May 15, 2013

Who’s Been Eating My Porridge?

Posted in Blogging, Book Reviews, Books, Picture Books tagged , , , at 6:39 am by catsinboxes

If you, like me, were raised on a diet of fairytales, then Goldilocks is one of those classics that you cut your teeth on.  As I came to this post though, I faced an interesting question.  Is there one “classic” picture book version of Goldilocks?  I really don’t think so though Goldilocks certainly does occur in many classic fairytale collections.

While I haven’t found (or remembered) a classic version, today I will highlight 3 different retellings of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Each is in print and available on Amazon; I’ve added links for each image, so if you click on the cover, it will take you right to the book on Amazon.  One of them is wordless, hence my “Wordless Wednesday” tag –if you noticed and were wondering.  So, without further ado, may I present . . .

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, retold and illustrated by Jan Brett.  (1987)  

Jan Brett’s version is lavishly illustrated and depicts the standard tale of one naughty little’s girl intrusion into the home of the 3 bears.  While I enjoy this well-written version, I can only take Jan Brett’s art in small doses, so it is not my favorite.  If you love Jan Brett and are looking for a standard retelling, then this is the book for you.

Deep in the Forest, by Brinton Turkle.  (1976)

This book is unrivaled as my favorite, wordless version of a spin-off of Goldilocks.  Yes, there’s a small, naughty creature invading a house and eating porridge, but the tables are reversed, and the culprit is a small, brown bear.  Sneaking away from his mother and siblings, Small Bear discovers a log cabin with an open door.  The chubby, golden-locked owner of the porridge, chair, and bed is away, and so Small Bear has a heyday.  I love Brinton Turkle’s muted illustrations, and the way he casts this as a pioneer tale complete with a little house in the big woods and some very Scandinavian looking inhabitants.  Without any words, he captures the emotion of this story: the unhappy howl of “Goldilocks” on discovering her broken chair, the bafflement of her mother, and the terror of the little bear once discovered.  If you have a chance, buy this book!  It will be worth every bit you spend, and you never have to tell the same story twice since it is wordless!

The Goldilocks Variations: A Pop-up Book, by Allan & Jessica Ahlberg (2012)

The Ahlbergs are back, but this time Allan pairs up with his daughter Jessica in a whimsical, interactive, and laugh-out-loud funny book which, as the title promises, after a retelling of the standard version of Goldilocks gives multiple variations on the tale.  Complete with tabs to pull, flaps to lift, and even a miniature book within the book (for Goldilocks the Play, presented by Puss in Boots Productions), this is a child’s dream and will hold their interest to the end.  The pictures are delightful; Jessica definitely has inherited both her late mother’s talent and style.  The story is well-written, often humorous, and the vocabulary and word choices are excellent.  To give you a sampling, this is how the “classic” version begins.  “There was once a cheeky girl.  Her name, or nickname rather, on account of her corn-colored hair, was Goldilocks.”  Have I mentioned that the Ahlbergs are British?  Yet another reason to love this book!  Since this is recent, you can probably find it easily at your local library.  Check it out, read it to your children, and have fun. This is one of those books that parents and adults can enjoy, too!

Do you have a favorite version of Goldilocks that I haven’t mentioned?  Do share!  I believe James Marshal has illustrated one, but we don’t have it, and I can’t remember that much aside from the fact that Goldilocks was fat and obnoxious looking! To see my review of another fairytale retelling by Allan Ahlberg, click HERE.  


February 18, 2013


Posted in Book Reviews, Picture Books tagged , , at 9:11 pm by catsinboxes

~A post for Project Fairytale 

Back on a day when the internet was working and not being patchy and slow, I was searching our library website for different versions of Jack and the Beanstalk.  This title caught my attention since firstly, it didn’t contain some form of “Jack” in the title, and secondly, it was by Allan Ahlberg.  So, I put it on hold.

If you aren’t familiar with Allan Ahlberg, or his late wife Janet, you are missing out on a treat!  Their books are characterized by sweet stories and charming illustrations.  The best thing about Allan Ahlberg though is that he understands what a child enjoys in a story.  Previously is a perfect example of this.

The premise is intriguing, the whole books is told backward.  And it’s not all about Jack; in fact it begins with Goldilocks!  Hard to understand?  This is how the book starts:

“Goldilocks arrived home all bothered and hot.  Previously she had been running like mad in the dark woods.  Previously she had been climbing out of somebody else’s window. ”

And before that, we all know what she was doing.  But what we don’t know is that before Goldlilocks invaded the bears’ house, while she was walking through the woods, she met a much older boy who was ‘running like mad’ and that boy was . . . Jack.

And so the story continues with Jack and what he was doing previously before moving on to other well-known fairytale characters.  (In a fun twist of fairytale and nursery rhyme, it turns out that before selling the cow, Jack was up the hill with his argumentative little sister Jill!)

Previously is a whimsical picture book.  Though it’s not entirely about Jack and the Beanstalk, I thought it was worthy of review for Project Fairytale.  There is something very sweet in the story which goes from tongue-in-cheek at the beginning to almost lyrical in the last pages.  Any Anglophile will love the British-ness of some of the expressions.  (When does an American author say ‘all bothered and hot’?)  Most importantly though, Previously is a children’s book, and it will be loved by children.  The first time I read it, I was not sure how to take the idea.  Then I looked at my 5-year-old brother, who had been listening.  A grin was spreading across his face, and he chuckled.  When asked, “Do you like it?”  he heartily agreed.  And whenever we read it, he’ll smile and say, “It’s funny because it’s always, ‘previously.’”  And indeed it is!

March 20, 2010

What Have I Been Reading?

Posted in Book Reviews, Picture Books at 7:17 pm by catsinboxes

In a conversation last night, I was asked that very question.  My brain seemed to stop as I thought back over the past few weeks.  What have I been reading?  Things have been so ridiculously busy I have had hardly any time for reading.  A few of my mysteries have been beckoning, and I would love to escape between the pages of a book, but there’s simply too much to do.

So, as far a pleasure reading goes, I haven’t been reading.  (And that’s the sort of book you would usually bring up in a conversation.)

For school, I have been reading, and most of that reading has been read aloud with the little people.  We have read books about deserts, astronomy, poetry, history, mythology, and picture books.

For fun, and because I want to, I will highlight a few of these books below and some anecdotes we have had about them.

On the 16th, I felt it would be good to read a little about St. Patrick’s Day.  So, I pulled out a handy book:  Shamrocks, Harps , and Shillelaghs: The Story of St. Patrick’s Day Symbols.

When I cheerfully informed the little people what we would be reading about, Benjamin inquired dubiously, “Why should we read about something we don’t even celebrate?”  I then and there resolved to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  And I did, in a way, by making a dessert with bright green icing.  The book itself was pretty interesting, with a good account of the known life of St. Patrick.

Then, following a “European” theme, a new favorite is D’Aulaires’ Trolls.

It is a rather interesting cover, isn’t it?  We have had this book for a long time, but it’s become popular over the past few weeks.   The writing is excellent and the pictures are wonderful.

Skipping across the pond, back to America, there are several books worth highlighting.

First, and one of Jonathan’s favorites at the moment, is They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson.

Like the D’Aulaires’, Lawson combines wonderful prose with beautiful pictures.  What is it about?  I’ll quote the forward.

This is the story of my mother and my father and of their fathers and mothers.

Most of it I heard as a little boy, so there may be many mistakes; perhaps I have forgotten or mixed up some of the events and people.  But that does not really matter, for this is not alone the story of my parents and grandparents, it is the story of the parents and grandparents of most of us who call ourselves Americans.

Isn’t that beautiful?  The following story is simple, but wonderful.  I don’t think it would ruin the story to quote the conclusion too.  I love reading it out loud . . .

I am proud of my mother and my father and of their mothers and fathers.  And I am proud of the country that they helped to build.

So am I.  It is so easy, in times like these to lose sight of how wonderful our country is.  It is easy to be swept up in shaking our heads and wondering what will happen next.  We forget our country’s history … We forget our grandparents, our great-grandparents, all the people who have made our country great.  Why should we just shake our heads?  This is America!   We can change our country.  I know that word has been used as a catch-phrase.  But we can’t forget that we can make a difference.  Despite the times we are in, despite all the uncertainty, this book reminds me of everything wonderful about our country.

And all of those thoughts provoked by one picture book!

In closing, I will highlight one more picture book I have been reading.  I call it a picture book, but really it is an illustrated poem.  Paul Revere’s Ride illustrated by Paul Galdone, is a consistent read aloud favorite.

It is written (to insert a quick poetical term) in anapestic foot.  That means that its rhythm when read is two weak stresses followed by a strong one.  It is often used in poetry to tell a story or narrate events.  To demonstrate:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear

Does that make sense?  Can you think of any other poems that are anapestic?  (Hint, think Christmas)

I love the conclusion of Paul Revere’s Ride.  It’s very stirring and patriotic, but it doesn’t quite make sense.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, —
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.

The gist of it, I believe, is that people will be roused to action when their liberty is threatened.  But, of course, it would defeat the poem by merely stating that!

That, in detail, is what I have been reading.  Do you understand why I couldn’t explain it in a conversation?

February 3, 2010


Posted in Book Reviews, Picture Books at 3:59 am by catsinboxes

I have read this book aloud numerous times.  Tonight, as I read it, Jonathan leaned forward, listening and looking at the pictures.  There’s something about the story, coupled with Pinkney’s illustrations, that captures a child’s  imagination.

In short, it is the story of a young mongoose and his fight to protect the family he lives with from the cobras, Nag and Nagaina, who live in the garden.

I, the reader, never tire of trying new voices: trying to make Nag and Nagaina sound as cold, evil, and ssss-snakelike as posssssible.  Then there’s the sing-song voice of Darzee, the not-quite-bright-tailorbird, “Rikki-Tikki, you’re not going to eat her eggs?”  Thankfully, he’s married to a very sensible wife.

My only quibble with Jerry Pinkney’s illustrations is that they don’t match the era in which the story happens.  It’s supposed to take place in Colonial India, but Teddy’s mother’s hair and clothes are very contemporary looking.  Still, they are lovely illustrations, and Pinkney does an excellent job capturing the tropical lushness of India.

Someday I’ll read Kipling’s unabridged story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.  I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I haven’t yet.  But, until then, I’m perfectly happy reading again …and again …and again. …

“This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought, all by himself, through the English family’s house in India. …”