The liquidation book fairies were very kind to me last week. As I was cleaning up what was left of our Kids’ department for the umpteenth time one morning, I stumbled upon this lovely version of Goldilocks, as told by Lauren Child. When I saw that it was illustrated with photographs of handmade dolls posed in a handcrafted cabin, I knew that I had to buy a copy for fellow bookseller and reviewer hardboundandgagged. In case you don’t know her in real life (which I imagine most of you don’t), she is not only a fantastic kids’ bookseller, but she also does some very unique artwork. A lot of that artwork utilizes dolls, and she poses them for photographs that are works of art in and of themselves. So, basically, this book could have had her name written on it.
After I bought it and brought it home, however, I realized that I had a problem. Although this book was perfect for her, after looking through it in more detail, I realized I was going to need a copy for myself. And that is the really impressive part – somehow, the very next day, while cleaning up the Kids’ section yet again, a second copy materialized in front of me. A liquidation miracle! That kind of magical discovery would never happen while buying books online. Suffice it to say, we both have our own copies now, and she kindly allowed me to write the review.
I guess I should tell you what makes this edition of the well-known fairy tale so special. Goldilocks herself is portrayed by a felt doll with corkscrew curls, a lovely red dress, striped stockings, and matching red shoes. The cabin she comes across is 3 feet high, made of branches, pine cones, and a grass roof. The photographs are taken against a backdrop of very young trees, making it feel true to size. Everything inside the cabin is painstakingly handcrafted with the greatest attention to detail. This includes carving the porridge bowls and spoons (and filling them with real porridge), painting the cabin’s interior, hand stitching the textiles, and more. Every page has hidden sets of three – not just the bowls, chairs, and beds mentioned in the story. There are three paintings on the wall, three apples on the floor, three balls of yarn waiting to be knit. This lends a visual cohesiveness to each picture as well as tying it back to the narrative (which also emphasizes sets of three). As my partner in crime observed, it would be great fun to read this book with a young child just learning to count and see how many “threes” can be found on each page.
Moreover, this is the most creative, funny retelling of the Goldilocks fairy tale I have come across. Here’s a sample from early in the book:
Her mother often worried about letting Goldilocks out of her sight, but sometimes the little girl would ask just one too many questions and stick her fingers in one too many pots of honey and peek under the lid of one too many saucepans. And her mother, unable to bear it any longer, would send her out to collect firewood. (3)
The rest of the book has a similarly playful tone, fleshing out the character of Goldilocks as an irrepressibly curious young girl who has a habit of getting into sticky messes. We are given the reasoning behind her actions, however flawed it may be. It usually boils down to: “I wouldn’t mind if it were my house.” The tone of the narrative is also shaped by its layout and formatting, with individual words and phrases written in a larger font size and offset from the main block of text to show emphasis. Small doodles are scattered throughout, further aligning the words with their photographic counterparts.
With such intricate interplay between the visual presentation of both text and photographs and the way the story itself is told, I wouldn’t call this a “book” so much as a work of art. If it finds you in a bookstore, don’t go home without it. Highly recommended.