cover image Nursery Tales Around the World

Nursery Tales Around the World

. Clarion Books, $20 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-395-67894-7

Innovatively conceived and exquisitely executed, this sumptuous collection of 18 tales is a surefire crowd-pleaser. While presenting familiar fare, Sierra (Good Night, Dinosaurs) takes a fresh approach: rather than organizing the stories by country or continent, she groups them by the themes they share and the similarity of the messages they convey. From this structure the striking parallels among the folktale traditions of vastly different cultures immediately emerge. For young readers and listeners, opportunities arise: to discover the likenesses or differences among various tales in a grouping, and to choose the type of story they want to hear or read next. A section titled Runaway Cookies, for example, unites ""The Gingerbread Man,"" from the United States, with Norwegian and Russian variants. The source notes on each entry reflect Sierra's scholarship; the read-aloud appeal of the tales demonstrates her storytelling skills. Vitale's (Christmas Lullaby) oil paintings on wood panels, with their distinctive folk-art sensibility, echo the cultural cadences of each tale, while the intricately patterned borders he supplies for each page contribute vastly to the luxurious quality of this outstanding offering. Ages 3-up. (Feb.)