Published in 1986, The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg remains one of my favorite children's books EVER. Discovered after I was a child but before I had children, it perfectly satisfies my love of fairy tales and absolute delight at seeing in a picture book mash-up of them. Even better, The Jolly Postman actually, literally delivers, with pages that are actual envelopes that hold letters, cards, fliers and other goodies the fairy tale characters send to each other. The Jolly Postman is a brilliant concept made even better by Allan Ahlberg's marvelous story and Janet Ahlberg's charmingly cozy illustrations. While the Ahlbergs ultimately created three books featuring the Jolly Postman as well as several picture books, including the magnificent Peek-a-Boo and Each Peach Pear Plum (again with the fairy tale mash-up) and illustrated chapter books, and won many awards, Janet passed away in 1994, leaving behind Allan and their daughter Jessica. I continued to read Allan Ahlberg's books (you can read reviews here), always pleased when he was paired with an illustrator with a style similar to Janet's. Happily, in 2004 Jessica Ahlberg illustrated a book written by her father. She went on to work with him and other authors and now, she has written and illustrated her first picture book, Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker: A Peek Through Story!
Like The Jolly Postman and Peek-A-Boo, Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker has a little extra going for it - peek through holes that reveal what is coming and what has passed wonderfully. The cover (which has a hole in it) opens to reveal Lucy beginning to read a story about a troll (The Three Billy Goats Gruff) to Mr. Barker in her absolutely adorable bedroom. But Mr. Barker would rather chase a butterfly out the window.
Soon enough, Lucy and Mr. Barker are wandering through fairy tale after fair tale, chasing that butterfly and escaping bears, wolves, giants, and children eating witches just in time.
Along the way, Lucy and Mr. Barker gather friends, from Goldilocks to the three pigs to Jack and Sleeping Beauty. The group ends up back in Lucy's cozy room where she offers to read them all a story. They all agree, as long as there are no, "fairies, no giants, no big bad wolves, and no bears!" Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker ends, delightfully, where it began, with Lucy reading, "Once upon a time there was a troll . . ." The final illustration shows a troll peeking in the window, Mr. Barker sticking his tongue out at him!
Jessica Ahlberg is definitely in the family business, I hope for a very long time!
More books by and/or
illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg
Yucky Worms by Vivian French
Toon Tellgren's story collections
A page from EACH PEACH PEAR PLUM by Janet & Allan Ahlberg that reminds me of Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker
Source: Review Copy, but I would have bought my own anyway...