With this month's back- to-school excitement, I find myself thinking about all the classic books I've read in class. This includes even the basics, such as "The Three Little Pigs" and "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." This week, you'll recognize those two well-known classics — with some hilarious twists:
— "Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs" (2012, Balzer and Bray, retold and illustrated by Mo Willems, ages 4-8) begins, "Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs. Papa Dinosaur. Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway."
On goes the tale, as the dinosaurs make their beds, position their chairs just so and cook three bowls of chocolate pudding at varying temperatures.
They leave the house to go "Someplace Else," but "definitely not hiding in the woods waiting for an unsuspecting kid to come by."
Of course, along comes Goldilocks, missing the obvious clues that Willems has sprinkled all over his bold, signature illustrations. But, as the story tells us, "Goldilocks was not the type of little girl who listened to anyone or anything."
Off she goes into the house, eating so much pudding ("who cares about temperature when you've got a big bowl of chocolate pudding"), that she's ready for a nap. However, in this perfectly executed tale, the clues soon become so obvious (i.e. impatient dinosaurs peeking through the windows) that even Goldilocks can't miss the hints. She decides to leave — and fast.
The tale ends with a couple of morals, including one for Dinosaurs: "Lock The Back Door!" This book recently won the 2013 Sid Fleischman humor award. It well deserves the accolades.
— "The Three Ninja Pigs" (2012, G.P. Putnam's Sons, by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat, ages 4-8) not only retells the fairy tale, but adds quite a bit to the story. In clever-rhymed verse, we are introduced to three little pigs in a Japanese village who decide that they've had enough of the huffing, puffing wolf.
They declare, "We've got to get rid of that bully! We're tired of letting him rule. We must put an end to this terrible trend. Let's train at that new Ninja school!"
The first pig takes aikido lessons but gets bored and quickly drops out. His brother learns jujitsu but prematurely decides that he's done training and is ready for the wolf. Pig 3, the sister, studies karate and trains hard for months.
Along comes the wolf. As he approaches the first pig's hut, the pig swings, misses and runs, chased by the wolf straight to his brother's house. There, Pig 2 gives his best flying kick ... but to no avail. Off they dash to their sister's well-kept Japanese home, shown beautifully in Santat's manga style illustrations.
There, sister pig announces to the wolf, "I'm a certified weapon, so watch where you're steppin'. You don't want to start up with me!"
After seeing her demonstrations, the wolf finally decides, "I love to eat ham, but I think I should scram, before she makes mincemeat of me!"
The two brother pigs high-five their sister and decide to go back to ninja school to perfect their skills. Soon all three are running their own Ninja school.
You will enjoy this energetic, new-age take on an old classic, complete with back-matter information about the martial arts.
Alice B. McGinty (http://www.alicebmcginty.com), the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children, directs a summer writing camp, Words on Fire, for teenagers. She also tutors school-aged children in writing.