Wednesday, August 03, 2011

So That's What Happened After Happily Ever After

For decades, feminist writers have speculated about what became of Cinderella after she married her prince. Her situation was perceived as being full of peril, and that was before anyone had heard of the late, lamented Diana, Princess of Wales. In Cinderella and the Mean Queen, part of the After Happily Ever After Series by Tony Bradman, she has trouble with her mother-in-law (Yikes! Diana!) and works things out by starting her own business doing cosmetic and clothing makeovers. The feminist in me thinks, How shallow to put so much focus on physical appearances. But the writer in me thinks that's very clever, since the fairy godmother, or whatever it was she was, did a makeover on Cinderella in the original fairy tale.

I also read Goldilocks and the Just Right Club, Mr. Wolf Bounces Back, and The Fairy Godmother Takes a Break. These books are meant to be instructive on many levels. They all have a reading level between grades two and four+, and they include a glossary, discussion questions, and writing prompts. And the basic stories themselves are probably a little improving.

But I'm not going to hold any of that against these books because they are actually entertaining reading and well written. It's not easy doing a coherent, well crafted story for early readers, and these books are that. And clever, too. Goldlilocks, for instance, vandalized the Three Bears' home because of problems at school. When her parents transfer to another one, who does she meet there but Baby Bear? And the Big Bad Wolf ends up with work problems because once he becomes a father, all the creatures he would normally be offing (the little pigs, Red Riding Hood) remind him of his darling offspring. He's good for nothing after that. (I read that one while reading Dust City, a YA book that also makes the Big Bad Wolf a father, but uses that idea very, very differently.)

I had a family member home who is a teacher working with children with reading problems. While she liked the book in this series that she read, she felt that in spite of the glossary, some of the vocabulary might still be a problem for her students. She pointed out the word "kettle," for instance, which she didn't believe her students would know and which doesn't appear in the glossary. However, teachers who work with struggling readers could use these books while providing support. Adults who are looking for books for very young children who are reading early but still have young interests should check them out, too.

By the way, every page has a black and white illustration by Sarah Warburton, so readers aren't overwhelmed by lots of text.

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