First Picture Fairytales
By Francesca Allen and Jo Litchfield and Emma Helbrough
$11.99; ISBN-13: 978-0794514600
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
In this sturdy oversized board book, eight classic fairy tales are re-told and illustrated with the youngest of readers in mind. From Cinderella to Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood to Rapunzel, each story has been condensed to its most basic elements for quick-telling (each takes only a single two-page spread) for active toddlers and preschoolers who may be interested in princesses and such but have far too short an attention span for the traditional Grimm's fairy tales as they're usually re-told.
The text shares the most important events in each story without unnecessary description and flowery language; the "just the facts, ma'am" approach works very well for the intended audience; the adaptations are skillfully done in such a way that none of the story itself is lost.
Illustrated with photographs of scenes sculpted from modeling compound, the bright colors and simple pictures are perfect accompaniment to the equally simple text. Small captioned pictures read the story from left to right, with one large illustration that really captures the primary, most dramatic scene or component of the story. For example, in Jack and the Beanstalk, seven smaller blocks of art and text frame the giant leafy stalk that winds across the page, with young Jack standing amidst the vines. In Rapunzel, the towering turret that imprisons the hirsute heroine splits the page in two, her long golden braid swaying in the wind.
With heavy cardboard pages, First Picture Fairytales is a great, durable book for very young readers, one that you can be comfortable giving to them for independent use. My own young reader has carried her copy around the house for days, none the worse for wear. Uncluttered pictures allow for the point/identify game that little kids so love ("Look, a horse! There's a bunny!") and keep the pictures as simple as the story. The illustrations also include only those key points in the story, making it as easy as possible for busy young children to follow along. The super-short story is also a treat for mom-- one more story before bed or nap really is one more short story.
First Picture Fairytales is another title from Usborne's First Picture series (First Picture 123, First Picture ABC, First Picture Nursery Rhymes, etc.). Readers of other First Picture series books will immediately recognize the style of the sculpted people, animals, and scenes that fill the book. Soft and gentle-looking clay people and animals and heavy use of pastel colors make the book fun to look at. The sequential nature of the smaller illustrations reinforces those pre-reading left-to-right skills, and Usborne's book makes these often-told and well-loved tales accessible to young children with shorter attention spans in a format and storytelling style that's most appropriate for their skill, interest, and ability levels. It's a great introduction to fairy tales and pre-reading, helping to instill a love to books and literature from a young age.
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