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.
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.
"YES!" continued Mama Dinosaur. "I SURE HOPE NO INNOCENT LITTLE SUCCULENT CHILD HAPPENS BY OUR UNLOCKED HOME WHILE WE ARE...UHHH...SOMEPLACE ELSE!"
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.