This is the sequel, as it were, to last year’s Read to Your Baby Every Day. Like that book, it has an immediate point of difference in that it’s delightfully embroidered – rather than illustrated – by artist Chloe Giordano.
This new collection features 20 folktales from around the world, condensed for the toddler attention span so they can each be read aloud in a few minutes.
Several of the stories are familiar, but they’ve been sweetly rewritten to be less brutal than the originals. Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper”, for example, started out as a cautionary tale against idleness, with the grasshopper starving to death during winter. Here, it’s a paean to work–life balance: the ant teaches the grasshopper to work; the grasshopper teaches the ant to sing; all is well.
Elsewhere, the villainous Brer Fox has become an indulgent pal who chuckles when Brer Rabbit traps him down a well. King Midas is able to reverse his blessing-turned-curse straight away, rather than turning his beloved daughter into a gold statue. And the duckling is “scruffy”, not ugly.
The book’s many trickster animals are usually described as good friends, even as they fool each other into, for example, freezing their own tails off. (With friends like these …)
It’s all very charming and – bonus – unlikely to cause nightmares. I do wish the rewrite had extended as far as righting the gender imbalance, though: out of 43 human or animal characters, I counted 32 male and 11 female.
I look forward to reading this book to my own future toddler, but I’ll be ad-libbing some new pronouns when I do.
Reviewer: India Lopez Allen & Unwin, RRP $27.99