The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome, Ill. by Uri Shulevitz

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome, Ill. by Uri Shulevitz

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*Retold by Ransome

Publishing: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, New York, 1968

Description: A family has three sons. The oldest two are bright and clever, while the third is the Fool of the World. As such, his parents do not treat him well, but he doesn’t seem to complain. One day, the Czar sends out a decree saying that any man who can build a ship that flies through the air can marry his daughter. The two oldest brothers set out and the mother sends them off with a fanfare and plenty of food. The fool protests to go as well, and after much argument, she sends him off with a few breadcrusts and some water. Along the way the fool meets a wise old man, who turns his meager meal into more extravagant food. He tells the young fool to go into the forest and make the sign of the cross three times before the biggest tree he sees, hit it with his hatchet, and he will have a flying boat. The only caveat is that when he rides it to the Czar’s palace he must pick up anyone he meets along the way. The fool does as he is told and picks up a motley crew of characters who come to his aid when the Czar tries to test the fool and drive him away. Finally, however, the fool succeeds, married the Czar’s daughter, and becomes a very clever man after all.

Programming: I would review with students what a moral is and have them try to discern what they think the moral- or morals- of this tale are. This tale might be compared to other folk and fairy tales, or other works of Shulevitz, such as The Treasure.

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Cinderella by Marcia Brown

Cinderella by Marcia Brown

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Publishing: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 1954

Awards: Caldecott Medal Winner

Description: This book is the traditional Cinderella tale. There is quite a bit of text by today’s standards, and illustrations are line drawings with pastel colors. 

Programming: This list from the ALA has a lot of great resources for Cinderella stories from many different cultures. Students could read several of these and compare and contrast. There are also several film adaptations of the tale, and crafts might include making their own crowns or shoes. 

The Stinky Cheese Man…by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

The Stinky Cheese Man…by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

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Publishing: Viking, New York, 1992

Awards: Caldecott Honor

Description: This book is hilarious. Even the cover and endpapers buck traditional storytelling, and I was laughing from the moment I opened it until the moment I closed it. Scieszka and Smith have created several anti-fairy-tales that are extremely entertaining to read. They utilize every aspect of the book, from font size and placement to the end papers and title page to continue their theme. Even the author’s bios on the end flap are humorous. I only feel sad that I did not read this book sooner. This will definitely go on my top 100.

Programming: This would be good to read after reading some of the traditional tales, such as Jack and Beanstalk and the ugly duckling. Have students compare how the versions are different. I’m still brainstorming other programming ideas…suggestions welcome…