Sunday, March 24, 2019

Fairy Tales for Feisty girls by Susannah McFarlane

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. Albert Einstein

"They may be small, but they're big of heart-
kind and cheerful, brave and smart.
And so with courage, hope and laughter
they make their own 'happily every after."
Prologue poem verse four

Fairytales for Feisty girls is one of the twenty CBCA 2019 Notable titles for Younger Readers. I am so happy to see a book for younger students from grade one up, and I am happy to have a new collection of short stories to share. 

I am going to focus on one of the four tales here - Rapunzel.  The Grimm Brothers version of Rapunzel is a complex fairy tale with many elements. There is the rapunzel plant which the expectant mother craves, there is the bargain by the witch where she demands the new born child, their is the relationship with the young man who visits the tower and his subsequent blindness and there is all that hair.  In this version Rapunzel is not a passive girl sitting in a tower. She is an inventor and problem solver and so is Susannah McFarlane. Why is the tower impenetrable?  Susannah has it covered in climbing roses that work like barbed wire. What does Rapunzel do all day in the tower? In this version the enchantress fills the room with  beautiful things - furniture, clothes and cushions. How does Rapunzel cope with the weight of all that hair? Using her problem solving skills she converts a chest into a cart so she can simply pull the hair along behind her. She even makes a periscope so she can see the outside world.  Her new view of  the world means of course she has to escape. She does meet a boy outside the tower but this time the happy ending is not about getting married. Her actions actually help the whole village when the curse from the enchantress is lifted and so "everyone lived happily ever after."

With a group of older students it would be interesting to compare this book with other versions of the same fairytales. The discussion point could be did Susannah achieve her purpose which was to 'tilt' the well known tale. You can discover more about this here. I have included one edition for each tale here. I have selected quite sophisticated versions with especially beautiful illustrations:

Rapunzel retold by Brothers Grimm illustrated by Paul O Zelinsky

Little Red Riding Hood retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Cinderella retold by Charles Perrault and illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

Thumbelina originally by Hans Christian Andersen illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

There are some teaching tips you can download along with a colouring sheet on the Allen and Unwin web site. There is also a video interview with Susannah McFarlane and a trailer.

These girls are problem solvers. They're assertive, proactive, and independent. Kids' Book Review

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