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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Book Review - Storytime and Favorite Rhymes

Storytime and Favorite Rhymes

- Goldilocks and the Three Bears
- Henny Penny
- Hansel and Gretel
- Little Red Riding Hood
- Mother Goose
- Jack and the Beanstalk
- The Boy Who Cried Wolf
- The Velveteen Rabbit
- The Lovable Ugly Duckling

After spending time trying to compile my own fairytales epub book for our storytime use at home, I found this book secondhand for about $1 and of course couldn't pass it up.  I still plan to use the epub I have made, but I have been using this book for a couple days now, kids love pictures after all.

It's a nice quality book, even secondhand it is beautiful.  The pictures are quite nice and each page has only a small amount of text with a large image, some with only images and no text.  This means it actually would be a great book for young readers to try themselves, the pages are not filled with large amounts of text and so aren't too daunting to young readers.

But for my purposes, it doesn't quite work.  The stories are nice.  Therein lies the problem.  You can see it just from looking at one of the titles of the stories inside, "The Lovable Ugly Duckling", which I haven't read yet, and to be honest the name puts me off a bit. Lovable?

First we read Goldilocks.  It's pretty average really, the usual version you see in many books, Goldilocks does her thing and gets woken by the bears and runs away screaming.  Certainly nothing scary in this story.

Then we read Hansel and Gretel, and this is where I realised I don't like this book.  Hansel and Gretel are playing in the woods and get lost, find a candy house, start to eat it, are confronted by a nice old lady with a wart on her nose who feeds them wholesome food to fatten them up and then she enslaves them, a little bit, and they think she must be a witch because she makes them clean and gather wood.  They hear her muttering to herself about eating them one night and so they push her into the oven, the house catches on fire and as they run away they find stacks of gold and gems and, when reunited with their father, all live happily ever after.

Here were my issues with this story...

There is no child-abandonment in this story, the kids just get lost - twice, to account for pebbles and bread crumbs, so at least that was normal.  She fattens them up with wholesome food.  What happened to force feeding them candy?  She makes them clean and gather heavy wood for the food she gave them.  Where are the cages and real enslavement?  They find gold and gems whilst running away from the burning house.  What?  Just, what?!?

Forcing them to do menial chores means she must be a witch, and "witch" here is made to be synonymous with "evil".  Yes usually she is a witch, but really, my Witchy self is feeling quite offended by the idea that asking kids to clean and help out around the house means you're an evil child-eating witch, and that the term "witch" is used in place of the word "evil" or "mean".

I am not naive, I realise that in every version of this story she is an evil old hag witch, however, in many fairytales there are good witches.  In this particular one, witch is simply evil, there is no distinction.  It's not even confirmed in the story that she is a witch, it is just assumed by the kids that she is because she makes them clean and haul wood for the fireplace.  This is before they realised she wanted to eat them.  Suffice to say this particular story had me feeling very awkward whilst reading it to my kids, who know that I am a witch.

Lesson learned - pre-read everything!!!!

Immediately after we finished Hansel and Gretel I flipped through to look at Little Red Riding Hood, the end has the Granny escaping from where the wolf hid her and chastising the wolf who runs away ashamed of himself.  So I won't be reading that one.

The Mother Goose chapter however looks great, each page has a nursery rhyme with corresponding images.  You can't change them much, so they are quite beautiful to read and look at.

For my personal usage, other than the Mother Goose chapter, I don't really like this book.  However, trying to be impartial about it, if I look at it from another perspective, one that lacks literary snobbery, I would say this is a great book for the majority of families (minus the witch = evil).

If you don't care if the stories are close to the originals, if you are looking for the nice versions of the tales, non-scary versions, then I certainly would suggest this one for you.  But if you don't care about scary or non-scary or want more original versions, or if you are Pagan, then I would say no to this one, or at the least, edit certain pieces of it to fit your life (ie. change the word "witch" to something else).

All that said I will be keeping this book for later, whilst I don't like this for now, for our read alouds, it will be handy for later when the kids are reading to themselves.  The text is well done, not daunting, as I mentioned in the beginning, so they will be good for that.


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