Bill Adler Jr.,
Tell Me a Fairy Tale:
A Parent's Guide to Telling
Magical and Mythical Stories

(Plume, 1995)

Bill Adler Jr. put his daughter's requests for "Just one more!" bedtime story to good use in this handy book for nightly rituals. Tell Me a Fairy Tale combines well-known European fairy tales with African folk tales, children's stories and Aesop's fables to create a wide variety of stories to suit even the most reluctant sleeper.

Tell Me a Fairy Tale begins with the author's introduction -- the standard discussion of the appeal of fairy tales -- and quickly segues into a charming examination of his shortcomings as a fairy-tale teller. Adler claims he was quickly running out of stories to spin to his toddler but didn't want to spend the money that most anthologies require. Instead, he outlined and summarized a year's worth of stories. (Actually, there are only 64 in the collection, but alternate versions are included.)

Each tale comes with a summary of the story, a list of characters and traits, a plot synopsis and suggestions for altering the story. Adler suggests how stories can be modified to fit your child's specific tastes. Although each story is printed in original form (or shorter), some of the alterations suggested take away from the true spirit of the tale. However, as a parent, I know that it's not always sensible to tell a story about the big bad wolf eating Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother just before bedtime.

Most of Adler's suggestions call for more detail, voices and sound effects -- elements any true storyteller relies on. And that's where the real value of this book lies; Adler encourages the reader to have fun with the stories, to crawl inside them and make them come alive. Fairy tales are full of magic, and that magic can be activated by the sound of the human voice.

Tell Me a Fairy Tale contains a pleasing assortment of tales that are timeless, both in content and appeal. Whether you choose to update "The Princess and the Pea" or tell the tale of "The Fox and the Grapes," this book will help you to create a nightly family ritual that you and your child will treasure for years to come.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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