More fairy tales

This week we continued reading fairy tales.

We started with Marcia Brown’s Cinderella, which won the Caldecott medal in 1955.  Unlike the Disney movie, this telling of the traditional story emphasizes the relationship between Cinderella and her sisters and downplays the stepmother’s involvement.  In fact, the father isn’t even dead in this tale – he just doesn’t seem to pay attention to the fact that his second wife has basically enslaved his daughter.  Anyhow, we enjoyed the narrative and the watercolor style of the illustrations.

Our second tale this week was Jerry Pinkney’s version of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl.  Andersen’s tales are generally more than a little dark, and this story is no exception; but this gentle retelling softens the story enough that I was comfortable reading it to my preschoolers.  Even though the little girl does die in the end, the overall message of hope is beautifully illustrated both in text and pictures.

Our third and final story this week was Jane Ray’s The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  This is one of my favorite stories, due in part to Robin McKinley’s masterful retelling of it in The Door in the Hedge, her collection of fairy tales retold for a teen or even adult audience.  Jane Ray has made this story palatable to young readers (mainly by eliminating two key elements of the original tale, namely that the underground princes are demons and that the king has any suitor who fails to discover the princesses’ secret beheaded – but the story loses none of its charm without these factors).  Her illustrations give the story an almost Persian feel, and are simply lovely.  This is easily my favorite of the three books we read this week.

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Fairy tales

This week we started reading fairy tales – there are just so many great ones to choose from!

The first fairy tale we read this week is Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky.  The illustrations are absolutely stunning, which is to be expected of a Caldecott-winning book!  Each page features pictures that look like Renaissance art, and the narrative is as beautiful as the illustrations.  The kids loved it as much as I did.

I was a little leary of reading my kids the story of Hansel and Gretel, as it is a bit dark – but this beautiful book tells the tale in a gentle manner that makes it palatable even for preschoolers (though Mr. S did hide behind me when I got to the part about the mean witch).  It remains true to the version recorded by the Brothers Grimm in their tome, and the illustrations are simple and eloquent.

Unfortunately our third book this week was a bit of a disappointment.  Lauren Child is probably best known for the Charlie and Lola books and tv show, and this book (The Princess and the Pea) retains those types of illustrations; but the text is a bit over the head of the average preschooler, and its tongue-in-cheek manner is almost more suited to the tastes of adult readers.  It was funny, but I don’t think Mr. S and Little T could appreciate the depth of the text, and it felt like the story dragged on a bit longer than was necessary.

More fairy tales next week!

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Valentine books

It’s February, and we’re getting hyped up for Valentine’s Day!  I managed to get quite a few  Valentine-themed books from the library, but I was disappointed to find that only a few of them were both meaningful and appropriate for my kids’ age level.  Oh well.

We read our first Valentine story book today – The Story of Valentine’s Day, by Clyde Robert Bulla and Susan Estelle Kwas:

This book is chock-full of interesting details about the history and traditions of Valentine’s Day.  It was a little too long for Mr. S and Little T’s attention spans, but with some minor editing it made a great intro to our Valentine’s Day unit!

Tomorrow and Friday, we’ll be reading stories about St. Valentine.  There really isn’t much in the way of picture books about him on the market, probably due to the vagueness and violence that plague this particular saint; but I did find two that I enjoyed (and was able to get from the library).

Saint Valentine by Ann Tompert is a little above the preschool level, but does a decent job of telling the story of the man who was martyred for his faith.

Robert Sabuda’s Saint Valentine is definitely my favorite of the two.  The illustrations and storyline are, in my opinion, much more approachable than the first book, especially for younger kids.

I’m a little disappointed that Tomie dePaola doesn’t have a St. Valentine book – I just discovered him at Christmas, and love the illustrations in his books!  Oh well, we’re already looking forward to reading his St. Patrick book in March!

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