What You Need to Know:|
• The phrase “Once Upon a Time” takes you to unexpected places in this hilarious story where the characters rewrite
some familiar fairy tales.
• The twelve short stories are all connected as the characters reappear, sometimes unexpectedly at later points in the
• The characters break down the fourth wall and address the reader, acknowledging that they are indeed in a book.
• This book has been around for almost ten years and continues to be humorous and relevant to young readers.
• The illustrations, done in watercolor and pencil offer so many fun details to discover.
• Check out the illustration of a typewriter on the first page. Sadly you will probably need to explain what this “ancient”
device is to most readers but it is a hint as to what will take place on the pages ahead.
This book starts out like so many others – with “once upon a time” and a bear - but that’s where the similarities end. In Allan Ahlberg’s book of fairy tales, modern elements mix with old while the characters address the reader, comment on the story, make surprising appearances in each other’s stories and make an attempt at writing their own versions of some old tales. It is hilarious to see where these fairy tales might have gone had the characters had some input.
The first story is a brief introduction to the Bear who is clearly wondering why his scene is so short. The next few stories are also nontraditional including a version of The Three Bears ending in a police chase, one about the Four and Twenty Black Birds but with black bears instead and two stories starring a Penguin and a Sausage. Finally the Bear decides to take matters into his own hands and write his own story – the Bravest Ever Bear – about a perfect bear who graduates at the top of his class, rescues Little Red Riding Hood from the Wolf, beats up a Troll and captures a Dragon. According to the Bear, he uses a fire engine to save the Princess from the Dragon and, in typical fairy tale fashion, expects marriage to be the next step. The Princess, however has other plans and quickly interjects that there will be no wedding. Out pops the penguin and with his own offer but he too is refused. Wait, there’s more...
The Princess, the Troll and the Sausage go on to tell their own wacky stories which highlight their own special interests. The stories all contain silly, unexpected details like a sausage chef, a burping wolf, and a princess who is tired of palace life. I love how the independent Princess has no need for Princes but rather dreams of moving into an apartment with friends and starting a career in television. Each of these characters comes alive off the pages with their grand, vivacious personalities. The final story brings the reader back to the Bear who is stuffed from the banquet and finally exhausted – as your reader probably is by then too. After the Bear finally falls asleep make sure to turn the page to see the Penguin peaking out from the bottom corner preparing to write the next story. I absolutely love this book and have read it countless times with my own kids but keep in mind that there are a lot of details to keep track of in this little picture book so make sure your reader is ready to pay attention. It may even inspire them to do some writing of their own.
2001, 31 pages
Bedtime, Excellent Read-Aloud, Fairy Tales, Humor, Storytelling, Talking Animals
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