Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway. One day for no particular reason, the three Dinosaurs made up their beds, positioned their chairs just so and cooked three bowls of delicious chocolate pudding at varying temperatures.
And so begins Mo Willems’ sendup of that old chestnut, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Not surprisingly, it does follow the basic plot line of the original: Goldilocks comes skipping along through the woods, finds this house empty with a tempting collection of chocolate pudding…
…and that’s where things veer from the plot. Well, further than they have already, aside from the obvious one of swapping out bears for dinosaurs; the Dinosaurs have merely snuck off to hide in a nearby copse to await the arrival of a tasty child for their proper supper. Goldilocks does eat up all the chocolate pudding–what child wouldn’t?–but realizes that not only are the chairs all too big, the beds are too big for her as well.
It is right then that the too-impulsive Dinosaurs burst out with “A few more minutes and she’ll be asleep! Delicious chocolate-filled-little-girl-bonbons are yummier when they are rested!” Needless to say, that oblivious child Goldilocks hears that! It is at this point that she realizes she’s gotten into the wrong fairy tale, and flees out the back door, fortuitously (for her) left unlocked, just as the Dinosaurs come charging in the front. As with all good fairy tales, Mo Willems finishes with not one but two morals, one for children–”If you find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”–and one for dinosaurs–Lock the back door!
While the illustrations aren’t as sophisticated as in David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs, I can see this appealing to the same kids: not necessarily world-weary, but definitely a bit too ‘grown’ for the trite old fairy tales. The Paper Bag Princess, while not a parody of any specific fairy tale as Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is, does itself fall into that same general group; it pokes fun at all the fairy tales. Mo Willems’ other stories, such as Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, are probably a good place to start for kids who like Willems’ humor and illustration style, though there are other ‘retellings’ of fairy tales that might appeal to kids who like this. For this last, try The Three Bears and Goldilocks, by Margaret Willey, which is told from the bears’ perspective, or Goldilocks and Just One Bear, by Leigh Hodgkinson, set when the Littlest Bear and Goldilocks are grown, and Littlest Bear mistakenly intrudes into Goldilocks’ house.