Written by Allan Ahlberg, Illustrated by Bruce Ingman
Candlewick Press, 2007
Goldilocks arrived home all bothered and hot.
The plot in a nutshell: Fairy tales are connected together.
Before she got home, Goldilocks ran through the woods, after eating someone else’s porridge and sleeping in someone else’s bed. On her way to that house, she had met a boy named Jack, who was running away with a hen under his arm. It seems he had stolen the hen from a giant in the sky, after climbing up a beanstalk. The beanstalk was there because he sold his cow for some magic beans, but before he did that, he had fallen down a hill with his sister, Jill. This was because they had been arguing over who should carry the bucket. That morning, while eating their breakfast, they had seen a frog with a crown on his head, who used to be a prince, until he was cursed. Once, he had fallen in love with a girl named Cinderella who ran away from the ball after dancing with him. Before she met him, she had once met the Gingerbread Boy, who had been chased by a long line of people. He started life as a bag of flour and before that, a farmer sowed the seeds that grew the grain. And all the people and animals in the story were once babies and the furniture and floors were planks of wood that were once trees, in the world of once upon a time.
Author Allan Ahlberg dives deeper into classic fairy tales in this book that explores the possible ways that the classic story characters might interconnect. He also introduces the idea of looking past the stories we know and examining what might have happened before those events. I can see all sorts of fun conversations following a reading of this book, when you and your child can talk about all kinds of previous events in their life, your life and the lives of others around you. It’s often hard for kids to really grasp the idea of their parents being babies, so I love that Mr. Ahlberg includes that concept here.
Bruce Ingman’s acrylic illustrations ramble through all the bits and pieces of these characters’ lives, often showing them multiple times on one page, from different moments in their past. There’s a cool frenetic energy to the pictures that makes you want to read the book quickly, but it seems to slow down once you get to the Gingerbread Boy (because baking should never be rushed) and that’s when the story starts to wind itself backwards, going back through all the characters and settings and what they were previously, so that the story actually ends at the place where everything truly begins. It’s a cool concept and a really fun book.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that everyone has a past of some kind and it’s important, because it becomes a part of what you are and everything you do.