The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

9780451531070_p0_v1_s192x300  Although I am a fan of Oscar Wilde’s plays, I was surprised to discover his stories for children.  In The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde – a collection of nine stories reminiscent of Hans Christian Anderson – Wilde foregoes his usual satire and biting wit to deliver compassion and empathy for the downtrodden.

Wilde wrote these stories in the midst of his success as a writer of poetry and drama, yet his words years later, from prison, ironically reflect the stories’ themes:

“The only people I would care to be with now are artists and people who have suffered: those who know what Beauty is, and those who know what Sorrow is…”

In “The Happy Prince,” the most widely known of the collection, a golden statue revered by the local folk, uses a swallow to deliver his wealth to the poor.  When the Prince’s sapphire eyes and ruby stone in his sword are gone, along with all the gold plating on his statue, the tide of popularity he had enjoyed with the town is suddenly over.  The statue is melted down, but his heart remains.

Variety published a story two years ago, citing a movie starring Rupert Everett who is currently playing Oscar Wilde on Broadway’s The Judas Kiss.  The prospective movie has  the title “The Happy Prince”(yet to be released), and chronicles the life of Oscar Wilde – “formerly a celebrity, and considered a genius and a national treasure…now in the midst of a public meltdown.”  Sound familiar?

You can read the children’s story here on The Literature Network:  The Happy Prince

Each story from “The Nightingale and the Rose” to “The Fisherman and His Soul” has elements of betrayal and redemption.  Each is worthy of reading, and offers a different perspective on the author many only know for his arrogance and caustic wit, but read carefully  –  you may still find some traces.

Related Reviews:

Beverly Cleary at 100

Thank you, Frank Bruni, for reminding me of Beverly Cleary’s birthday on Tuesday, April 12th, in today’s New York Times Sunday Review article.  

When librarian Cleary introduced Ramona in her first book,Henry Huggins, in 1950, she created a fan base now extending to well-known artists today, including Kate DiCamillo, Judy Blume, and Amy Poehler, who wrote introductions to recent re-releases of three of Cleary’s books – Ramona Quimby, Age 8; The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and Henry Huggins.

character_ramona_starI’ve always identified with the feisty, irreverent Ramona who always has a question, because as Cleary noted in the interview: “I was a well-behaved girl, but I often thought like Ramona.”

In her interview, Beverly Cleary’s wise note hit a chord with me:

“As a child, I very much objected to books that tried to teach me something.  I just wanted to read for pleasure, and I did. But if a book tried to teach me, I returned it to the library.”

When we read books or discuss them, is it always necessary to dissect them?  As Robert Frost said, “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”  

Children’s books offer a welcome relief in reading, and you don’t have to be a child to enjoy them.  If you are fan of Beverly Cleary books, now is a good time to get reacquainted. Ramona the Pest is my favorite – what’s yours?

9780061960901_p0_v4_s192x300If you somehow missed meeting Ramona in Cleary’s books, it’s not too late.

 

I have more to say about Beverly Cleary:

 

 

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss

With the excitement of a youngster who has found a hidden treasure, Charles D. Cohen, has compiled a book of seven short stories – The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss – written by Theodore Geisel before he became famous as the Dr. Seuss of The Cat in the Hat, and other tales.  The stories appeared in magazines from 1940 to 1959, and Cohen offers an informative introduction detailing the references, including anecdotal sources, and a few notable reminders of Geisel’s genius.

Whether you are an adult with a penchant for “messages” in Dr. Seuss’s tales, or a child who cannot get enough of the rhyme scheme, the stories are fun to read:

  1. The Bippolo Seed–  a duck wishing for food, who asks for things he cannot use.
  2. The Rabbit, the Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga –  a rabbit who saves himself from a bear by using an eyelash.
  3. Gustav, the Goldfish –  a fish who overeats and keeps outgrowing his bowl.
  4. Tadd and Todd –  a pair of twins’ adventures
  5. Steak for Supper – with Mulberry Street and a host of strange critters
  6. The Strange Shirt Spot – the first time that bathtub spot from the Cat in the Hat makes an appearance in Seuss lore.
  7. The Great Henry McBride – the possibilities of being able to do anything

If you are a fan of Dr. Seuss, you too will think you’ve discovered long-lost treasure.