TREASURES FROM FRED PENNER'S PLACE
Edited by Pat Patterson and Peg McKelvey; Illustrated by Marie Day
Volume 21 Number 4
Songs, stories, poems and verses, old and new, are combined under one cover in Treasures from Fred Penner's Place. Selections are based on material from his CBC children's television show, "Fred Penner's Place." Penner's presence takes the form of colour photos of the star accompanying a brief text vaguely connected to the songs, verses and stories that follow.
On first glance the book is appealing - the cover attractive, the contents both familiar and original, the illustrations lively although uneven in quality, the piano accompaniment easy and pleasant.
There are, however, aspects of the book that are flawed. Editors Peg McKelvey and Pat Patterson, both highly experienced writers for children's television shows ("Polka Dot Door" and "Mr. Dressup"), have been very free in their retellings of familiar folk-tales. Purists will be asked to accept variants of many nursery stories children have been raised on. For example, Andersen's beloved tale, "The Princess and the Pea," captioned as "based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen," loses much of its beauty when couched in the vernacular. Likewise, the retelling of "The Three Little Pigs," referred to as "another version of a familiar folk tale," offers a new ending, with the wolf falling down the chimney into a pot of soup which was "so hot he zoomed right back up the chimney and was last seen scorching across the fields" leaving the pigs to live "happily ever after."
If, however, readers believe that traditional folk-tales lose nothing in the retelling, they will find the selection very good, including "North Wind and the Sun," "Henny Penny," "Lion and the Mouse" and "Stone Soup," to name a few. The poems, finger plays and especially the songs are very appealing.
The book's lack of a subject index is very unfortunate. Had the editors put themselves in the reader's position they would have recognized subject access as very important, along with their table of contents and title index. Without it, access to the book is frustrating for teachers planning units of study, but, for picking up and casually using for singing and story-telling, the book is recommended with reservations.
Joan Weller is an Ottawa librarian whose children's book review column "Kids Books" appears weekly in the Ottawa Citizen.
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