I chanced upon this book in the library while I was looking for suitable books for our Fractured Fairy Tale theme until the end of August, and I was immediately taken by all the famous names from the book cover alone.
Perfect book to share as well for the folks over at Lemme Library for Book Talk Tuesday hosted by Rock Star Librarian Kelly.
Fractured Perspectives. The book has four beloved tales (The Frog Prince, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumplestiltskin, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears) retold from varying characters’ points of view. The narrative remains true to its original form (plot, build-up, general storyline, the characters), but it has a fresh, colloquial/contemporary voice that would immediately endear the stories to young children. The reader also is privy to a lot of other side-stories or tales-behind-the-tales given the exposure to varying viewpoints shared.
Case in point would be Little Red Riding Hood being narrated from several vantage points: (1) Primrose Red’s Mother – named here as Iris Brown as read by award-winning actress Glenn Close, (2) the Wolf’s Perspective – otherwise known as Wolf von Big Baden as narrated by Robin Williams (3) the Woodcutter’s story – as told by Bruce Willis, (4) the Grandmother’s version of the events and finally (5) Little Red named here as Hannah Milner Primrose Red Brown – as read by Lisa Kudrow.
The way that this book was structured and presented actually reminded me a little bit of In a Grove, a short story written by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa – the inspiration for a film directed by Akira Kurosawa entitled Rashomon. I recall showing this film to my undergraduate classes in Psychology and our enjoyment in picking each symbolic element apart as well as marveling at the multiple shades of truth – the truth of course, being contingent upon who is looking at the ‘facts.’
While there were no marked inconsistencies in terms of versions of ‘truth’ as narrated by our charming fairy tale characters, it was interesting to note how appalled, for example, the Princess was in being friends with a frog:
Me, friends with a … frog? Please! And why would he want to be friends with me? I can’t swim and I’ve actually eaten frog legs. One can’t be friends with an entree! (Princess Isabelle von Trifle as told by Minnie Driver and Illustrated by Mary Engelbreit)
I could just hear Minnie Driver’s thick British accent as she reads through Princess Isabelle’s part – too bad the library didn’t include the CD along with the book. I enjoyed reading this section as my daughter and I love trying on different accents. That’s one thing I should say about this book – it’s meant to be read aloud.
The fact that each page is read by giant names such as Whoopie Goldberg, Nicolas Cage, Gwyneth Paltrow, Steven Spielberg, Hugh Grant – should already give one an idea that it’s meant to be read in theatrical fashion to do it justice.
Gathering of Genius Illustrators. In addition to stars reading the stories, there are also award-winning, top-notch artists doing the illustrations for each page. And so we see Chris Van Allsburg making his own artistic version of Ted E. ‘Papa’ Bear to give one example.
About the Starbright Foundation. In the Introduction written by Steven Spielberg, the Chairman of Starbright Foundation, he spoke of the power of stories to offer people a means of escape. And this book offers this journeying towards enchantment and fairyland that would ultimately help serve the needs of seriously ill children and teens across the United States. As Spielberg noted:
As Chairman of the Starbright Foundation, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary kids who have heroically faced some very difficult circumstances. Imagine being a child with a long-term serious medical condition and facing not only the physical challenges of the medical condition, but also the pain, isolation, fear, and anxiety that accompany such an illness.
STARBRIGHT unites experts in pediatric healthcare with creative and technical leaders form the entertainment and technology communities, to create innovative projects and programs to empower these kids to fight their battles.
It’s actually pretty amazing that not only do you get to enjoy this book when you purchase it, you also get to help seriously ill children. Everyone who was part of the making of this book (from the talented illustrators to the celebrities) have essentially donated their time and talents to this project. And such a worthwhile project it is.
The Cast of Characters. Instead of describing each and everyone of the actors and illustrators, I shall just present a gallery of the characters from the book itself so you’d be in awe at the multitude of creative minds behind Once Upon a Fairy Tale. Enjoy!
Once Upon a Fairy Tale: Four Favorite Stories Retold by the Stars. A Benefit for the Starbright Foundation. Karen Kushell, Senior Producer and Editor; Andre Mika, Audio CD Producer and Director. Published by the Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2001. Book borrowed from the NIE Library