I adore fairy tales. My mom read them to me as a little kid, and I picked them up on my own as I learned to read for myself. One of my favorite classes I ever took in college was on fairy tales and myths, and I love finding new interpretations and versions that I’ve not run across before. The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales by Jane Ray is an oh-so-fun collection of tales that all involve birds.
Many of the tales (tails?) are ones that I’m familiar with. I memorized “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear in second grade and still have most of it memorized. It was such a fun poem and appealed to my silly nature, too. It was fun to reread it (again) and share it with the wee ones. There are twelve different stories in the book ranging from the familiar “Noah’s Ark” and less common “Jorinda and Joringel” (a Grimm Brothers fairy tale) to “The Jackdaw of Rheims” and “Mulungu Paints the Birds” that I’d never heard of before.
Almost every story or poem has a quick introduction form Jane Ray that talks about why she chose that story and what about it appeals to her. I love having the perspective of the author that gives me something to look for outside my own view when reading, but it’s easy enough to skip over when sharing the quick stories with the wee ones.
She has also included gorgeous illustrations with each story that continue the fanciful vein of the book. They are adorable and bring to life each of the stories even more. My personal favorite was the jackdaw who was bathing in the lavender perfumed water meant for guests at the archbishop’s feast. The images help break up the large font text to make it easier for new readers to digest. Between that and the periodic colored backgrounds of the pages, the book is a delight to look at as well as read.
The mixture of stories is clever and intriguing. The only real issue I have with the book is that there are some editing issues. As you go from page to page, you are certain that you’ve accidentally skipped a page because the first word on the next page doesn’t always match with the last word on the previous page. I was surprised by how often sentences weren’t finished from one page to another and in one case a paragraph was repeated from the previous page before continuing the story. I found it somewhat annoying, but there wasn’t enough missing for me to not follow the stories. I can see it being more frustrating to younger readers who might not have the experience to fill in the missing words.
The stories are great, and I am sure that future editions will fix these minor editing errors to make it more pleasant for all to read.
Written by Michelle who goes back to her second grade days in Belgium where she loved talking about the land where the BONNGGGGG trees grow. See what else she remembers on her blog Honest & Truly! or follow along with her on Twitter where she is also @HonestAndTruly.