The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague. Book Review.

This is pretty close to the original version except instead of leaving home and saying goodbye to their mother, the pigs live on a farm with human beings. It begins, “Once there were three little pigs. They lived on a farm, as most pigs do, and were happy, as most pigs are. Then one day the farmer told the man he and his wife were moving to Florida. He paid the pigs for the good work and sent them on their way.”

My three-year-old granddaughter instantly asked, “What work did they do?” I was stuck. What do you say to that and to the happiness remark? Their work was to provide piglets for slaughter? Are most pigs happy? I sincerely doubt it. Most pigs live horrible lives and die horrible deaths. It’s a strange beginning.

The first picture shows two pigs wrestling in the mud over a basketball while the girl pig (she’s the one with the blue bow stuck to her head) reads a book. There are empty pop bottles and potato chips scattered throughout the pen. There is also a corner table with a tablecloth, a lamp, a partially eaten apple, and a portrait of the pig. I just do not get why the author put humans in the book. Anyway‚Ķ

From here on this story progresses similarly to the traditional one except for the fact that the pigs have scooters bikes and wheelbarrows and they buy their building materials with cash. The first pig spends most of his money on potato chips. The second one spends it on Sody-pop, but the third one, the girl, spends all her money on bricks and mortar. Her brothers come to watch her while she works. Cringe moment.

A hungry wolf comes to town. The donut shop is closed, the hot dog stand is locked, and he isn’t allowed in the pizza parlor. Then he smells pig. He blows down the first pig’s house but the pig escapes on his scooter. He blows down the second pig’s house and the pig escapes on his bike. When he comes to the brick house, where all three pigs are staying, the wolf passes out with the effort of trying to blow it down. The brothers feel sorry for the wolf and offer him potato chips and soda pop. The third pig, the girl, feeds him dinner. “Since their houses were wrecked, the first two pigs moved in with the third pig. “My house, my rules,” she said. She made them clean their rooms before they went out to play. “The wolf stayed, too. But there was no more huffing and no more puffing. And he was hardly ever bad again.” I can’t imagine what she fed him.

While I love a story where the girl is the hero, I have mixed feelings about this one. The males are infantile. The brother pigs do as little work as possible. They pig out on junk food. ūüėČ They depend on someone else to rescue them. They offer nothing in exchange for staying with their sister. The wolf expects handouts as well. The difference is too extreme. The males are lazy and useless. The girl is the only adult in the group. In spite of all the five star reviews on Amazon, it’s not the kind of message I would want to share with either a male or female child.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


A Clever Variation – The Three Bears, An Alphabet Book by Grace Maccarone. Illustrated by Hollie Hibbert. Book Review.

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This is an alphabet book that also tells the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It begins, “A is for alphabets, and here it is.” The alphabet is superimposed on a tree. Then the story begins. “B is for bears. There were three Bears ‚Äď Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear, who were in bed. Then Mama Bear made breakfast ‚Äď big bowls of porridge. C is for cool. The Bears waited for the hot porridge to cool. So Papa put on his cap, Mama put on her cape, and Baby his coat.” And so it continues with examples on each page of words beginning with the featured letter.

The story follows the traditional tale. And in case you’re curious, “Z is for zipped. Goldilocks zipped back home as fast as her legs could carry her. And Z is for zany‚Ķ Because it was that kind of day!”

I thought this was a clever retelling of the story. I think the child should be familiar with the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and with the alphabet in order to get the full enjoyment out of it. Children three years old and up would enjoy it. Beginning readers, on the second time through, could help to find the other words that begin with the featured letter.

The illustrations done by Hollie Hibbert are double spread, cute, and bright. They remind me of Little Golden books illustrations. Interestingly, Goldilocks has brown eyes and brown skin and a whole lot of blonde hair. I especially liked Baby Bear. He would have made a cute stuffy.

This is a book that could be revisited as your child’s understanding of initial consonants improves.

As a retired teacher, my first thought was how much fun this would be to share with the class and then choose another simple folktale to turn into an alphabet tale. Then, as a writer, I wondered if it would be plagiarism to do it with a different story. Maccarone¬†could actually do an entire series like this. Looking at the numerous books Grace Maccarone has written, I see she hasn’t repeated the idea. Maybe once was enough! She made it look easy but I know it isn’t. Maybe you could try it.¬†Not me, I already have more book ideas than I have time to complete.



Three Blind Mice by John W. Ivimey. Illustrated by Paul Galdone. Book Review.

The full title of this book is The Complete Story of the Three Blind Mice. It begins with the mice wishing for fun. They ask an innkeeper for a bed but he refuses so they sleep out in the field. They wake with swollen faces from the cold. They are starving by the time they come to a farm where they beg the farmer for some bread and cheese. The farmer’s wife sends the cat after them. The mice flee into a bramble hedge which blinds them. The farmer’s wife cuts off their tails. Crying and sick, they accept some “Never Too Late To Mend” from Dr. Hare. They recover their sight and their tails grow back. They build a house and learn a trade and live happily together.

It is a pretty brutal story for children but at least it ends happily. I suppose it does answer that nagging question about the song, but then again, it doesn’t tell why the farmer’s wife cut off their tails. Just to be cruel?

John W. Ivimey published in this version in 1900. Paul Galdone decided to illustrate this version in 1987. Galdone’s illustrations are always great. These are wide landscape double-page spreads. The mice are realistic, in fact a little creepy, but still portray personality.

I have to say neither my granddaughter nor I enjoyed this book. We read it once and never went back. It seemed like a rather pointless tragedy for children. So what was the message? Don’t head out the world unless you have a trade and if you beg for food you never know who’s going to attack you with a knife!


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Walk a Mile in the Troll’s Shoes – The Three Billy Goats Fluff by Rachel Mortimer. Illustrated by Liz Pichon. Book Review.

Click here to buy The Three Billy Goats Fluff

I am so impressed that authors continue to come up with new takes on old stories. Some of them are poorly done; this one isn’t one of those. It begins with a¬†double spread picture of a troll holding his pillow on top of his head, eyes rolled up and mouth a squiggle, as the three Billy Goats Gruff trip-trap loudly over the bridge. Instantly we see that in this story the troll is suffering and we feel sympathy for him. This book is probably going to be told from his point of view.

When we turn the page, we see the poor troll¬†reading an old newspaper advertisement for his new home under the bridge. Clearly he has been misled by the words “troll paradise”. The noise is driving him to distraction.

We learn that the three Billy Goats Fluff live next to the bridge and cross it frequently. The green grass on the other side makes their fleeces extra fluffy which is important for Mother Goat’s knitting business. But this means nothing to the troll who finally snaps and threatens to eat them all if they don’t stop tromping over his bridge.

Here the book takes a wonderful turn. Mother Goat listens to her three Billy Goats and feels compassion for the poor troll identifying with his lack of sleep. She leaves him a note that says if he can still hear them after accepting a gift, he can eat them. Otherwise he must stop being grumpy and start being nice. When each of the goats across the bridge they wear thick, hand-knitted booties which cushion their steps. The troll hears nothing. He opens the gift from Mother Goat and finds earmuffs and a special blanket. Included is also an apology note. That night the troll sleeps soundly.

What a wonderful way to teach children to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes (or knitted booties). Instead of responding with anger or defensiveness, Mother Goat does her best to make life better for the troll.

The illustrations are as cute as Mother Goat’s booties. The troll is unusual, but not terrifying.

Even the youngest child will enjoy this story and its peaceful, happy ending.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Three Triceratops Tuff by Stephen Shaskan. Book Review.

Click here to buy The Three Triceratops Tuff

This book is a takeoff on The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Three Triceratops named Stanley, Rufus, and Bob want to cross the valley to get to a better field of lush vegetation. When the littlest Triceratops, Stanley, tries to cross a tyrannosaurus rex threatens to eat him. From here the story follows the traditional pattern of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. In the end, the largest Triceratops knocks the Tyrannosaurus Rex “such a mighty blow with his tail that he was knocked¬†clear out of the Valley and never seen again.”

There are repetitions for the child to learn similar to the goat book.

“Who’s that clip-clomping through my valley?” roared the T. rex.”

“Not so fast, (name),” said the T. rex. “Dinner is served‚Ķ And you’re it!”

“My bigger brother is on his way. He’d make a much better meal for someone as mighty as you.”

Kids who like dinosaurs and seeing a bully taken down will love this book. I still recommend you introduce the original story first.

The extra nice thing about this book is the way it ends.¬†“And then, at last, dinner was served‚Ķ For everyone!” All the herbivores, not just the Triceratops, share the lush vegetation together.

The illustrations are simple and fun. They are drawn with thick straight black lines, brightly colored in, and varied with a few simple spots or stripes. It’s amazing how much personality Shaskan gets across with these basic drawings. I especially loved the perky little Stanley.

Although it is simple, The Three Triceratops Tuff, is an enjoyable, memorable book.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark by Ken Geist. Illustrated by Julia Gorton. Book Review.

This book is a humorous fractured folktale emulating The Three Little Pigs. The first little fish, Jim, builds his house from seaweed. When the shark comes to the door he says, “Little fish, little fish, let me come in.” The little fish replies, “Not by the skin of my finny fin fin!” To which the shark responds, “Then I’ll munch and I’ll crunch and I’ll smash your house in.” When the shark eats the house the fish flees to his brother, Tim. Together they make a sand castle house. The shark comes and destroys it. They race to find their sister, Kim. She sets up her house in an old wooden ship. When the shark tries to get to them, all his teeth fall out. “The three little fish were safe at last.”

There is no mention of the fact that shark can grow replacement teeth. This is a very simple book. It’s the kind of thing that kids might come up with if you asked them to write a new version of the three little pigs. In spite of that, preschoolers will enjoy it.

I do believe you might want to discuss the fact that sharks aren’t “bad”. The author is just using one as a villain because they are scary hunters. Sharks keep populations from exploding and weed out the sick and injured. Scientists consider them a “Keystone” species, meaning that without them, the ecosystem would collapse. Humans are the real threat to fish.

The pictures are drawn with very simple, primary style shapes. The shark is scary but not overly so. The letters are superimposed on the brightly colored illustrations in a squarish font which varies in size. I think that is an unfortunate choice as, without this, children would be able to read this alone at an early age.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Little Pigs – Traditional Versions

I’ll begin with The Three Little Pigs, the traditional version, or close to it. I have already reviewed two versions. The Three Little Pigs by Jean Calverie received five stars. The Three Little Rigs by David Gordon was a fun little four-star variation on the theme.

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Let’s look first at picture books that stay close to the original version.

The Three Little Pigs by Emily Bolam features ultra simple pictures with heavy black outlines. The text is large and broken into small chunks in between the pictures. The big bad wolf looks more silly than scary. At the end, the wolf burns his bottom in a pot of soup and runs away. This would be a perfect introductory traditional version for the youngest child.

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The Three Little Pigs: An Old Story by Margot Zemach features detailed pen and ink and watercolor illustrations. The wolf wears a top hat, carries a cane and looks rather debonair but also deceitful. In this version he actually eats the first and the second pig. The story continues on to the mostly forgotten original scenes wherein the wolf and the pig have a battle of wits for several days involving turnips, apples, and barrels. The wolf rips off his clothing and becomes a fierce and rather frightening looking animal when he realizes he’s been fooled too many times. He races down the chimney, falls into the pot of soup, and then is cooked and eaten by the little pig. Definitely a version for the mature reader.

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The Three Little Pigs written by Betty Miles and illustrated by Paul Meisel is an easy read version told completely in dialogue. It would be perfect for readers’ theater for primary students. The wolf rides bicycle and wears a lettered sweatshirt. He burns his bottom¬†in the soup and decides to leave them alone at the end. This would be a fun version for a primary class to use.

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The Three Little Pigs by Bernadette Watts features beautiful, detailed, pastel full double page illustrations. The first and second pig escape when the wolf blows down their house, however we have no idea where they go. They reappear after the third pig builds a brick house and defeats the wolf. This time the wolf merely climbs onto the roof and when the smoke gets in his eyes, he runs back into the forest and is never seen again. At that point the third little pig fetches his (homeless) two brothers and their mother and they all live together happily in the brick house. This one definitely has the upper hand with regard to illustration.

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Three Little Pigs and The Big Bad Wolf written and illustrated by Glen Rounds is a terrifying version that follows the original closely. The pictures look like black ink and crayon but they are not at all juvenile. The Wolf is a scrawny, vicious-looking beast. He blows down the first two houses and eats the first and second little pigs. There is a close-up of his fangs the first time the third little pig tricks him with the turnip patch escapade. At the end, the pig cooks the wolf in soup and eats him. The second last picture is a grinning pig over a pile of bones. Only read this if you want to give your kid nightmares. It would be good for adults studying tradition folk tales.

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If you are trying to familiarize a preschooler with the numeral¬†three, involve her whole body by drawing a large 3¬†on the driveway in chalk. Have her walk along it, hop, tip-toe, march, etc. reciting, “Everybody look at me. As I walk the number three. Three. Three. Three.”

three chalk

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Three Frilly Goats Fluff by Adam and Charlotte Guillain and Phil Littler. Book Review.

Click here to buy The Three Frilly Goats Fluff

The Three Frilly Goats Fluff by Adam and Charlotte Guillain and Phil Littler is a hilarious take on the three Billy goats. In this version the goats are crazy over clothes. They wear frilly bonnets and hats, frilly puffy blouses, earrings and bows. You might have some explaining to do if you have previously told your child that Billy goats are boys because in this book, they are girls, I think.

Each of the Billy goats decide they absolutely must go to the mall on the other side of the bridge no matter the threat to personal safety. The first Billy goat throws her scarf at the troll to distract him and get safely over to the other side. The second throws her earrings, and the third one throws her bag. They have a splendid day shopping. However, when they try to cross the bridge together to return home, the troll is waiting… to show off his new clothes! From that point on, they all go shopping together.

The text is followed by a sequencing puzzle and the dialogue quiz. The pictures are bright and simple but expressive.

My granddaughter and I really enjoyed this book. It was funny, lighthearted and positive. I love that the conflict was solved without violence. I also love the message that people (or goats or trolls) should be allowed to wear what they want and be who they are. The next time we act out the Three Billy Goats Gruff, I am going to suggest this version.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Power of Three – A Numerically Themed Month


When my littlest granddaughter turned three, I shared numerous books with her about the number three, amazed at how often it appears in literature and culture.

Three is significant in religious stories. Christianity has the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three Magi bring gifts to the baby Jesus. Jesus prays three times in the Garden of Gethsemane and rises from the dead on the third day. Peter denies Christ three times.

In Taoism, the number three stands for heaven, earth, and human. The Hindus have Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Many Mahayana Sects end their chants with three calls to Amida Buddha. Buddhism has the three gems, The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha.


The number three is featured in numerous nursery rhymes and songs. The Three Little Kittens lose their mittens. Three Blind Mice lose their tails. The black sheep provides three bags of wool. Sing a Song of Sixpence talks about the King, the Queen, and the maid. Wynken, Blnken, and Nod sing you to sleep. There are three proposed solutions to stop London Bridge from falling down. Little boys and little girls are each made of three things, either frogs and snails and puppy dogs tails or sugar and spice and everything nice.


Three characters or three events are common in fairytales and folktales. The Queen has three chances to guess Rumpelstiltskin’s name. The woman searching for her husband, in East of the, West of the Moon, gets three gifts. It is on the third cry for help that The Boy Who Cried Wolf is ignored. Jack takes three trips up the beanstalk. The Shoemaker leaves clothes for the elves on the third night. A genie will grant three wishes. Goldilocks invades the home of the three bears. Three Billy Goats Gruff cross the troll’s bridge.

Protagonists often have to answer three riddles correctly. Heroes have to undergo three trials. It is usually the third son who succeeds in the quest. Wikipedia lists twenty fairytales that begin with the words “The Three”.

Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Even time itself is divided into three parts, the past, the present, and the future.

For the rest of this month, I will be exploring the number three in children’s stories. I have used this myself. The Dawn’s End New Adult books are a trilogy: Nightfall, Poisoned, and Outworld Apocalypse. In the early young adult novella Terror at White Otter Castle, three friends form the triangle of power.

I have also used this in picture books. Rayne Shines uses three complainers, the father, the mother, and Rayne. In No More Red, three negative things happen to Amy before she decides to wish red away. The pattern of three is also used in Too Quiet, Too Noisy.

There’s something satisfying about the number three. Have less and it feels unfinished. Have more and it feels like too much. Three is perfection.

three fingers

Here’s a parenting hack about the number three. If your preschooler is unable to hold down her baby finger with her thumb in order to show three straight fingers, teach her to do this way. You can even say, “being three is okay.”

Read all the books on a rainy day? Get active and play bean toss with painter’s tape on three triangles, rectangles, or squares (not recommended for carpets. Don’t leave it on for more than two days.

img_8738        img_8739

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Elephants by Rebecca Heller. Illustrated by Suzie Mason. Book Review.

I was delighted to receive this book for review just in time for World Elephant Day. This picture book is for preschoolers or very beginning readers. ¬†On the left side of each spread are the words “Elephants…” composing either a two or three word sentence. It begins with “Elephants wake.” and ends with “Elephants never forget.” In between they do things similar to humans: bathe, make friends, swim, hug, love, splash, and play. They also do uniquely elephant things: herd, trumpet, and roam. This is an ideal book for pre-readers to memorize and ¬†“read”.

On the right side of each page are delightful full page illustrations that are basically realistic but have a touch of charm added to the expressions.  An adorable baby elephant is featured throughout.

At the back of the book is a list of facts about elephants followed by a page stating:

“A portion of the proceeds from this book benefit Amboseli Trust for Elephants. We love elephants and would never want them sacrificed for ivory products. Please join us in supporting elephant conservation and protection.”

A wonderful book to introduce even the youngest child to elephants and our need to protect them.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages