May 28, 2018

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3 Rehashed and Reframed Fairy Tales | SLJ Spotlight

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By changing up the setting or the audience level of a traditional tale, authors and illustrators can have fun and tweak its message using the familiar framework and expected action and turning it on its head. This month we see an evergreen Goldilocks take on toilet training, a take-charge Cinderella who finds her own happily ever after, and a lushly realized Chinese version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Cali, Davide. Cinderella and the Furry Slippers. illus. by Raphaëlle Barbanégre. 32p. Tundra. Oct. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101918982.

PreS-Gr 2 –This familiar story begins in a manner similar to the original: Cinderella does housekeeping all day while her stepmother and two stepsisters lounge around enjoying tea and cake. However, in Cali’s twisted or fractured fairy tale, Cinderella telephones a fairy godmother to make an appointment. The green-skinned godmother provides a dress that does not look like the picture in the magazine, her carriage is in the shape of a turnip, and the vehicle is pulled by a variety of forest animals, including a moose. Cinderella’s story goes downhill from there. The heroine views a poster advertising a “Girls Only” job fair, and the rushed ending implies that she does not need to wait around for a prince to rescue her from household drudgery, but that she can rely on herself to create her own happiness in life. Unfortunately, the over-the-top silliness detracts from the message, and the execution comes off feeling didactic. Detailed digital artwork would be best viewed individually. Blonde-haired Cinderella, as well as the multihued coifs of secondary characters, create humor with their cartoonlike appearance. VERDICT Children acquainted with the original probably won’t ask for repeated readings of this pastel version.–Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA

Compestine, Ying Chang. The Chinese Emperor’s New Clothes. illus. by David Roberts. 32p. Abrams. Jan. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419725425.

K-Gr 3 –The emperor in Compestine’s version of this well-known tale is a child who’s been stymied in his intentions to do right by his subjects because the adult ministers who surround him are corrupt. The emperor enlists the cooperation of the court tailors in revealing the ministers’ perfidy, dressing them in burlap to parade the streets for Chinese New Year. The ministers must pretend to believe they are clothed in opulent silks to hide their dishonesty and, as in Andersen’s original story; the truth is made known by a little boy watching the parade. Compestine’s prose is adequate for her purposes wherein responsible leadership and honesty receive their due recognition, but it is Roberts’s watercolor, pen-and-ink illustrations that lift the book above the commonplace. He often incorporates Chinese latticework screens to frame the action and uses Chinese textile motifs, headdresses, and hair styles to ground the drawings in the culture. A mouse and a cricket make frequent appearances to delight observant readers and listeners. The dragon dancers parade through a multicultural crowd in an interesting variety of costumes (presumably their new best clothes for the holiday celebration). Each of Roberts’s images adds pleasure to a tale that might otherwise have seemed overly preachy. VERDICT A variant of an oft-told classic that is suitable for classroom and individual reading.–­Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Library, NY

Hodgkinson, Leigh. Goldilocks and the Just Right Potty. illus. by Leigh Hodgkinson. 32p. Nosy Crow. Dec. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763697990. POP

Toddler-PreS –Hodgkinson gives readers another “Goldilocks” work (Goldilocks and Just One Bear) in the form of a humorous fractured fairy tale geared toward toddlers who are beginning to toilet train. “Goldilocks was tired of wearing soggy diapers so she decided it was time to wear big girl underwear.” But just like any story involving Goldilocks, she can be rather fickle about finding the perfect item. Once she decides which underpants are “just right”, she moves on to look for her “just right” potty. She has to explore all of her options, including a large boot and a tiny teacup, before choosing the right one. The story touches on the idea that potty training takes some time, and that accidents can happen but that with persistence, success will be achieved. Mixed-media art, including watercolors, collage, and ink drawings complements the fun and lighthearted story, and even cleverly inserts Goldilock’s friends, the three little bears, as they sleep outside a dollhouse. VERDICT Recommended for picture book collections, this is a fun and engaging tale. Parents and children will delight in the humor and familiarity.–Kristen Todd-Wurm, Middle Country Public Library, NY

This article was published in School Library Journal's November 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth ( is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

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