Even after years and years of reading and collecting picture books I still treasure the way their creators can say so much in with a brief text. Picture books often feel like poems. This one does.
Here is a well known opening line “Once upon a time”. You have heard this before but it is the next four words that really set the tone for this hilarious story. “Once upon a time, there was this bear.” The word that stands out for me is “this”. It could say “a bear” or “the bear” or “my bear”. Can you see how each small words completely changes the tone and emphasis of this beginning?
So who is this bear? Yes we have met him before. He has been lolloping in the woods – another fabulous word and now he hasn't a “crumb-of-a-clue” where he is. Bear feels scared and uncomfortable so he seeks solace in the nearest high rise city block called “Snooty Towers”. If you have not read the title of this book the youngest reader might now begin to recognise links with a familiar tale as our bear hero needs to sit down and perhaps find a spot of porridge.
Here we have Goldilocks and the Three bears part two. Reading this romp bought to mind another favourite topsy turvey version of the Goldilocks story that I love to share with children – Somebody and the three Blairs by Marilyn Tolhurst. Just as an aside to the review at hand, it is fun to see at which age children appreciate the humour of Somebody and the three Blairs. Age five can be a little bit too young when listeners do not like to hear changes to the story line but by age six or seven I can barely read this book aloud for all the laughter especially when we see Somebody trying to drink from the small pond which is in fact the toilet!
I have not had the chanced to read Goldilocks and just one bear to a young audience but do I like it even more than Somebody and the three Blairs, probably because of the ingenious twist at the end. I will not spoil your delight.
Another aspect of this book that I loved is the rich and delicious vocabulary it contains. Words like owl-hooting, tickety-boo, pleasant, scoffing and plonked along with the zany illustrations and various fun fonts.
One final piece of advice : Take your time when you open this book there are things to discover right from the beginning including a terrific “to do” list written by the young Goldilocks. Also Leigh Hodgkinson has a marvelous web site and based on my enjoyment of this book I will eagerly seek out others by this talented UK author/illustrator. You can find reviews of more 'fractured fairy tale picture books" here.