See the movie 'Aladdin,' read the book any of them

January 10, 1993|By Cathy Collison | Cathy Collison,Knight-Ridder News Service

You've seen "Aladdin" the movie, but have you read the book?

While Disney's blockbuster is setting records at the box office, some book publishers are expecting it to spur sales of Aladdin collections. After all, Disney's "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" created a fresh market for those European folk tales.

In fact, "When you talk to kids, they think Disney is the author of everything," says folklorist and author Eric Kimmel, who teaches children's literature at Portland State University and has just written a new version of the Aladdin tale.

Though purists may not care for Disney's 1990s update, revisions of the original tale are not necessarily bad.

"Everybody who ever told the story tinkered with it," says Mr. Kimmel. "There's no one version. Folk stories are an oral &L tradition. Enjoy all of them."

Among the current crop of books worth checking out:

* "Disney's Aladdin," adapted from the film by A. L. Singer, illustrated by Kenny Thompkins and James Gallego (Disney Press, $14.95). This is a starter book for kids who loved the movie. They'll like looking at Princess Jasmine, Jafar and Aladdin. But the text falls flat unless a parent is gifted enough to re-create Robin Williams' Genie.

* "The Aladdin Flip Book" (Warner Books, $3.95) might be more appealing. This lets the young reader get a feel for how animation works by flipping pages to create a moving cartoon.

* "The Tale of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp," retold by Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Ju-Hong Chen (Holiday House, $14.95). Mr. Kimmel knows how to retell a good story and gives the traditional version here, but it's still short enough to read aloud to children over several nights. Colorful abstract designs aren't quite as easy to follow as Disney's animation, but the green genie is good. Ages 5 and older.

* "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp," by Carol Carrick, illustrated by Donald Carrick (Scholastic, $12.95; also in paperback, $4.95), is a wonderful version for young readers, with fine watercolors showing Aladdin's Arabic land and culture. Ages 6 and up.

* For adults and older readers to read aloud, "The Arabian Nights Entertainment," edited by Andrew Lang (Dover, $6.95), tells the traditional tale in a longer version, along with the other familiar stories from the Arabian Nights collection, such as "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves."

* "One Thousand and One Arabian Nights," told by Geraldine McCaughrean (Oxford, $18.95), gives a translation more in the style of Arabic folk tales; we read of Ala adin, not Aladdin, and the tales are more elaborately told.

* Aladdin isn't in this book, but if it spurs interest in Arabian tales, "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves," retold by Walter McVitty, illustrated by Margaret Early (Harry Abrams, $16.95), is a fine addition. This is a richly illustrated book, with art in the style of 10th-century Persian miniatures. An older version, it is not available at all bookstores.

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