Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: The Fairy Tales

The Fairy Tales by Jan Pienkowski

This book is a collection of four classic fairy tales by The Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. It contains Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel as told by The Brothers Grimm and Cinderella as told by Charles Perrault.

The Brothers Grimm versions were creepier than I remember and they were full of long, run-on sentences. For example, in Snow White, the Queen wanted Snow White dead and her lungs and liver as proof. I thought this story had elements of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in it that I don't remember being there before. When Snow White goes to the dwarfs' house, she tries all the beds, but none of them are good until the last one that "was just right." I don't remember Snow White being portrayed as so helpless and stupid. The dwarfs were constantly reminding her not to open the door because it was always the Queen there to kill her but she falls for her tricks every time. I liked the red-hot iron shoes that the Queen had to dance in until she died at the end, I don't remember that from the stories either.

Charles Perrault's version of Cinderella was very similar to the story that I remember as a child, the one Disney created the movie from. I would have been very interested in reading the Brothers Grimm version though.

Charles Perrault
I liked that the author provided background information on the storytellers, Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm, who were Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm and Wilhelm Carl Grimm. They "are two of the most famous names in the world of fairy tale" (p. V). Perrault's first collection of stories went on to be known as Tales from Mother Goose. The Grimm Brothers collected over 200 stories from Germany and were always looking for more to add to their collection. The younger Grimm later made the stories softer for a new generation of children.

The illustrations in this book are mainly black and white. The background is white and the figures are drawn as silhouettes. All of the stories have the same style of illustrations. I think that helps to connect all the stories together. It is especially effective in the first three stories because they are the creepier stories from the Brothers Grimm and the pictures are all dark. Some pages do have color on them however. In most cases, it is just one or two colors. I think this helps make the illustration pop and lets the reader know this section is significant.

This was a great collection of children's stories. I would be cautious about sharing them with young children though because some elements in the story might be scary, but I do think reading this book would be a good way to talk about how different the versions of the stories are. I appreciate the author providing background information on where the storytellers got their stories and how they have adapted over the years to the stories that we now know.

Check out the Brothers Grimm's website to find out more information about them! Apparently there is also a movie that came out in 2005 called The Brothers Grimm about Will and Jake. (And Heath Ledger is in it!) National Geographic has an awesome and interactive website where you can chose from 12 different Grimm stories to hear "the REAL story of ___ (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, etc...)." It's pretty cool and you should definitely check it out.

Here you can find more information about Jan Pienkowski. You can find all of the books he has written and illustrated. His website also has a Fun & Games page that has fun activities for children.

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