Whether it’s fairy tales, or “Mother Goose” nursery rhymes, preschool is a great time to read the classics with your children.
Some of the darker tales can be a bit Grimm (yes, I had to go there), so it’s nice to find a version that retains the storyline but with a new spin. With this book, it is the illustrations that hold appeal.
Little Red Riding Hood, as retold by Harriet Ziefert with illustrations by Emily Bolam (Puffin Easy-to-Read), was chosen from the library shelves by my daughter for its colorful front cover and amusing artwork, especially the illustrations of her favorite villain, the Big, Bad Wolf.
I recommend this title because, in my years of reading children’s books, I’ve been perplexed by the way many traditional stories have been watered down. It always irritates me the way some versions sweeten up the ending and avoid the fact that there is never going to be a happy ending for the wolf!
This book strikes just the right balance because the illustrations are simple and amusing, yet help tell the story in a “tasteful” manner (excuse the wolf-eating-granny pun there).
The wolf’s snout is so long that when he eats Grandma, her stripy-stocking legs dangle from his mouth so that the child knows Granny is being swallowed yet is still in one piece.
When the woodcutter comes along, the wolf is shown asleep in the bed after his tasty dinner and the text reads “he lifted his ax and…” Then you turn the page and see only the wolf’s back legs and tail at the side of the page, the rest of him is out of frame and Red Riding Hood and Grandma are safely back again. The text continues with“…killed the wolf. Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother stepped out.”
Thanks to the page break, the parent can determine whether to use the word “killed” or not. I decided to just say “…and he cut them out of the wolf,” but my daughter immediately suspected a ruse,
“Did the wolf die?" she asked, wide-eyed. "He must have died if the man cut her out!”
Sigh, kids these days.
So, if you still have your childhood copy of The Brothers Grimm but are concerned it may be too dark for your preschooler (sorry, I’m only allowed one “Grimm” pun per article), this might be a good indicator of your little one’s tolerance for the “real” versions as opposed to the “toddler” ones.
If so, a larger world of storytelling opens up for you both to enjoy. These books have a “look inside” preview on amazon.com if you want to see further samples of text and illustrations. If none hold appeal, just let your child wander the aisles of the library in search of whatever catches her imagination.