"Fairytales for Mr. Barker," by Jessica Ahlberg is an engaging, exciting, creatively-meta fairy tale collection that brings the reader (and the characters) along for an adventure. It all starts when Lindsay asks Mr. Barker if he'd like to listen to a story... but just when she starts he gets distracted by a butterfly and follows it out the window. Lindsay follows and.... Wow! She's no longer in her bedroom... but in the house of the 3 bears!
Complete with paper cut-outs of the window panes, the effect of turning the page and traveling through it is engaging and convincing. The text never comes out and states where they've landed- instead, the reader/viewer is encouraged to use the context clues on the page and their prior fairy tale knowledge to determine where Lindsay and Mr. Barker are now. It's this element of deduction that Jessica Ahlberg has woven into the story that sets it apart (in addition to the Ahlberg family's iconic, adorable, detailed, search-and-find illustrations). The reader is invited to engage with the story right away, by looking closely at the details and following along a fast-paced adventure that travels through multiple fairy tale settings (Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty).
I love how the possibility is introduced to the youngest of readers that even in stories we think we know, things may not always be as they seem. This idea that fairy tales can be stretched, explored, played with, and reimagined was why I loved "Each Peach Pear Plum" (by Jessica's parents, Janet & Allan Ahlberg) so much as a child. Jessica has done a magnificent job of adding to the "Family Canon," in this spunky, original tale; and we are all the luckier for it!
"Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker" is sure to be enjoyed by ages 3-6, and will enthrall curious readers time and time again. You'll find this book on the forthcoming "Fairy Tale Twists" Best of... list. Let me know your thoughts, and have fun exploring Bear's Bookshelf!