Sunday, July 04, 2010

A small bottle

Last summer a two year old's favorite book was Rosemary Wells/Iona Opie's MOTHER GOOSE; we read it so many times that we learned every single one by heart. (He also wanted to know what every word -- including "treacle" -- meant.) He loved the book so much that he kept asking me to read it even once he could say the rhymes along with me. We both loved the sounds of the words, even when they didn't make any sense; and I think that nursery rhymes are a great way to give children a love of language. I bet if someone did a scientific study of them they might even discover that the sounds they repeat are the very sounds babies need to learn in order to strengthen the muscles that will later enable them to talk.

I myself love fairy tales just as much -- but those books have too many words and not enough pictures for him. So this summer I was very excited to find a new book of fairy tales with pictures on every page.

I love the cheerful illustrations -- but Red Riding Hood brought "a basket of food," not "a little cake and a small bottle of wine." I remember loving those details when I was a child, especially the small bottle -- I wanted that basket! The story also left out the mother's warning not to stray off the path; without that detail,the plot loses much of its point.

The only thing Jake liked in the book was the fight scene in The Three Billy Goats Gruff. We never even read most of the stories, and I couldn't help wondering if the way the author dealt with details was why the stories didn't capture his interest. I'm all for cutting out unnecessary words and details, but it's sad when a book doesn't pay enough attention to the words. Taking out too many can make stories bland and deprive children of the joy words can bring.


Meghan said...

Mmm, they were taken out because of over cautiousness. Alcohol won't fly in a PB and straying off the path might indicate that the kid is alone without her parent and we all know that shouldn't be!

In my opinion, if the author and editor are SOOO worried about that stuff then they shouldn't do the tales period. It's silly to do the tales and then leave out all of the stuff that makes them juicy and important. Really dumb.

So basically none of those old fairy tales could be written today. Just couldn't happen. Sad but true.

But I'm pretty darn sure that that's why that stuff was taken out.


Libby Koponen said...

I never thought of that and now that you say it, I'm sure you're right. I also agree: if you're going to ruin the story by taking out all the stuff that makes them "juicy and important" (great phrase), don't do it at all.

Now kids who read that book are going to think LRR is boring! And it isn't! Normally when you read it and the mother says "Don't go off the path," their eyes brighten -- they look both excited and scared. They know what she's going to do as soon as she's out of her mother's sight!

Abigail said...

My almost two year old loves that Opie/Wells mother goose, as well. He calls it the 'airplane book' because of the little known 2nd verse of Dickory Dock ("Dickory Dickory Dare, the pig flew up in the air"). He requests certain rhymes over and over but will have nothing to do with others. He slams the book shut if I try to read 4 & 20 blackbirds, for instance. His likes and dislikes are such a fascinating mystery.

Libby Koponen said...

That IS fascinating! Thanks for telling us, Abigail.