Category Archives: fairy tales

Super Happy Magic Forest

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Super Happy Magic Forest, written and illustrated by Matty Long, tells the story of five brave heroes from the Super Happy Magic Forest who must go on a quest to recover the Magic Crystals of Life after they are stolen. These crystals are the source of the forest’s happiness, so they must be returned as quickly as possible.

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The heroes’ epic quest to save the Magical Crystals of Life takes them through all sorts of treacherous terrains filled with spooky and dangerous creatures, until they reach the “the very doorstep of evil”: the Goblin Tower. It is there that they believe they will find their crystals.

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However, after discovering that their Magical Crystals of Life are not in fact in the Goblin Tower, they return to the Super Happy Magic Forest, where they find that the true evil force who stole their crystals was there the whole time. They must banish him to the Super Creepy Haunted Forest, where he belongs. Finally, they can celebrate knowing that their forest and its crystals are safe from the forces of evil, and that they will always be happy.

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The story itself is very simple, with only one or two sentences of text on each page. The real fun part of reading this book lies in the illustrations; they are bright and reminiscent of comic books, with silly speech and thought bubbles housing the characters’ dialogue and thoughts. Much of the action of the story is told through these illustrations, and there are tons of small details on each page that make each picture almost like a story in itself.

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Even the end papers are illustrated like a map that shows different locations within the story, mirroring the style of illustration used throughout the book.

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This book is a wonderful take on the classic hero’s quest that removes some of the drama sometimes associated with these types of stories, and replaces it with pure fun. It had me laughing out loud at some of the characters’ thoughts and dialogue, and I found myself lingering on each page, trying to find all the hidden details within the illustrations. I would recommend this book as a fun, silly story to read to kids of all ages; I think that the story is appropriate for younger audiences, while older kids may enjoy finding all the small details within the pictures, almost like a game of “I Spy.” The story is one that celebrates teamwork and fighting the evil in the world, while also reminding readers not to take things too seriously, and to find the fun and humor in all of life’s epic quests and everyday adventures.

– Maya Creamer

 

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The Little Match Girl

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When looking for folklore for this past learning experience, I came across this edition of The Little Match Girl with original words by Hans Christian Anderson and illustrated by Kveta Pacovska. The story is about a little girl who is poor and freezing, walking around in the middle of the winter with no shoes on her feet attempting to sell matches. As she sits in the cold she lights each match one by one to keep her warm, with each burst of light she sees beautiful and wonderful images. A goose running off of a New Years Eve dinner table, a beautiful Christmas tree filled with candles, her grandmother standing before. However, when each match extinguished the image was lost. Therefore, when she saw her grandmother she was desperate to stay with her and therefore lit all of her matches. She then describes how her grandmother had come to save her from the cold and sadness and take her to be with God. The next morning the little girl is found dead of cold though only she knows that it was not the cold but her grandmother who had taken her from this world to a much better and brighter one.

I believe the story may not be appropriate for young children but instead would be a picture book that is more likely to be enjoyed by older children and young adults. The images themselves are incredibly individual and interesting. The images consist of bright colors and a geometric design that connected shapes to create images. Each illustration contains a majority of very abstract elements and it takes a few minutes of examining each image to see what is portrayed. Another interesting part about the illustrations is that while some images are on the same page as the text they describe or follows the text immediately, some of the images prelude the text they describe. Therefore, readers get a sneak peek of what is coming next. Additionally, of the 24 pages, only 5 contain text with the other 19 a mix containing images that cross the gutter and create a large landscape image. Much of the story can be understood more deeply through the illustrations themselves. It almost seems as if instead of the illustrations being an addition to the text as most picture books are created, the text seemed to be an the addition to the fully complete story created by the illustrations. I recommend taking a look at The Little Match Girl and seeing what you can make of the abstract illustrations!

Carly Hess

Free Fridays: Cendrillon

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Cendrillon coverCinderella is one of the most popular European folk tales in all of history, and hundreds if not thousands of different versions and retellings have been recorded. Most Western children are familiar with the “classic” Cinderella story told in traditional tales and movies such as Disney’s titular 1950 film. However, there are now many versions of the tale available that vary the culture and setting of the story, creating the perfect opportunity to introduce children to different editions of this favorite folk tale.

Cendrillon, written by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by Brian Pinkney, is one retelling that stands out in particular. While it was published a while ago in 1998, the timeless nature of the Cinderella story makes this picture book a great addition to any home library. The book can also be used in the classroom to expose young students (ages 4-8) to other culturally diverse portrayals of Cinderella, instead of just the stereotypical blonde Caucasian girl.

The book takes its name from the French variant of “Cinderella,” but the story itself is actually set on the Caribbean Island of Martinique (fun fact: Martinique is an overseas region of France!). In his author’s note, San Souci says that his version of the story is loosely based on the French Creole story “Cendrillon,” which itself follows the basic plot of Perrault’s “Cinderella,” perhaps the best-known version of this folk tale, at least in Western circles.

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The “fairy godmother” actually narrates this story.

However, San Souci adds plenty of his own details about West Indian culture and dress to the story, which deepens both the tale itself as well as readers’ understanding of Caribbean culture. San Souci also updates the tale by telling it from the first person perspective of the “fairy” godmother, who turns out to be a washerwoman with a magic wand that can only be used to help someone she loves. Kids will enjoy finding other differences between Cendrillon and the more well-know Disney-esque tales, including the single stepsister Vitaline instead of the traditional two, and an embroidered slipper instead of a glass heel. San Souci also embeds French Creole words throughout the text and includes a glossary at the end, providing further opportunities for learning experiences.

Brian Pinkey’s illustrations employ scratchboard, luma dyes, gouache, and oil paints to create a unique and colorful look that will be sure to grab kids’ attention. If Brian Pinkney’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the son of the prolific and Caldecott-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney. Like father, like son: Brian is also a very talented illustrator, and has already secured two Caldecott Honors for himself, as well as numerous other awards. In contrast to some other illustrators that use a more precise technique to create striking scratchboard illustrations (Beth Krommes’ work in A House in the Night comes to mind), Pinkey’s pictures in Cendrillon are full of curving, loose lines that blend naturally with the paint and perfectly capture the hot, lively environment of the Caribbean.

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So different from the typical blond-haired blue-eyed Cinderella!

While Cendrillon probably isn’t the definitive Cinderella text to own, this picture book is an excellent addition to any classroom or library that already has the basics and is looking to branch out to more diverse folk tales. This book can be used to introduce young readers to Caribbean culture, as well as to the idea that there are many different versions of every folktale, each of which adds to our understanding of the original story.

-Kara Sherrer

Traditional Thursdays: Cinders, a Chicken Cinderella

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Jan’s unique artistic style transports us to Russia (where she traveled before starting Cinders to get inspiration) for a quirky reimagining of the classic Cinderella story. Her attention to detail has always kept me interested in her artwork long after I am done reading the words on the page, and this book was no exception. Each chicken is made to look different and each wears elegantly unique outfits to the ball. The middle pages of the book even open up to reveal a magical ballroom scene to mimic the illusion of the godmother hen watching the ball from the outside, which is a great interactive feature for children.

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Of course, the details in the written story are just as wonderful. Even though she uses advanced vocabulary and some Russian words, the book does not feel stuffy and the story can continue either through the use of contextual cues or by referring to the aforementioned details in the illustrations. The character names are silly (Largessa the mother hen and the two sisters Pecky and Bossy in particular), keeping the story light for younger readers (or listeners). Jan treats her characters lovingly and truly transforms ordinary animals into vibrant characters with personalities to rival those of any human.

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In the end, it is left ambiguous as to whether the story was just a dream of the human girl who takes care of the chickens, but this only adds to the magic and wonder that Jan breaths into this classic fairy tale. To hear Jan talk about her trip to Russia and to see how to draw Cinders, watch this video from her blog!

 

~Reviewed by Katie Goetz

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

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Everybody knows the story of the three little pigs, right? You know – the tale with the big bad wolf

huffing and

puffing and

blowing down

the houses of those three poor, defenseless pigs?

WRONG!

                                               This is Mr. Alexander T. Wolf.

He claims to be the supposed THE big bad wolf from the fairytale, but the BIG and BAD part is completely false! Instead it’s your classic wrong-place, wrong-time situation…

No one, he says, knows the true story because no one has ever heard his side of the story.

What if the big bad wolf thing was all wrong?

What if the real story was all about cheeseburgers and a cup of sugar?

In this new spin on an old classic, readers can have a blast turning what they know on its head and imagining new endings for a beloved tale by hearing the story of the three little pigs from the point of view of an innocent wolf.

With eye-catching illustrations and witty dialogue, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Sciezka and illustrated by Lane Smith has the potential to become a quirky classic and a great addition to any book collection!

Happy Reading!

Laney Stout

The Gospel Cinderella

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The Gospel Cinderella
Written by: Joyce Carol Thomas
Illustrated by: David Diaz
ISBN: 0-06-025387

The Gospel Cinderella is a wonderful twist on the classic fairy tale we all know and love. While this book demonstrates many similarities to the original version of Cinderella, this story also includes some interesting differences!

This Cinderella story begins with Queen Mother Rhythm, the leader of the Great Gospel Choir. Her daughter is taken away down the river by a hurricane and then found by the evil Crooked Foster Mother. Crooked Foster Mother takes the child in and names her Cinderella, forcing her to do chores and take care of her evil stepsisters. Cinderella never complains though, rather she uses her beautiful voice to sing her troubles away.

Soon, the people learn that Queen Mother Rhythm has decided to hold auditions for a new singer to take over for her as director of the Great Gospel Choir. Cinderella longs to try out, but is instead forced to make dresses for her evil stepsisters to try out. On a whim, Cinderella decides to attend the auditions and WOWS everyone, including the Prince of Music. Fear of being recognized by her evil stepsisters quickly overtakes Cinderella, and she runs away. The Prince of Music sends out a search party to find the mystery singer, and Cinderella is eventually re-united with Queen Mother Rhythm and the Prince of Rhythm.

Children will enjoy this story because it is familiar to a story they most likely already know, but still provides a unique twist to the Disney version most children know. This book also has wonderful pictures that are full of color and details, providing an added visual affect to the already wonderful story. The story also has text that is written in a non-traditional way, specifically when the characters are singing. The text moves around in swirls and curves in different directions, which makes for an interesting reading experience!

Children of all ages will enjoy this updated, cultural variation on a classic fairy tale!

Happy Reading! 🙂

Juliana