Aesop’s Fables (illus. by Don Daily)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Aesop’s Fables, illustrated by Don Daily, a board book collection including some of Aesop’s most famous and popular tales.

Little readers can be introduced to classic fables such as “The Fox and the Grapes”, a tale of spite for the things we can’t have; “The Tortoise and the Hare”, a timeless lesson in patience, perseverance, and overconfidence; “The Crow and the Pitcher”, a instruction in ingenuity; and more.

Hard to go wrong with a classic. Aesop’s fables were some of my favorites growing up, and it’s nice to see them adapted for younger audiences here. Of the nine fables included, there’s a nice cross-section of lessons about greed, pride, and accepting others. Some of stories have definitely been sanitized for little bookworms (such as the stag from “The Stag and His Antlers” escaping the hunters at the end). The exception is the Golden Goose, who still meets his grisly end, yet offscreen and not in great detail. Daily’s illustrations meticulously recreate the fables in classic storybook style, and his lifelike animals still manage to express emotion and charm. It’s a longer read than most board books if done all at once (JJ was getting antsy by the penultimate story), but the episodic nature of the layout easily allows for the fables to be read one or two at a time if preferred. A fine adaptation of a few fundamental tales, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

The Nutcracker (E. T. A. Hoffmann)

Hello friends, and merry Christmas Eve! We picked a classic tale for our review today: The Nutcracker, from the story by E. T. A. Hoffmann and illustrated by Don Daily.

This condensed version of the classic fairy tale opens on Christmas Eve, where Marie and her brother Fritz peek through a keyhole to watch the adults decorate for a grand party. As the children are welcomed in to share dancing and sweets with the adults, Marie takes interest in the present her beloved Godfather Drosselmeyer has sent: a handsomely-crafted nutcracker. Testing out the toy’s abilities, Fritz cracks nut after nut, until an especially tough one breaks the nutcracker’s jaw. Marie tenderly cares for her broken toy, even sneaking out of her bed to check on him in the middle of the night. But what she will find in the otherworldly hours of Christmas Eve is that magic is afoot, and there is far more to her little nutcracker than meets the eye…

Cute, but… This abbreviated version of Hoffmann’s classic story cuts out a fair bit – the battles with the mouse king, the exposition of the nutcracker mythos, and the troubling “child bride” ending, most notably – giving a shorted version that follows Marie through the party and her visit to the fairy world. In many ways this works, giving kids a fun fairy tale without the more adult themes, and Daily’s classic illustrations, as lovely and detailed as ever, fit the tone perfectly. However, this version chooses to portray Marie’s adventure as only a dream and without the fairytale ending, completely removing the fantasy aspects of the tale. It’s a disappointing choice, and one that robs the fable of its magic. This choice might have been more understandable if the book was geared toward very young bookworms (which the board book binding would suggest), but this is at odds with the lengthy, verbose text and the intricate and more mature illustrations (JJ, for instance, lost interest with the visuals fairly quickly, and the story soon after). This is a nice version to look at, but it’s hard to ignore that that are more complete and/or better-balanced ones out there, and those are the ones we would recommend.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)