Basic Plot Summary: Three bears go out for a walk while waiting for their porridge to cool. A girl enters their house and tries each porridge sitting on the table, finding one too hot, one too cold and one just right (which she eats up). She then sees three chairs, which she tries, finding one too hard, one too soft and one just right (which breaks when she sits in it). She goes upstairs and finds three beds, which she also tries, finding one too soft, one too hard and one just right, in which she falls asleep. When the bears come home and find her there, she runs away.
First published by English writer Robert Southey in 1837, the original story featured three bachelor bears of different sizes, rather than the traditional family of bears (Papa, Mama and Baby) that we usually associate with the story. The biggest difference, though, was in the character of the girl, who was originally described as an ugly, dirty and untrustworthy old woman. The old woman was changed to a pretty little girl in 1849 in an updated version by Joseph Cundall. I have never been a big fan of this story, to be honest and have always thought the ending was abrupt and kind of anticlimactic.
The 3 Bears and Goldilocks – I’ll start with Margaret Willey’s version, which sticks pretty close to the original story, but adds in a little more realism and a bit of a twist. In this version, the bears are actually living in a den with leaves and pine cones on the floor, beetles in their porridge and piles of straw to sleep on. Another twist element is that they react to Goldilocks with sympathy, since she seems pretty helpless to them. Heather M. Solomon uses watercolor, collage, colored pencils, acrylics and oil paint to show us all the unexpected details. I enjoyed this book, but there was nothing really special about it for me. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008)
Goldilocks Returns – If you ever wondered what happened to Goldilocks when she got older, this book has your answer. Lisa Campbell Ernst gives us an aging Goldilocks (now just going by Goldi) who deeply regrets the way she meddled in the lives of the three bears. In an ill-conceived plan to make things right, she ends up meddling further and just makes a mess of everything. The story here is frenetic and wordy and the pastel, ink and pencil artwork is equally over busy and a little jarring. I liked the idea, but it was just a little too over the top for me. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2000)
Goldilocks and Just One Bear – For a different look at what might have happened in the future lives of these characters, you can read Leigh Hodgkinson’s version, which turns the tables on the original story several years later. Baby Bear, now grown up, gets lost while walking in the woods and finds himself in the big city. He wanders into an apartment and tries the things he finds there (mistakenly in just about every case, such as trying to sit on the cactus and the cat) and eventually falls asleep. When the owners come home, we discover that the apartment is the home of grown-up Goldilocks and her family. The mixed media illustrations and quirky font choices give this comedic take a hipster-ish feel. (Nosy Crow, 2012)
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs – Mo Willems’ take on this story brings all the hilarious tongue-in-cheek humor that we’re accustomed to seeing from one of this generation’s best picture book authors. It starts at the endpapers, which are covered with rejected titles for the book, including such gems as Goldilocks and the Three Robot Dancers and Goldilocks and the Three Major Networks. There are tons of laughs here, as Goldilocks manages to avoid falling into the dinosaurs’ not-at-all clever trap. This one’s a delight for all ages. (Balzer + Bray, 2012)
And what did we learn? What I take away from Goldilocks and the Three Bears is that it doesn’t matter if it’s ‘just right’ or not. If it’s not yours, you shouldn’t take it without permission.