{book} goldilocks & the 3 dinosaurs


DAY 21

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs as retold by Mo Willems

Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), 2012. ages 3-7.

This was one of two books that had me laughing out loud in an otherwise hushed book store.

After three dinosaurs prepare the house and then go “someplace else,” Goldilocks “barges” into their house and nearly becomes a “delicious chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbon (which, by the way, are totally not the favorite things in the whole world for hungry Dinosaurs).”

Why is Goldilocks and the Three Bears so popular a story to retell? Because it is a ridiculous story. Some girl barges into a stranger’s home while they are out for a walk, eats their food, breaks their stuff, and invades the most intimate recesses of their home and doesn’t show the least bit of qualms. Colonialist literature at its best. She could have been eaten. More often than not, however, the Bears would forgive her and they all become friends, because they aren’t the uncivilized creatures, she is. The dinosaurs are more devious than the Bears.

Willems retelling casts Goldilocks in the wrong story but as the same character and role, which is good for the three dinosaurs Papa, Mama, and some dinosaur from Sweden who are setting a trap for some “unsuspecting kid.” And “Sure enough, five minutes later a poorly supervised little girl name Goldilocks came traipsing along,” not noticing what we do: the dinosaurs peeking out of the forest, the sign that reads “.2 miles to trap very nice house,” and dinosaurs speaking. The [one’s yell] was immediately followed by another loud noise that sounded kind of like “Be Patient, Pap Dinosaur! The trap is not yet sprung!” But that could have been a rock falling. Or a squirrel.” You are not necessarily rooting for the dinosaurs who turn out to be more silly than scary (until the moral), but we are wondering how Goldilocks cannot seem to figure out that she is falling into a trap! Willems really builds the anticipation.

It would be wrong to mistake Willems as simplistic, on the contrary he makes many illustrations in children’s stories look like they try too hard. The heavy pencil lines are a nice edge as characters and objects are set against backdrops that with the color value it brings construction paper to mind. It has a quality to it that creates a palpable shift from water color or ink washes or strokes of acrylic. The accessibility of the illustrations add to the co-conspiratorial aspect to the reading experience. In The Three Dinosaurs Willems does give us some details to enjoy: a pigeon in the cookie jar, the to-do list, a framed print that reads “We are Natural Gas,” the headset on the phone, the signs along the path and the welcome mats at the doors to name a few. And we do get to see the three bears looking especially cuddly and completely docile (e.g. safe).

I find it interesting that for all the silly type humor, it would seem Willems is trivializing a story with a significant moral, but he actually recovers it. He returns Goldilocks to the role of a cautionary tale. And he does it with dinosaurs!

{all of the quoted are from Mo Willems in the story proper}

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