Posts tagged ‘cinderella’

October 3, 2011

CINDERELLA SKELETON, the “Halloween kind” of skeleton book

My son knows me well. One of his favorite parts of the library routine is typing his search word into the catalog. (He’s even been known to leave the sacred puppet shows one or two minutes early because he can’t contain his excitement for the keyboard.) Recently, in response to my usual question about what kind of books we were going to check out today, my son says “I want skeleton books, but the Halloween kind, not the body kind.”

In case this isn’t clear, let me explain: he knows very well his mom used to be a middle school science teacher, even if he can’t explain it in so many words. And he knows very well that asking said mom for skeleton books will likely result in bedtime stories about tibias and fibulas. (We’ve done that before actually. The only bone name he seems to really remember is the patella. But we’ll work on that.) So what he was saying is this: “I want a scary skeleton book. A book where the skeletons are main characters, where they do things. I do not want to learn anything about anatomy when I read these books.”

Done. We typed “skeleton” one letter at a time into the catalog and came home with a whole pile of non-academic Halloween-based scary and not-so-scary skeleton books which we have been enjoying reading for the past few days.  Here are our favorites:

Title: Cinderella Skeleton
Author: Robert D. San Souci
Illustrator: David Catrow
Genre: Picture Book, Scary
Age: 3 – 7

Summary and Review: This book is wonderfully creepy. It’s by far my son’s favorite of all the library books we’ve gotten, seeing as it combines two of his loves: skeletons and fairy tale princesses. He looked at the pictures in the car on the way home from the library and excitedly showed me how, instead of losing a glass slipper, Cinderella loses a foot. 🙂 What is not to love about this gorgeously-illustrated, somewhat creepy fairy tale re-telling with an unusual rhyming scheme?

Title: Skeleton hiccups
Author: Margaret Cuyler
Illustrator: S.D. Schindler
Genre: Picture Book, Halloween
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review: This one is funny. The only downside is that my son doesn’t remember ever having the hiccups, so he doesn’t relate very well. But he loves it and reads it out loud to himself all the time–at least the “hic, hic, hic” part. Skeleton tries to get rid of the hiccups with a lot of traditional ways, but the water he tries to drink upside down goes right through him. He has other similar problems. Ghost is trying to help, and finally Ghost gets an idea that cures Skeleton once and for all. (Hint: it involves a mirror.)

Title:  Skeleton Bones and Goblin Groans
Author: Amy E. Sklansky
Illustrator: Karen Dismukes
Genre: Poems, Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Summary and Review: This is a collection of cute Halloween poems. Fun to read out loud.


What about you? Any great Halloween stories? Or skeleton stories? Or fairy tales about the undead? What are your kids into right now?

February 15, 2011

Would you want a gift from a fairy? Maybe not.

C.S. Lewis once said “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”  I don’t know this because I am intellectual enough to remember profound quotes by famous people, but rather because it was written on the wall of the coffee shop where I hung out earlier today.  It struck my fancy immediately, and I’m happy that it fits into today’s blog post.  Because fairy tales are not only for the young.  Fairy tales are for all of us and they give us a sense of truth about the world that we can’t always find anywhere else.

This book, a Newbery Honor book, was one of my favorites that I’ve read in awhile.  I absolutely loved it and it was a true page-turner for me.  And because I had read NONE of the hype about the book, or any reviews, I was dumbfounded with shock and excitement on about page 180 at what I had missed.  Because of that, I’ve decided to hide some of my reviews below a “SPOILER” line at the end of this post.  This might be ridiculous because nothing I’m about to say is not already in reviews everywhere, or even basic descriptions of the book.  But if you haven’t followed that, you might enjoy the book even more as you follow the beautiful story of Ella all on your own.

Title: Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Genre: Fantasy
Age: Middle Grade

Summary and Review:

Ella has always lived with a curse, set upon her at birth by a foolish fairy: the curse of obedience.  If you think it doesn’t sound so bad to be obedient (or have your child be!) imagine always HAVING to be obedient.  Anything that anyone says, Ella has to do.  She can try to refrain, but it causes her pain and she eventually has to cave.  So if someone orders her to cut off her head, she’d have to do it.  As a result, Ella dances a dangerous dance in life and lives differently than anyone else.  Only her mother and godmother know the curse but it affects every second, every decision of her life.  After her mother dies, Ella is sent to finishing school by her absent and self-absorbed father.  She runs away on a quest to find fairy who cursed her and search for a cure.



Stuff to do with the kids:

Okay, so here’s the deal.  You might have figured it out just from the title–it’s pretty obvious.  After all, her name is Ella.  Her mother dies.  She has a fairy godmother.  She’s in love with a guy named “Prince Char”.  Sound familiar? Because that part all comes in the early part of the book.  And then, for those of us who are a little slow on the uptake, there are more clues later: her father marries an evil woman (who becomes her evil stepmother) who has two evil daughters (who become her evil stepsisters), and by then even I’m starting to figure it out.  It’s another Cinderella story!  But much more than that because the actual story of Cinderella doesn’t start until more than halfway through the book, and this is not a character we’ve seen before. Ella is not a weak-willed girl who follows orders and becomes a princess, rescued by the prince.

No, Ella is a strong, naturally rebellious girl who is fighting all her life against a horrible curse.  And the fight is a wonderful adventure, a great read, and a beautiful reintroduction to a favorite character.  Talking with your kids about her character and how different it is from your daughter’s original idea of Cinderella.

Teachers might like to ask their students to write their own versions of a fairy tale, taking this book as a wonderful example of how to do so.

January 20, 2011

Too many princesses?

I haven’t read this book yet, but someone else has, and they wrote a great blog entry about it!  Here’s writer and TV commentator Margot Magowan on the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Cindy Orenstein.  This is from her blog, ReelGirl.

Title: Cinderella Ate My Daughter
Author: Peggy Orenstein
Genre: Parenting, Girls

December 27, 2010

A Fairy Tale book that is not too simple and not too violent but just right for your little Prince or Princess

Ah, my poor holiday-neglected blog!  I have not forgotten about you!  In fact, the holidays have given me a lot to write about, but I’m going to focus on fairy tales today because I am really excited about this book.  My family is lucky enough (crazy enough?) to celebrate two holidays, and while I’m not sure that means more presents necessarily, as each holiday’s gifts come from different sides of the family, it certainly does lend itself to quite the extended season of present-opening.  My husband and I decided that, knowing the wrapped love that was going to be poured on our son from grandparents, great-grandparents, and aunts and uncles, that we weren’t going to go crazy with gifts ourselves.  So, we bought a book of fairy tales and put it under the Christmas tree.

I was a little nervous that after the puzzles and games, magazines and toys from all the other relatives that my lone book gift would go neglected in the days after Christmas.  So it was with a really proud heart and a smile on my face that I found myself agreeing to read the fairy tales to him for the first, second, and third time right then on Christmas morning!  We even paused present-opening to read some of the stories!  We’ve read it multiple times each day and night since–and I am SO PROUD of myself!  Is that ridiculous?  I don’t care!  Parenting does not necessarily come with a lot of moments where you feel like you know what you are doing–so I am going to revel in this one!  I chose a great present!  And it was a book!  And he loves it!  Ha!

Now, I spent hours researching this book, and it was harder to find that I anticipated.  Part of this was because my beloved local bookstore has just now gone out of business, so asking them for advice was not to happen.  I did visit one of their really depressing, crowded, going-out-of-business sales in search of some books, but the shelves had been all but torn down by the vultures that had come to prey on the dying store, and what’s more, had been recently restocked with total junk books presumably brought in by the company running the closing sales.  So while I did find some fairy tale books that were marketed at the toddler age group, they were really, really horrible.

Then I looked online, and I found the same thing.  My options seemed to fall into one of three categories: (1) fairy tales that had been so dumbed down and shortened as to have almost no meaning whatsoever, (2) Disney-brand fairy tale stories, and (3) adult-length gorgeously illustrated stories that closely followed the original versions.

The first option was out for obvious reasons.  While I wanted short text, I wanted enough words for the story to actually make sense.  This seems obvious to me, but apparently not to some publishers.

The second option was also out for (what I hope are) obvious reasons.  I have nothing (or very little) against Disney, and I’m sure we will one day have all those Disney DVDs lined up on a shelf somewhere, but there’s something to be said for not reading brand-name versions of hundreds-of-years-old stories.  Disney changed a lot, really–you should have seen my husband’s surprise when he read the end of “The Little Mermaid” to my son.  Not to mention his surprise that some of the titles in the book were actually fairy tales and not Disney movies.  Sigh.  So no Disney version for me.

And as for the third option, while perhaps more literary and historically accurate, well, let’s face it, the original fairy tales are a little longer and more graphically violent than I really need to be reading to a two-year-old.

So, after much searching and review-reading, I came across this book.  I love it.  Is it perfect?  Maybe not for everyone.  But I think it really does the job, hits all the points I was worried about, and given the number of times we’ve read it so far, I’d say it was the right choice.

Title: Fairy Tales
Illustrator: Mary Engelbreit
Genre: Picture Book, Fantasy
Age: 0 – 6, Toddler, Preschool

Summary and Review:

I was intrigued immediately by this book because of the illustrator.  A Mary Engelbreit print hangs in my laundry room, stolen from my mom’s laundry room after she died.  A Mary Engelbreit anything reminds me of my mom, my aunt, and my grandma.  I remember a phase in my family when all greeting cards and calendars were Mary Engelbreit.  I think there was even a Mary Engelbreit apron.  Her artwork is original, colorful, and somehow simplistically complicated.  My son seems drawn to it, too.  I know that pictures are part of what draws him to a book.

The stories are simple, perfect length to read two or three at bedtime, and a perfect length for a young attention span to really enjoy and understand them.  Some may complain that they could be a little longer, they could include a little more of the beautiful complexity of the originals, but I do think they are a good compromise–they are introducing my toddler to these stories and he will have plenty of time later to fill in more details (starting, probably, with the Disney movies, and hopefully moving on from there).  They are told in a gentle manner without losing their charm, and for the most part stick closely to the original plot-lines.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

Fairy tales are rich with allusion and meaning and give a lot of opportunities to ask leading–or open-ended–questions to the unsuspecting toddler.  My favorite leading question in books like this is to say “that’s not very nice, is it?”  Yes, I realize by doing this I am indicating my moral choices and hoping my son will agree.  But if that isn’t parenting, what is, really?  And I don’t want him to think that by reading a story about someone making a bad choice that I am condoning that choice.  Of course, you can ask a more open version of that question if you prefer, and definitely should if your child is older and closer to preschool age.

Fairy tales are also full of characters that make choices.  Ask your preschooler if they would make the same choice.  Examples: would you give up life as a mermaid and risk death for a chance to meet the prince?  Or, “do you think the mermaid was right to take that risk?”  “Should she have killed the prince to save herself?”  Vary the type of question you ask, how you ask it, and whether or not you ask them to project the feelings onto themselves by your child’s age and the level of questions you think they will be able to understand.  Ask him why Ella’s stepsisters are so mean to her.  Ask her why Beauty would volunteer to live with a Beast.  Why did the princess first lie to the frog?  Why did her father, the King, insist the frog stay for dinner?  And why did she change her mind about the frog later?

Fairy tales are also great for reenacting.  Have a puppet theatre?  Act out the fairy tale.  Or make a crown out of some construction paper, and act out the story yourselves.  Fairy tales are such a beautifully rich part of our heritage.  Helping your kids understand their basic plots and structure will give them a solid foundation for understanding much more complex literary and morality in their years to come.

And you won’t risk hearing them one day say “Wait, you mean The Little Mermaid isn’t a Disney story?  Hans Christian Who?”

But really, my husband has other redeeming qualities.