Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gingerbread on the Loose!

A few months back we participated in the Cinderella Around the World roundup sponsored by the amazing Becky of Kid World Citizen. It was really interesting to see all the posts with different versions of the Cinderella tale from all around the globe. And now Becky's dreamed up a new project in the form of The Gingerbread Man Around the World.

You may not know it but the traditional story "The Gingerbread Man" is a cumulative tale, versions of which are found in many cultures. The common threads are found in each retelling: some form of runaway food that several people (or animals) pursue unsuccessfully until someone comes up with a clever solution. In the tale most are familiar with, the runaway Gingerbread Man is outfoxed, literally, by a clever fox who persuades the cookie that jumping up on the fox's head is the way to safety -- and of course the fox can't help but gobble the cookie up!

It's fun to look at all the examples of this story that come up, and how the same themes repeat themselves in new and different ways. There are a number of modern versions that present the story with interesting twists and variable settings. One of our favorites, Gingerbread Man Loose in the School, was inspired by an activity that a former teacher used to do with her new students at the beginning of the year (we still love to check this one out whenever we see it in the library). And in the process of researching this topic we read a whole lot more versions -- you might be surprised how many turn up in just a quick search!

So I consulted my resident expert, and being a three-and-a-half year-old, Sprout had very definite choices. His first pick is Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby. This is a pretty standard rendition of the story, brought to life with Brett's signature intricate and absorbing illustrative style. In this version young Matti opens the oven too soon and an impudent little Gingerbread Baby jumps out. Of course he leads the whole village on a merry chase, but Matti's not among the pursuers - instead he's home crafting a solution to the problem that is quite a surprise to all, especially the Gingerbread Baby! It's hard not to be enchanted by one of Jan Brett's stories and this tale is no exception. If you're looking for something traditional with just a bit of a new twist, Gingerbread Baby fits the bill nicely.

On to Sprout's second favorite, The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst. This story takes up where the Gingerbread Man tale left off, with the old couple who crafted the cookie still in search of companionship. This time, they figure, they'll create a girl - now what could go wrong there? Well, as you might expect, the female cookie is no more willing to obey, and she's off and running in no time flat. But this Gingerbread Girl knows what happened to her brother, and she's out to fix the fox that got him. Sweet and spicy, with illustrations as tempting as the cookie that inspired the story, The Gingerbread Girl captures the spirit of the familiar story in a modern retelling that kids will adore. Love the rhymes in this one, too! (Now we need to check out the sequel, The Gingerbread Girl Goes Animal Crackers!)

It might surprise you to learn that Mom's favorite of the Gingerbread books was Sprout's favorite too -- The Library Gingerbread Man by Dotti Enderle. I'm a sucker for any book that takes place in or around a library, so naturally I had to check this one out. (Get it? Library humor!) And this was the one Sprout asked for again and again at bedtime. In this tale, our errant hero leaps out of a book living on the library shelf (call number 398.2). Though the librarian tries to catch him, she can't, and neither can all the other literary and historical characters who jump out of their own books in hot pursuit. Sprout was tickled by the setting in the library, and he loved seeing which animals or people would be the next to join the chase. The rhyme is a take on the traditional one, and the illustrations by Colleen M. Madden are jovial like the Gingerbread Man himself. And how can you not love a book with the line, "It is particularly hard to outsmart a librarian"??!?

If you want to liven up your storytime, consider a trip around the world with these or any of the other Gingerbread Man tales -- but you better run, because if there's one thing these tales have in common, it's that catching them is hard to do!


Becky said...

Mary- what a great review! I had not heard of the Gingerbread Baby nor the Girl, nor the library one!!! I can't wait to check these out (lol:) with my kids. Thank you so much for the reviews- it's great to have these in the collection!

PragmaticMom said...

I love these retold fairy tales! Another funny one is by Jon Scieszka The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. It's a riff off The Gingerbread Man.