Sunday Storytime: A Collection of Fairy Tales

I grew up with a copy of The Random House Book of Fairy Tales, which is a pretty comprehensive collection of classic stories from Hans Christian Andersen, The Brothers Grimm, and more. I was obsessed with the illustrations; they were so different from what I was accustomed to seeing.

There’s the usual tales: Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White. The Emperor’s New Clothes, Puss in Boots, The Elves and The Shoemaker. Sleeping Beauty, Jack in the Bean Stock, Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince. Familiar story lines, illustrated with unique characters bordering on caricature.

Then there’s the less popular stories, like The Steadfast Tin Soldier, which had the saddest ending. I felt so betrayed each time, because that’s not how fairy tales are supposed to end.

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The Valiant Little Tailor is a story about a tailor who I remember to be quite clever, but upon rereading, he starts off being mostly arrogant. He swats seven flies dead, and decides the whole world must know, so he immediately makes a belt that says, “Seven at one blow” and then sets off into the world. He pretends to squeeze milk out of a rock by hiding cheese in his hand, and tricks a giant into doing him all sorts of favors.

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Watching Frozen, I realized that its loosely based on The Snow Queen, a story about a queen who shoots ice into the heart of a little boy, and takes him captive. Fortunately, his sister loves him quite a lot, and rescues him and melts the ice. I always marveled at how brave she was, venturing into the unknown to save her brother.

So it doesn’t have to be THIS exact collection, but traditional fairy tales should be a staple to any child’s reading, if only to provide a broader understanding of where Disney gets its movie ideas.

Sunday Storytime: The Bear on the Moon

This book features a curious polar bear who is different from the other bears because she “wondered about things no other bear thought about.” She swims as deep as she can to see what’s below, and she swims to the horizon to see what the aurora borealis is all about.

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Seriously, look at how beautiful this page is.

When no one can answer your questions, go and find the answers yourself. If you persevere, despite what others say, you just might get to touch the shining lights at the horizon.

Sunday Storytime: Heart of a Tiger

Marsha Diane Arnold starts by explaining Naming Day, when “each animal born the previous spring chooses its own name.” But there’s a catch: they only get to keep that name if everyone agrees that it is fair and honest.

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“Four supposed he should name himself Smallest of All. But he was afraid if he named himself that, it would always be so.”

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“In my heart I am bigger than what you see.”

He journeys into the jungle in search of himself, and calms back calm and confident, ready to claim his identity.

 Ideally, won’t our kids do the same? Maybe not in a jungle, although that’s as good a place as any.

You have to go find yourself, discover yourself, without the influence of others.

And it’s a kitten.

 

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Sunday Storytime: In The Night Kitchen

Upon rereading, I don’t even know what to say about this one. I remember loving it, I remember loving the rough textured cover interrupted by a big circle seal in the center, but I don’t remember what it was about the story that I liked. Because it seems bizarre now.

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Duncan joins us for story time!

In the Night Kitchen starts out pretty normal: a boy in bed at night, who hears a noise in the darkness. Then there’s an Alice in Wonderland scene where he falls down past lots of things, but for some reason he loses his clothes, and then he falls into a bowl of bread dough.

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I suppose at this point, we realize that the boy is dreaming. And the story definitely has the strangeness of a dream: set on a kitchen countertop, cooks attempt to make him into a cake, but then he pops out, takes some bread dough and shapes it into a plane, and then flies away.

In case you forgot, he’s naked during the entire book, which apparently caused some controversy.

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Of course, when I realize that the author/illustrator is Maurice Sendak, who also wrote Where the Wild Things Are, the strangeness of the story suddenly becomes more whimsical than weird.

P.S. Check out the links if you want to know more about the author, and his intentions with his books. He vowed not to write stories about sunshine and rainbows, because that’s not real life. He was also interviewed on Colbert.  They talk about penises. (And here’s part two.)

Storytime: Weslandia

Upon re-reading this book after graduating from the uber-liberal-and-socially-aware Evergreen State College, a small part of me started wondering if this book romanticizes the “native” way of living; if this book perpetuates the White Man Returns to Nature trope that plagues our movies, books, and shows. But, for the sake of childhood, I decided to ignore these feelings and just enjoy the book as I did when I was young.

Right, Pooh Bear? Let's just stay in childhood forever.

Right, Pooh Bear? Let’s just stay in childhood forever.

Weslandia follows a young boy, an outcast, who is teased at school and doesn’t fit in. One summer, he decides to start a project that ends up blossoming into his own world.

It’s a story that encourages independence and initiative, as Wesley takes charge of his life and makes it into something he can enjoy. It’s like a blanket fort: his curiosity and imagination create a space all his own, a place where he is safe and happy, untouched by the outside world. He creates his own reality.

Industrious little fella.

Industrious little fella.

And this is how Wesley finds friends, by first fully finding himself, and living without compromise.

Storytime: Yo! Yes?

It’s ridiculous how endearing this book can be with so few words. Chris Raschka gives Dr. Seuss a run for his money with this all-dialogue interaction between two kids that begins with the oh-so-simple “Yo! Yes?

YoYes

It’s almost a call-and-response. “Yo!” says the first kid. “Yes?” replies the second. “Hey!” “Who?” One is sassy, the other shy. “You!” “Me?” (Amazon describes this book as having two characters, “one black and one white,” which was weird to read, because it makes the story about race, and I never really read it that way. Sassy and shy was how I always identified them.)

Check out that hand on that hip! So sassy.

Check out that hand on that hip! So sassy.

And the conversation continues from there, no more than three words per page, totaling 34 words all together. It’s sweet and straightforward, and yet so much fun. The drawings manage to express the emotions behind the dialogue. Kids learn to read not only the words, but also the body language of the characters. It’s an example of how reading is more than just words, of how tone and context affect the meaning.

It’s a lovely little book that captures how perfectly simple friendship can be.

 

Storytime: King Bidgood!

“King Bidgood’s in the bathtub and he won’t get out! Oh, who knows what to do!?”

Thus starts one of my favorite childhood books. It’s got that swing to it, that rhythm from nursrey rhymes and playground songs that makes it easy to pick up. Kids feel like they’re reading along, and they know what comes next.

The illustrations are what make this particular rhyme memorable. The attention to detail makes every page engaging, with unique and dramatic details hidden in every corner.

Yeah, that's the king in his bathtub, with a cake topper of himself in a bathtub.

Yeah, that’s the king in his bathtub, with a cake topper of himself in a bathtub.
And yes, the text is backwards, cuz of the photo.

As time passes, the sun goes across the window, changing the light of the familiar stone arches where these pleas for help have been occurring. The characters have melodramatic faces, each more amusing than the last as they take their turn in the spotlight, trying to rescue the king from his pruny fate.

Seriously, this lady is freaking out right now.

Seriously, this lady is freaking out right now.

And the story, well, it’s just like one a kid makes up, while playing in the bathtub. “I am the king! I will never leave my tub! Bring me my lunch, bring me my soldiers!” Maybe the best children’s authors are just big kids themselves. Which just confirms what Tom Hanks taught me in Big. Adults are boring, so hold on to your inner child.

It's all about being a kid at heart.

It’s all about being a kid at heart.