Tag Archives: fairytales

The Well at the End of the World


By Robert D. San Souci, Illustrated by Rebecca Walsh

Chronicle Books, 2004

The King of Colchester was a kind and just man, but not a very good ruler. Oh, he did fine dubbing knights or deciding what to have for dinner. But it was his daughter, Princess Rosamond, who really ran the kingdom. She advised her father on matters of state, kept the royal accounts, and fixed the drawbridge when it wouldn’t rise or lower. People often said it was a shame she wasn’t beautiful, too. But practical Rosamond would just laugh and say, “I prefer good books to good looks. I may not be pretty, but my father’s treasury is in order, the drawbridge works, and I’ve almost saved up enough for a new set of royal dishes!”

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The Curious Garden


By Peter Brown

Little, Brown Books, 2009

There once was a city without gardens or trees or greenery of any kind. Most people spent their time indoors. As you can imagine, it was a very dreary place. However, there was one boy who loved being outside…

I’m calling this book an “eco-conscious fairytale.” Granted, these pages (printed on recycled paper, mind you) contain no princesses, princes, wicked witches or dragons, but there is one very kind, determined boy who finds beauty where others do not. And there is a patch of curious green plants in need of rescuing. And as in all fairytales, there is a city (er, kingdom) where the inhabitants are in desperate need for an imaginative leader who will transform their dreary world. So…eco-conscious fairytale it is. With sparse, elegant prose and vivid illustrations that are difficult to look away from, Brown tells the story of little Liam, who begins nurturing a long-forgotten garden. Because of his efforts, the plants and flowers spread across his city, magically affecting everything and everyone in their path. A fabulous reminder to go play in the mud.

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Kate and the Beanstalk


By Mary Pope Osborne, Illustrated by Giselle Potter

Atheneum Books, 2000

Kate was a plucky girl who loved to help. “Don’t worry,” she said, giving her mother a hug. “I’ll take care of everything.” And she set out for market with their cow.

This magical retelling of  “Jack and the Beanstalk” comes courtesy of Mary Pope Osborne, the acclaimed author of the Magic Treehouse series. Instead of Jack buying magic beans and outwitting a foul-tempered giant, it’s brave Kate. Osborne’s rounded out the story with an exasperated giantess who must serve up wagonloads of bacon and mountains of hash every morning, and a benevolent Queen of the Fairies working behind the scenes. The Kahlo-ish illustrations have fun with the giant’s great size. (The gold coins he so lovingly counts are the size of chocolate chips.) My only complaint is the bizarre — and quite offensive — smell of… feet emanating from my library copy. Surely librarians are trained to notice and neutralize such odors?

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Willa and the Wind


Retold by Janice M. Del Negro, illustrated by Heather Solomon

Marshall Cavendish,  2005.

Willa thought about having a fit and falling into it, but instead she marched off to pay a visit to Old Windy.

 “Willa” is based on a Norwegian folktale, “The Lad Who Went to the North Wind.” Hot-tempered, red-pigtailed Willa Rose Mariah McVale is pissed when the north wind blows the last bit of corneal right out of her bowl. “Well, don’t have a hissy,” her reasonable sister says. “If you want cornbread that badly, go get it.” And so she does, in spite of cantankerous Old Windy and a crooked innkeeper who thankfully, doesn’t turn out to be Mr. Right. The illustrations – rendered in watercolor, collage, acrylic and oil — are lovely. Heather Solomon is one of my all-time favorite illustrators. If I’d made more than a D- in my art history class in college, I’d be able to succinctly explain why. 

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How Robin Saved Spring


By Debbie Ouellet, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

Christy Ottavino Books/Henry Holt, 2009.

 Robin thought hard. The only thing he owned of value was his beautiful singing voice. “I shall give you my voice,” he said. Chir-up, chir-ee, tweedle-ee-dee. He sang the grandest song ever heard.

You’ve got to bring your game if you’re collaborating with Italian illustrator Nicoletta  Ceccoli. Her images are so lush and luminous, you feel you could fall into the pages if you leaned just a little too forward. If the story isn’t equally compelling,  your end result is noticeably lopsided. (Case in point: “The Tear Thief.”) Happily,  “How Robin Saved Spring” tells a mesmerizing story: Lady Winter plots to keep her sister, Spring, asleep so the seasons won’t change and the world will stay cold and white forever. Led by Robin (yes, the bird, not Batman’s sidekick),  the animals of the forest – and a sensitive maple tree – attempt to wake Sister Spring, but all must pay a price for their bravery.  Quietly clever storytelling.

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