Posted by Rebecca G. Aguilar, M.Ed. on April 14, 2016
The Three Silly Girls Grubb
By John and Ann Hassett
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Publication date: 9/1/2002
As a child, I read the Folklore of the World series of books by Edward W. Dolch and Marguerite P. Dolch. Encompassing cultures across the world, the series included Stories from Africa, Stories from Japan, Stories from Spain. My all-time favorite from the series was undoubtedly Stories of the Arabian Nights.
Reading the Folklore of the World books, I learned what was valued, what was shunned, what was imagined across cultures. The nonfiction section at Dewey Decimal 398.2 became my reading default and I never failed to find connected and compelling stories in “Once upon a time...”
On the constant lookout for all things folklore, I recently attended a Unique Holdings brown bag presentation on fables and fairy tales at the University of Houston’s MD Anderson Library. Rare books and editions of stories from Aesop, La Fontaine, Perrault, Grimm and Lang as well as illustrations by Walter Crane and Arthur Rackham were showcased during the April 12 talk. Featured speakers were modern/classical languages and ethnic studies librarian Andrea Malone, English and linguistics librarian Jesse Sharpe and library specialist Kristine Grieve, who traced the evolution of fairy tales from the dark and foreboding to the playful and colorful.
I think about writers taking dusty tropes from the archives and turning them into the fractured fairy tales of contemporary retellings. The most serious and adult stories trace feminism, eroticism and power structures in the original stories. And the most derivative can still make for good beach reads.
The quirkiest, I propose, would have to come from John and Ann Hassett, who have been writing and illustrating picture book folklore from their Maine farmhouse for more than 25 years.
“Once there were three silly sisters named Grubb. They came in three sizes—small, medium and extra large. One morning the three silly sisters missed the bus, so they had to cross a bridge to get to school.”
This lively first page text comes from The Three Silly Girls Grubb, the retold tale the Hassett’s bounced off The Three Billy Goats Gruff fable.
The three silly sisters’ cleverness, wonderful word play and super happy ending play well to the sardonic demands of a good read-aloud and include skipping, a dozen jelly-donuts and the best illustrated dog ever.
Hiding under the bridge is Ugly-Boy Bobby, “the kind of boy who ate bugs, tossed stones at cats and drank from puddles—the muddier, the better.”
“He hauled himself up onto the bridge. He stomped his ugly-boy feet. He shook his ugly-boy fists.”
“The extra-large girl only grinned. ‘You may have my dozen jelly-donuts,’ she said. ‘But first I will plant a dozen mushy kisses on your little-boy nose.’ The biggest girl puckered up her extra-large-sized lips.”
Can Ugly-Boy Bobby be reformed with a dozen mushy kisses? It’s just possible in a timeless fairy tale.
Unique Holdings is a presentation series highlighting rare archival items held by University of Houston Libraries Special Collections and available for use by faculty, students and researchers.