Why not include some story collections that will give lasting pleasure amongst the presents under the tree? Books for Keeps Editor, Rosemary Stones, recommends two handsome volumes for younger readers of about 5-8 that will be treasured.
My Favourite Fairy Tales
Retold and illustrated by Tony Ross, Andersen Press, 96pp, 978 1 84270 980 1, £12.99 hbk
The irresistible jacket illustration to this cheerful collection of seven ‘easy-to-read’ fairy tales has a prince with an extraordinary resemblance to Gerard Depardieu as Cyrano de Bergerac kneeling at the feet of a beautiful maiden. This is not, however, Cyrano but Prince Hyacinth, a fellow sufferer in the proboscis department – cursed by a wicked magician, poor Hyacinth developed a nose that ‘grew faster than the rest of his body’. Hyacinth’s protective parents surround their son with long nosed servants, teachers and courtiers but being sheltered from the truth about oneself is not always the way forward as this tale reveals.
With its large typeface and boldly expressive illustrations full of inventive energy, character and wit, this well produced large format story collection is both accessible to newly confident readers and full of robustly conversational retellings that read aloud well. Ross has chosen his tales from a variety of sources (eg Joseph Jacobs and Andrew Lang) and they range from ‘The Hedley Kow’ about a poor yet content old woman tricked by a naughty shapeshifter to the courtly mysteries of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ where true love comes to the rescue of the terrifying yet tragic beast.
Ross’s dynamic use of the page and witty interpretations of character and story will delight and engross young readers.
Retold by Fiona Waters, illustrated by Fulvio Testa, Andersen Press, 128pp, 978 1 84939 049 1, £14.99 hbk
This well designed volume contains 60 Aesop fables including such old favourites as ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse’, ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’ and ‘The Fox and the Crow’. Fiona Waters’ sympathetically direct retelling is robustly accomplished and accompanied by full colour illustrations that underline the humour of many of the fables.
According to Books for Keeps’ columnist Brian Alderson, the fables of Aesop are one of our oldest literary forms and can be traced back 25 centuries; their author ‘Aesop’ could himself be a fable. The fables’ longevity, however, speaks for itself and young readers will enjoy being introduced to their wit and wisdom via this large format collection.