Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth; illustrated by Barbara McClintock (1998)



This is one of my favorite versions of this old story to read aloud; McClintock and Aylesworth are a great team and have written some of my other favorites as well.  The Tale of Tricky Fox, which I've blogged about previously, is one of absolute favorites to read aloud (even more than The Gingerbread Man).  I'm definitely going to go check out some of their other collaborations that I haven't yet read.

McClintock's illustrations for The Gingerbread Man are surreal.  There aren't melting watches or giant eyes, but there is a fantastic black and white cow who, when we first see her, is standing upright washing some sort of article of clothing in a bucket, with hands instead of hooves (later we see her feet, which are clad in pink shoes).    There is also an old sow, in a Red Riding Hood type of outfit; when we first see her, she's hoeing her garden; again, she has hands (hammy hands) and feet instead of hooves.  I pointed this out to the last group I read this aloud to, and everyone giggled - I said I thought it was a really cool picture.  The Gingerbread Man himself is full of sass and arrogance, just like he's supposed to be.  The fox at the end is Tricky Fox from their other collaboration, only this time Tricky Fox is the ultimate trickster.
Sass.
Surreal Cow

Arrogant sass.
Flipping the bird.  Arrogant bastard!


The Gingerbread Man as a concept - some sort of food (a pancake, a tortilla, a ball of dough) runs away from a cumulative group , only to get eaten in the end, is an old folktale with variations in many different countries.  The gingerbread man himself first makes an appearance in St. Nicholas in 1875. I supposed you can't have gingerbread men without ginger, sugar, raisins or candy, etc. so he himself can't be all that old.  I've seen the Gingerbread Boy and the Gingerbread Baby as well.

The version I remember best has the gingerbread man reaching a body of water of some sort, which he can not cross on his own, so he has to hitch a ride on the fox's back, head, and eventual snout - which ends up with the gingerbread man in the fox's belly.  I found an annotated version on line, with the original printed story from St. Nicholas, which ends this way:



Then the fox set out to run. Now foxes can run very fast, and so the fox soon caught the gingerbread boy and began to eat him up.
Presently the gingerbread boy said, "Oh dear! I'm quarter gone!" And then, "Oh, I'm half gone!" And soon, "I'm three-quarters gone!" And at last, "I'm all gone!”  and never spoke again.



The Gingerbread ManThe Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A terrific read aloud.  McClintock's illustrations and Aylesworth text is practically perfect.  McClintock gives the Gingerbread Man just the right amount of sass and arrogance (at one point he appears to be flipping the bird, although I can hardly believe this was intentional).  Her black and white cow and old sow are completely surreal - the only thing missing on those pages are some melting watches!  One of my favorite versions of the story.


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