Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Magical Tales for a Magical Time

Pumpkinpie and I are reading more complex tales these days, longer stories and classic fairy tales being favourite picks more and more often. These are things I'd like to have more of on our shelves, so I have a bunch of this stuff on my Christmas wishlist for her, and have bought a handful of them in paperback myself - a nice benefit of classics. (I am , in general, a snob about hardcover picture books, but the $10 each that I save by starting to get over it means I can have more books, so I'm getting there! The smaller price could also make them nice for stocking items or daily Hannukah gifties.) Some are favourite takes on standard tales, some are newer stories with a fairy-tale quality to them, but are are wonderful for sharing. Here are some of our recent favourites that we hope to find in Santa's bag!

The Little Red Hen, by Jerry Pinkney

In his usual manner, Pinkney renders the most beautiful red hen I've ever seen, making a fairly straightforward telling into a picture book gem.

The Gingerbread Boy, by Richard Egielski

This is a fairly simple version, but it is made fun and fresh by way of being relocated in modern New York and inhabited by construction workers and subway buskers. This makes it reall accessible to a city kid, but it's Egielski's gorgeous pictures that make the book. I also like that yes, the gingerbread boy DOES get eaten by the fox crossing the lake because honestly, I think it's kind of wimping out when he doesn't get eaten - I think kids get that he's a cookie. Best served with hot chocolate and a gingerbread man on a cold, snowy day.

Tikki Tikki Tembo, by Arlene Mosel, ill. Blair Lent

Remember this one from childhood? Can you still say his name? This story is a guaranteed crowd pleaser, and kids take great pleasure in learning that looong name. This is also one of the few older stories about other cultures that doesn't make me squirm a bit today.

Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina

Another old chestnut that you might have read as a child yourself, this one is another that kids still love every time. There is something about naughty monkeys tricking grownups that is still irresistible.

Epposumundas, by Colleen Salley, ill. Janet Stevens

This retelling of an old silly tale is great fun set in the south. In it, Epossumundas, who "doesn't have the sense he was born with" keeps ruinging everything his auntie sends home with him by way of following the wrong instructions. It's funny, and Stevens' great illustrations give it extra kick, including the visual joke of making the character an actual possum, albeit a cute one in diapers.

Tops and Bottoms, by Janet Stevens

This is a great trickster tale, in which a hare bests a bear for three straight planting season, making deals that give him the edible part of the crops he plants. By the end, the lazy bear is fed up and has learned his lesson, but by that time, Hare is ready to go out on his own, anyhow. Fantastic illustrations make the characters come to life.

The Subway Mouse, by Barbara Reid

This tale of a restless mouse who dreams of something better has a lovely, wistful, classic feel about it. In it, a mouse who just doesn't fit in decides to find out whether the rumours of an end to the tunnel are true, and follows his heart. Along the way, he meets a girl mouse who joins him, and they seek out the sweeter air and green grasses of out-of-tunnel life. Reid, of course, is also known for her amazingly detailed plastiscene illustrations, and these are even more stunning then usual, incorporating little found items that you might really see in a tunnel where mice make use of the detritus of humans.

Bruna, by Anne Cottringer, ill. Gillian McClure

This gorgeous book grabbed me right away, being about a girl who could not keep warm. She tried everything, but it wasn't until she found a friend and began to help him out that she could take off her extra layers. Beautiful in its simple telling and charming illustrations.

I'd add to this a handful of William Steig's perfectly-wrought fairy tales (which I wrote about here), and both Strega Nona and Kiss the Cow from this list of foodie fairy tales.

Up Next Week, a departure: Holiday Gifting Edition - not all of them books! I know! Would you believe I buy toys, too?! Plus, ideas on how not to get crummy gifts you want to throw out. You are totally welcome. After all, we're green around this webzine.

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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