Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)




Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"BE-CAREFUL-WHAT-YOU-WISH-FOR"

Lots of stories, fables and fairytales convey the message, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." Remember the myth about King Midas and the Golden Touch?  In answer to his wish for wealth, he is granted the gift that anything he touches will turn to gold.  He is unable to eat because his food and drink turn to gold.  Nathaniel Hawthorne penned a version in which Midas' own beloved daughter is changed into a golden statue when he touches her.  In the end, Midas hates the gift he had coveted.

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, young Dorothy wishes she could escape all her problems and live in a better place than Kansas by going "somewhere over the rainbow." She partly gets her wish, but her dream world winds up becoming a rather scary nightmare and ends up making her homesick for the very place and people she tried to get away from...she wanted to get away from home, but ends up realizing, "There's No Place Like Home"!

We can find the same underlying moral about "being careful what you wish for" in Edith Nesbit Bland's Five Children and It. In turn-of-the-century England, five children find a Sand-Fairy (or "Psammead") that can grant them wishes. But the sand fairy is an irritable literalist, who interprets the wishes of the children exactly as they ask, and wild things happen (e.g., the children wish for great beauty, and then the people around them don't even recognize them).
Five Children and It (Looking Glass Library)

The book I'd like to highlight today is based on a Celtic tale with this same classic theme, in a picture book for kids 4-8.  It is Too Many Fairies, retold by Margaret Read MacDonald and colorfully illustrated by Susan Mitchell.  As I sat with my friend's 5-year-old daughter on the floor of a local bookstore reading this hilarious tale, she and I couldn't help laughing out loud at the trouble the old woman in the story gets herself into when she grumbles, "Work! Work! Work!  How I hate it! Hate it! Hate it!"

Her nonstop complaining soon brings four different fairies to her door to perform her chores. (A voice from outside calls each time: “Your luck has come! Open the door!  Let me in and you'll work no more!”) They each in turn wash her dishes, sweep the floor, make the bed, and do her knitting. But all the help still can't stop her from complaining about the noisy racket the fairies are making: "clankety, clankety," "swishety, swishety," "lumpety, flumpety," and "clickety clickety."

"These fairies are driving me crazy!" she laments. But when she tells them to stop, they begin to reverse all of their chores, tearing everything apart. A visit to the village "wise one" teaches the complaining old woman a lesson of being careful about what you wish for and being content in your situation.

The ending is imaginative and clever and the sound effects of the "rackety" fairies and the Old Woman's whining complaints make it fun to read aloud.  Your kids will definitely get the message!

2 comments:

Geen Grey said...

Oh I gotta read that! Thanks for this blog Wendy, I love it!

Wendy said...

You're welcome! (and you'll love the book)