney versions that our young readers are familiar with; even older than the 19th century collections of the Brothers Grimm or Perrault in the 17th century- they delve right back into the history of oral storytelling, many based on true events that were brutal and terrifying, too horrific to record in print even for  Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. However, they were determined to preserve the old stories that told of their Central European heritage  and so using the folklore as a basis, they created stories that were solidly rooted in good versus evil and didactic.

Their stories and those of others like Hans Christian Andersen have become part of our children’s literary heritage princesses are pretty, princes handsome, where good always triumphs usually at the hand of some man, and everyone lives happily ever after.  But society changes and so must the stories, particularly as the call for non-traditional princesses who save themselves grows ever louder.  So this collection of retellings of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina is a welcome and timely addition to a long line of reinterpretations.

Still using the original premise and plot, Susannah McFarlane has expanded the stories and woven endings that are completely plausible and palatable for those looking for strong, independent, resourceful and resilient female characters.  The heroes are as feisty as their readers. Written by the editor of Stuff Happens  one of my favourite series for boys, and beautifully illustrated by a number of female Australian illustrators, this is a book for the slightly older independent reader who is familiar with the Disney versions and can appreciate the twists that McFarlane has included.

Thirty years ago when we were just beginning to teach children about protecting themselves through programs like Protective Behaviours, Try Again Red Riding Hood was a preferred resource because it shone a spotlight on the actions of familiar characters and how they could have done things differently.  Fairytales for Feisty Girls takes this concept to the nth degree, perhaps becoming the latest evolution of stories that are almost as old as Methuselah! Students might like to try re-writing one of the other traditional tales in a similar vein.

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Mermaid

Alex Field

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925059816

In 1837, Hans Christian Andersen gave the world his classic story of Ariel, the little mermaid who falls in love with a human prince and in exchange for legs so she can walk on earth with him, she gives up her voice. It is very much a tale of “Be careful what you wish for.”

Retold many times and in many formats, probably the most-well-known version being that of Disney, this is a new retelling that goes back to the original without all the “trimmings”.  For younger readers who are emerging as independent readers, it is retold simply in a straight-forward manner with beautiful new illustrations in water colour and coloured pencils. 

While teachers’ notes are available, it could be used as one of a number of versions of this story to compare and contrast additions, alterations and omissions that the various retellers have chosen to make.  

Others in this series include The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast.

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts - Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Craig Phillips

Allen & Unwin, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760113261

Ever since there have been children there has been children’s literature and having children learn lessons about life through this literature has been a constant thread in every culture across the globe.  Since the earliest days of mankind, stories have been created and told from generation to generation not just to explain the unknown but also to inspire better, more mature and moral behaviour in children with dire consequences inflicted by fearful creatures if boundaries were breached.  Didacticism was alive and well with stories featuring giants, trolls, witches, beasts and other fantastic figures achieving amazing things, wreaking havoc, surviving disasters or decreeing punishments so that adults as well as children lived in fear of retribution for misdeeds.

Now, with modern communication and science, while such creatures do not have the power of fear they once had, nevertheless they are still a central part of today’s literature with stories like the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones commanding huge audiences as well as a continuing fascination for those stories in which the modern have their origins.  But until now, these have been retold and republished in formats that tend to scream “younger readers” and from which those who see themselves as more mature than the “picture book brigade” shy away from regardless of the quality of the content.  So to have ten traditional tales from ten countries brought together in graphic novel format as creator Craig Phillips has done is going to create a buzz of excitement.  Here, in one superbly illustrated volume, are stories featuring giants, trolls, witches and beasts with all their magical powers and chilling feats and universal messages of courage and obedience. that will appeal to those who are fascinated by this genre in a format that will support and sustain their reading.

Phillips has kept his audience in mind as he has drawn – the imaginary creatures are all sufficiently gruesome and grisly so their characters are clear but not so much that they will inspire nightmares. The mix of familiar and unfamiliar characters offers something for each reader to explore and perhaps think about why stories from such diverse origins have such similar themes.  Is there indeed, a moral and ethical code that links humans regardless of their beliefs and circumstance?

One that will appeal to a wide range of readers and deserving of its place among the 2018 CBCA Notables.