Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fairy Tales retold!

In the recent issue of “Books and more”, the young readers’ section carried a feature on children’s non-fiction and noted how all kids do not necessarily connect with fairy tales. Well, I must confess that I was never into fairy tales while I was little and thus never really fond of reading the same to my little one.  I concede that fairy tales are moral based stories, but in an attempt to drive home the point, the children are sometimes exposed to needless brutality or led into believing in outdated stereotypes. I had read some time ago that the US Supreme Court, while deciding on the constitutionality of a California legislation that intended to ban the sale of certain violent video games to children without parental supervision, had questioned as to whether violent video games are any different from other forms of media with similar violence exposed to children, such as fairy tales of "Hansel and Gretel" or Grim's fairy tales. Given the wide range of children's literature we have, the stories of  Pinocchio” and “Rapunzel” seem hackneyed when juxtaposed with picture books like “The Gruffalo” or “Knuffle Bunny”. I’m not sure how we were as kids, but today’s children seem a lot more discerning than to simply blindly believe in fairies and witchcraft! How long can your little one believe that lying can cause his nose to grow like Pinocchio’s or that the ultimate purpose of Snow White is to meet her prince?:-) 

Speaking of fairy tales, I recently found two books by Anthony Browne that beautifully adapts the vintage tales into something much more interesting. “Me and You” by Children's Laureate Anthony Browne is as described  “an enchanting new take on the Goldilocks story”.  Ella” by Alex T Smith, touted as “A Cinderella story with a difference” breaks the usual mould of “waiting for the prince” of the Cinderella story and ideal for young girls. Abhay’s favorite though is “Into the Forest”, that seems like dream sequence inspired by the story of Red Riding Hood story. Narrated in first person, a young boy is woken up by a terrible sound to find his father missing with his mother having no idea of his return and is then asked to take a food basket to his sick grandma who lives on the other side of the forest. In a classic Red-Riding Hood style, the boy decides to cut across the forest where he meet familiar fairy tale characters on the way, including, a boy with a cow  who tries to lure him into exchanging his cake for a cow (who I presumed was the Gingerbread boy), or a girl with golden hair, (who I thought to be Goldilocks without the locks) or two abandoned children (who were most definitely Hansel and Gretel), each of whom appears at every turn or corner of the strange forest with ghostly trees. As he proceeds, it begins to get very cold making him wish he’d bought a coat when he spots a red coat hanging from tree. He puts on the coat but instantly gets an eerie feeling that he is being followed reminding him of his grandma’s story about a bad wolf. After braving the snow and nearly getting lost, he finally reaches grandma’s. But as the boy calls out for his grandma pushing the door open, he finds a surprise waiting for him! Read on as your little one discovers the real magic behind this age old fairy tale – the magic of a young mind’s imagination!

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