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Jen

Three Very Different Fairy Tale / Fable Retellings

Posted by Jen Robinson on August 3, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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I've decided to take a page from Pam's Thursday Three posts, and share with you three new picture books that illustrate the wide range available in fairy tale and fable retellings. The first is a straight up reissue of a classic story, made special by the gorgeous illustrations. The second is a multicultural reimagining of a well-known fairy tale, with added humor. And the third is a modern picture book that bears only the kernal of the original fable.

goldilocks.jpgGennady Spirin's new edition of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a faithful rendion of the well-known story, from "Once up a time, there were three bears" to Goldilocks leaping up and running out of the house (though the bears are surprisingly cheerful at the end). But what makes this book worth a look are Spirin's lavish watercolor and colored pencil illustrations. The bears are dressed in fancy, gold-braided clothing. Their clothes match, in tone, detailed gilt headers and footers on each page, and the bears' fancy carved furnishings. Everything is conveyed with fine texture, from the bears' fur to their clothes to the grass outside. And after breakfast (most days), the bears site, and Mama Bear and Little Bear each read books (while Papa naps). As for Goldilocks - she looks like something out of an old painting, with shining hair, rosy cheeks, and an ornate hat with a feather. In short, this is one that I'm keeping for my own bookshelves. I will pair it with Eugene W. Field and Giselle Potter's Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

tamales.jpgThe Three Little Tamales is a retelling of The Three Little Pigs, written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Valeria Docampo. In Kimmel's version, three little tamales, two sisters and a brother, run away from a Texas taqueria before they can be eaten. One builds a house of sagebrush, and another of cornstalks, but the third builds her casita out of cactus. And eventually, Senor Lobo, the Big Bad Wolf, comes around looking for some lunch. You all know, pretty much, how the story goes from there. I like that this book is a celebration of Texas, and Mexican foods, complete with a short glossary of terms. And, ok, I like that the smartest of the three tamales is a girl, and that this is handled in a completely matter-of-fact manner. Docampo's oil on paper illustrations are beautiful, with appropriate colors for prairie, cornfield, and desert. The winds that the wolf huffs and puffs are enchanting swirls of colors and textures. The tamales are adorable, especially the smart one with her big glasses, and the brother with his dramatic eyebrows and mustache (you have to see it to appreciate it). I can really see this one becoming a family favorite. See also Kimmel's book, with Stephen Gilpin The Three Cabritos, a Billy Goat Gruff retelling.

dumptruck.jpgThe Grumpy Dump Truck by Brie Spangler is quite different from the other two. It's a modern-day story about a dump truck named Bertrand who is good at his job, but constantly grumpy with his co-workers. He is "rude to the backhoe" and "a real pain to the crane", and constantly grumbles about his "itchy axle" and "sore tires". Until... a little hedgehog worker named Tilly sticks him (accidentally) with one of her quills. Plucking out the quill, she discovers all sorts of other uncomfortable things stuck in Bertrand's tire, weighing him down. Once Tilly relieves him of these things, he's a new dump truck altogether. Much like a certain lion and mouse that you might recall. This one is a bit overlay sweet at the end ("I want to do something NICE!" "Horray!"), but I think that the inherent humor of a grumpy dump truck, and a bunch of animal construction workers, outweighs this. And Spangler's digitally created illustrations are bold and eye-catching, almost like cartoons. I think that preschool boys, in particular, will find this one tough to resist.

How about you? What are your favorite fairy tale retellings and reimaginings?

4 Comments

Book Chook writes...

I would like to visit your bookshelves one day, Jen!

I love Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes. I found that books like this, judiciously shared, encouraged even the most blase Yr 6 kid to enjoy rhyme.

Fractured Fairytales and Ruptured Rhymes (compiled by Ann Weld) is also great. Here's one of my favourites by Australian author, Sally Odgers.

'Rapunzel's reply

The Prince:"Rapunzel, please let down your hair.
I need to use it for a stair."

Rapunzel: "Go away, you silly dope. Use some nous - and get a rope!"'

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Well, Susan, if you're ever in San Jose, my bookshelves and I would love a visit. And yes, I do think that rhyme, especially when paired with humor, can really work for kids. It's also much easier to remember something if it's learned via catchy rhyme. I think that the Schoolhouse Rock people were really onto something.

Love the Rapunzel quote. Thanks for brightening my morning!

Rosie Newman writes...

I love a good laugh, and I have to tell you, those 3 Tamales got a good one out of me (just by virtue of the image!). What a joy it will be to read the book to my 6 and 8 year old. I love to read silly tales to them, and of course we also have a place for whimsy and imagination such as Danny the Dragon Meets Jimmy at www.dannythedragon.com - they love Tina Turbin's new book... thanx for the above suggestions!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

So glad to hear that 3 Tamales got a laugh out of you, especially from the cover alone. It's definitely worth picking up. And actually, if you like it, Kimmel has others in similar vein. So they could be a good fit for your family. Thanks for the Danny the Dragon recommendation - will have to check that out.

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