Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, October 8, 2012

Look Out, Goldilocks!

As a collector of stories and the books that house them, over the years it has been interesting to see how one author may interpret a fairy tale or an illustrator may give readers visuals to go with the classic, well-known words.  Of course, different cultures will bring their own individual slant to a story, immersing the reader in a particular language, style of dressing, housing, food and occupations.  Then too, there are those authors and illustrators who fracture the familiar and that's where the fun really begins.

To name a few there are The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs! by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka with illustrations by Lane Smith, The Three Pigs written and illustrated by David Wiesner, Little Red Riding Hood--A Newfangled Prairie Tale written and illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst, Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale with illustrations by Howard Fine and Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson with illustrations by Kevin O'Malley.  Author/illustrator Mo Willems takes readers down a twisted road with his retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (Balzer + Bray, September 4, 2012).  It would appear these three particular dinosaurs have read the original version.

ONCE UPON A TIME, there were three Dinosaurs:  Papa Dinosaur; Mama Dinosaur; and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway.

What's with the dinosaur from Norway?  Where's Baby Dinosaur?  These three then proceed with a purpose; straightening the beds, making sure the chairs are visible. Papa Dinosaur is whipping up a batch of chocolate pudding carefully placed in three bowls, temperatures hot, cold and nearly perfect.

Looking straight at the reader Papa and Mama exclaims in loud dino voices they are off to SOMEPLACE ELSE while a raucous roar issues from the visitor's gaping mouth.  As you may have guessed, fairly soon Goldilocks comes strolling along a path leading directly to their gigantic home.  Hidden in the woods the three prehistoric predators await the perfect moment to claim their prize.

Merrily moving inside with nary a thought to caution or doing as she has been told, Goldilocks gets a whiff of the chocolate pudding left in plain view.  How convenient that the means for her to get to the countertop has been left at the ready. With bowls big enough in which to swim, she does that, gobbling up every single bit of chocolate she can.

Noticing the cleverly placed furniture she would like to rest but golly, they're all too big.  She's disgusted to find the beds are ginormous.  What's a tired little girl to do?  Before she can decide, a noise, no make that loud words, startle her into the notion she might be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mo Willems throws out the narrative bait right away with a switch in characters.  He sets the hook and reels in readers with dialogue laden with implications.


As the text continues you feel as though you are privy to his special brand of storytelling, mixing up  all you have known to be true.  His asides are hilariously understated.  The perfect conclusion to his version is after The End, two morals to the story, one for Goldilocks and one for the three dinosaurs.

Front and back endpapers, golden in color, are covered with Goldilocks and the Three Cyclops, Goldilocks and the Three Alligators, Goldilocks and the Three Orthodontists, no two alike, each black-printed title crossed out in red, leading readers to believe Mo Willems made many attempts before finding exactly what he wanted. To the left of the title page we see Goldilocks peering, wide-eyed from what at first glance might be a group of trees but are really dinosaur legs.  Willems alters between two page, one page and split-page illustrations depending on the impact desired.

Sure black outlines filled-in with appropriately colored avocado green and brunt orange for the dinosaurs amid boldly colored home furnishings and complementary decor add to the comedy.  Further enticing readers are the small details in the artwork hanging on the walls, large chairs sporting dinosaur feet, a unique table lamp and oh yes, the pigeon tucked in a place or two.  Facial features on all the characters eyes expressing sneakiness, determination, surprise, disgust or disappointment coupled with the mouths are laugh-out-loud funny.

Mo Willems has yet again demonstrated his versatility in this initial retelling of a fairy tale filled with   his special style of using language and pictures to elicit humor.  Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is one of those books where a single reading will not be enough.  I expect it to be read over and over with gleeful giggles erupting repeatedly.

By following the link directly above you are taken to Mo Willems blog where he is interviewed by a puppet about this title and other fun stuff.  Here is a link to the HarperCollins Everything's Better With Dinosaurs Event Kit.  HarperCollins activity pages for this title can be accessed by following this link.

If you are using Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs as part of a unit to explore fractured fairy tales, try out this interactive student lesson from ReadWriteThink, Fractured Fairy Tales.


  1. Your post is so in depth! This book is so funny...at least to me. I read it to 40 3rd graders and was surprised at how much of the fast paced humor went over their heads. At one point I remember looking at many blank faces and saying, "That's funny! Why aren't you laughing?!" The other teachers in the room thought it was hilarious. Then I read it to about 15 5th graders and had much better results. It just goes to show how widely Mo's work spans across ages. If I were to read this a second time I know the 3rd graders would pick up a few more of Mo's lines that were missed during a first reading.
    I hope the Pigeon doesn't see this post...he would be irritated at not being mentioned in every paragraph ;)

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  3. I hope you will give it a go with the third grade classes again. Were all 40 together at the same time? Perhaps they were all unable to see the illustrations which is the magic of his books; the pairing of the words with the pictures.
    I think there is little the Pigeon misses. :)