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Fairy Tales: Some Suggested Reading

It is next to impossible to find a fairy tale collection that has good illustrations as well as well written versions of the tales.  Every once in a while a customer will come in looking for a book that fits this description and I usually have to disappoint them.  I will have to disappoint  you as well, unless you are willing to buy used books.  On my shelves at home, I have two collections that I really like, both for art work and adaptation.  Both were once bargain books from Barnes & Noble, one of which was published by B&N.  The Treaury of Fairy Tales, available used at starting at $1.99, is excellent.  There are 28 tales and they are grouped by age appropriateness.  The first section includes Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk and five more.  The second section includes Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant, Puss in Boots, The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel and nine more.  The final section includes Beauty and the Beast, The Red Shoes, The Little Mermaid, and four more.  This book is filled with works by spectacular illustrators as well, including one of my favorites, Wayne Anderson, Gennady Spirin,Binette Schroder and Quentin Blake, among many others.   One way I always judge the retellings of any fairy tale collection is how they end fairy tales like The Three Pigs and the Little Mermaid.  In this collection, the wolf gets eaten after falling into a boiling cauldron.  The Little Mermaid does not marry the prince, but turns into a spirit of the air, true to Hans Christian Andersen's original story.  And, if you are interested in the origi
nal, or as close to original as possible stories, check out Iona and Peter Opie's The Classic Fairy Tales in which the text as well as brief background information and wonderful antique illustrations appear.  If you really love fairy tales, this is a great way read them in their purest form.  Another excellent resource is SurLaLune Fairy Tales which provides annotated retellings of over fifty fairy tales, historical information and best of all, a book gallery that shows covers for all of the related books based on the fairy tale, from picture books, to novels, graphic novels, short stories and non-fiction works and movies.  This not-for-profit site is run by Heidi Anne Heiner, who began it as a graduate student project in 1998 and continues to maintain, run and enhance it to this day as a labor of love.  It is a remarkable resource for any reader of fantasy.  As an aside, Ms. Heiner notes that, "My world changed dramatically when I first discovered Robin McKinley's Beauty as a teenager.  I realized that it was perfectly fine to still love the tales I grew up with and  continue reading them past grade school."

The 100 Classic Stories, edited by Vic Parker and published by Miles Kelly is another superlative collection of stories and artwork, worth three times the $9.98 I paid for it.  It can also be purchased used through for less than I paid as of this writing.  There are not artist credits, but the illustrations are stylistically varied, wonderful and familiar-seeming. The stories in this book are grouped by age and include myths and legends as well.  My family took a five week vacation last summer and all 500+ pages of this book kept my four year old (as well as my 6 year old niece and 4 year old nephew) entertained on airplane, bus, train and at bedtime. I think that either of these collections is a necessity.  You never know when you will get asked to read The Three Billy Goats Gruff and, if you read my related post, The Importance of Fairy Tales, you'll know why you should be reading this and many other stories to you children.

One last collection that I would like to urge you to consider purchasing if you purchase no other is David McPhail's Favorite Tails for $7.95.  The book includes Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, illustrations by McPhail.  While I love Potter's illustrations and see no reason other than royalties and continuity to replace them with McPahil's, the story is riveting to children with the bad little bunny getting in life-threatening trouble from the cranky farmer McGregor, escaping and being punished. The book might be better served with a rendering of Jack and the Beanstalk, a favorite of my four year old's.  The other three stories are Little Red Ridinghood where Grandma is not eaten and the wolf is not cut open, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which ends nicely with Goldilocks learning that it is rude to walk into someone's house without being asked and returns to the bear's home at their invitation and the  Three Little Pigs, in which none of the pigs are eaten.

If you have a fairy tale collection you like (in print or otherwise), wether for the story telling, illustrations or both PLEASE let me know.  A) I would probably like to add it to my collection and B) I can order it into the store to suggest to customers.  Thanks!


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