Favorite fairy tales are spun in new way

BOOKS FOR KIDS

May 27, 1994|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

When it comes to putting a wacky spin on a familiar story, Kevin O'Malley is one of the best. Mr. O'Malley, who lives in Rodgers Forge, made a splash with "Froggy Went A-Courtin,' " followed by "Who Killed Cock Robin?"

He flew solo on those two books, as well as "Bruno, You're Late for School!" and "The Box." But he has gone from author/illustrator to illustrator in his latest, "Cinder Edna," written by Ellen Jackson (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, $15, 32 pages, ages 4 and up).

The story leaves Mr. O'Malley plenty of room to have fun with the illustrations. The jokes he slips in are the funniest parts of the book, which would be funnier if it wasn't hammering home a message.

Not that the moral is a bad one.

Cinder Edna happens to live next door to Cinderella. Both have a cruel stepmother and wicked stepsisters. When Cinderella has done all the work around the house, she sits in the cinders, thinking about her troubles. When Cinder Edna is done slaving for her stepmother and stepsisters, she mows lawns and cleans parrots cages for neighbors, at $1.50 an hour.

Cinderella is beautiful. The industrious Cinder Edna "wasn't much to look at. But she was strong and spunky and knew some good jokes -- including an especially funny one about an anteater from Afghanistan."

Cinderella gets to go to the ball courtesy of her fairy godmother. Cinder Edna has saved up her money to put a dress on layaway. While Cinderella rides in her pumpkin coach, Cinder Edna takes the bus to the ball.

Empty-headed Cinderella falls for the vain prince. Cinder Edna hits it off with the prince's younger brother, a dorky sort who lives in a solar-heated cottage and runs the recycling plant. Both couples end up getting married, and there's no doubt about who lives happily ever after.

Mr. O'Malley will do some illustrations, talk with fans, and sign books at Stepping Stones bookstore in Bel Air from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. June 4.

* A take-off on traditional fairy tales lets readers take off on a wild trip in "Come Back, Jack!" by Catherine and Laurence Anholt (Candlewick Press, $12.95, 32 pages, ages 3 and up).

One day a little girl who doesn't like books is playing outside with her little brother, Jack, who loves books. Next thing she knows, Jack is climbing into one of his books, and she has to scramble to crawl in after him.

Once inside the book, she runs down a hill to find a little girl named Jill, a spilled bucket beside her. "Jack fell down -- and now he's run away," Jill says.

Jack's sister rushes to find him. She gets to the house that Jack built, only to find that he has already left. He was last seen jumping over a candlestick.

Finally, the trail leads her to the giant's castle, where she finds Jack sitting in a corner, eating a Christmas pie. They barely escape down the beanstalk in time. Once they're safe, back at home in the garden, she says, "Well, perhaps books aren't boring after all!" The endpapers include the nursery rhymes referred to during the children's romp through the pages.

* A sequel to Humpty Dumpty? No, it's not filled with omelet recipes. "Little Lumpty," by Miko Imai (Candlewick, $12.95, 32 pages, ages 4 and up), is an original story about a little egg growing up in the town of Dumpty, where young eggs play by the wall that Humpty Dumpty fell from long, long ago.

Lumpty dreams of climbing the wall, even though he knows it's forbidden. Finally, he gets his courage up, finds a ladder and makes it to the top. He is thrilled -- until he looks down and his legs shake and he can't make it back down the ladder.

He knows he'll be in trouble when his mother finds out what he has done. He remembers Humpty Dumpty's great fall and starts crying. Finally, he gets his courage up and yells for help. All the eggs in town rush out, and he is rescued. He tells his mom he's sorry, and she hugs him.

Any kid who has broken the rules, thrilled in the adventure of it all and then found herself in big trouble will identify with Lumpty. The best part is that there's no grown-up moral at the end. Lumpty, who dared to chase his dream, is safe in his bed.

"But I still love that wall," he whispered to the moon just before he fell asleep.

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