Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince
Illustrated by: Laura Stutzman
Published by: Sleeping Bear Press
Age: 8 years and up.
Theme: kindness, caring, compassion
Opening Lines: It had been several weeks since the rest of the swallows had flown south for the winter. Little Swallow didn’t care.
Synopsis: (from the jacket flap) While flying to a warmer climate, a little swallow stops to rest in the great city. His short stay is extended, however, when he takes refuge at and then makes friends with the golden statue of the Happy Prince. From high atop his pedestal in the city park the Happy Prince has a bird’s-eye view of the sufferings of the people of the city. But he is powerless to do anything. When the Prince entreats his new friend to stay and help him, a lesson in kindness and caring is in store for the little bird.
Beloved since its original publication in 1888, this Oscar Wilde fairy tale is now set against a modern-day backdrop and written for young readers. Elissa Grodin’s masterful retelling breathes new life and meaning into this classic story of mindfulness and compassion for others.
Why I like it: After being glued to the tv and radio, watching the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of America and knowing friends and online writing buddies who may have been caught up in it, and the cleaning up afterwards, I wondered what book I would review for Susanna’s Perfect Picture Book Friday. Recently reading an inspiring post from Marcie’s blog The Right Routine, where a book store was volunteering to offer books, to help with aid, along with others in the Red Cross, and Operation USA. It brought tears to my eyes of the wonderful compassion and caring in people, at times like these. I had planned on reviewing this book next week but brought it forward. It seemed appropriate somehow. The compassion, friendship, noticing the suffering in others that the Prince could see, yet could do nothing about it. At least, not until, the swallow arrived. A longer version than normal at 48 pages, it is classed as a classic picture book, to be read to children. Classic, because it has lasted life times, and then some. A classic, because as Linda Arms White, featured on Julie Hedlund’s Blog, Write Up my Life would put it, it is timeless. Yes, it has that very rare quality, its story, sad and heartfelt, and yes universal. The characters unique yet could be anyone, anywhere. It grips your heart, pulls at the strings and you will remember it long after you have read it, and your children’s children will read it to. Not to mention in this modern version the stunning, evocative illustrations of artist Laura Stutzman, which compliments the story, for a new generation. The ending, though slightly different to the original, when one looks closely will find it fitting for such a selfless act.
Elissa has studied in both Missouri and New York and worked in England, she now lives in Connecticut. This is her third book with Sleeping Bear Press. Laura lives in Maryland has her own studio and teaches a summer workshop for teens serious about art. Her website .. www.eloqui.com where you can view these equisite deep illustrations of the Happy Prince.
Resources/Findings: A brilliant Teachers Guide of the story, aids, writing aids, reading activities, brainstorming, kindness activities, song, art, crossword,..etc.. http://www.sleepingbearpress.com/teachingguides/HappyPrinceGuide.pdf I love the Russian proverb… “A kind word is like a spring day”
There is a page on Oscar Wilde in the front and in the back a write up about the original story and also a piece on the Homeless in America. It is not surprising that for every book of the Happy Prince sold a dollar is donated to “Help USA”. Founded in 1986 it empowers the homeless and others in need to become and remain self-reliant. Through the development of quality Housing and support services, including job training and replacement.
For more books with resources please head on over and visit the lovely author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books. Her blog is full of resources links and activities associated with the books reviewed by many authors.
This sounds wonderful, Diane, and perfect for this week when everyone is trying to recover from Sandy. I’ve heard the basic story before, but not seen this book, so thank you for adding it to our list. Any book that has a message of kindness, compassion, doing what we can to help others, is a book worth reading!
Thankyou Susanna. Yes I have heard it before and I think there is also a DVD movie out of it somewhere or maybe on tv. I know I have seen it also. It is such a sad story.
This is a perfect choice for the aftermath of Sandy. I’m fascinated with the fact that it is a modern retelling of an 1888 book. A plus for this history lover! Diane, thanks for integrating world events with PPBF…it shows your heart.
Thankyou Jarm, I am encouraged by your enthusiasm. Yes I was immediately interested when I saw this in the library. I am sure I have read this at least a couple of times (not this particular book) but in school most definately. I felt it appropriate and glad you agree. Again thanks.
I’m not familar with this classic. But, indeed the message is appropriate this week. The prince represents so many of us who see the suffering and want to help but don’t always know how other than to contribute. Love the message.
Yes Pat, it represents what many of us so far and wide have felt, unable to help, other than to hope and pray or give of what we can. Glad you liked this Pat.
The cover is beautiful – can’t wait to read it!
You will enjoy it Julie. Hope you take the time to look at Laura’s website, the pictures inside the book are all there for you to view. Very effective.
Thanks for the tip!
I’m a huge Oscar Wilde fan. I didn’t know they had a picture book based on this story. I’ll have to check it out.
Hi Hannah, Yes I was surprised to come across it. I remembered the story well from many years ago. Hope you find it.
I am an Oscar Wilde fan, but didn’t know this story! What a great choice for the aftermath of the hurricane.
Which city is this set in, Diane?
I am surprised you didn’t know of it Joanna…. Glad you liked my choice. I have to say I have no idea which city it is set in, sorry! I am assuming its in Europe somewhere, the statue being a prince and setting and all, makes me think this.
I’ve not heard of this tale, but I really like the cover. And nice covers are what makes for an enticing book. I’ll have to check this one out. Thanks.
It has beautiful illustrations so don’t forget to check out Laura’s website and see other inside illustrations, just as dramatic as the cover. Hope you can locate it in your local library.
This sounds so lovely. Perfect choice this week, Diane!
Thankyou Beth, glad you think so.
I’ve read a lot of Oscar Wilde, but hadn’t heard about this one. I’ll look for it. Thanks, Diane!
Gosh! Hope you find it in your local library Carrie! Your welcome.
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The Happy Prince was my favourite lead-up-to-Christmas tv special as a Child. (Charlie Brown was a close second). What a beautiful choice for the end of this week.
ahh… thought I had seen it on screen. Wonder if we will see it this year. Glad you liked my choice Sandi.
This sounds like a lovely book with such an important message! Thanks for your insightful review! I also really appreciate your enthusiastic comment!
Thankyou Julie. Glad you like it.
Very timely. Sounds like a beautiful story.
What an interesting book. I like the cover!
glad you like it Erik!
I loved this story as a child but didn’t realize it was by Oscar Wilde. It is wonderful that Elissa Grodin is keeping this precious story alive. A perfect book for these times too.
Thankyou Darlene. It is a precious story!
Oh, Diane, what a beautiful choice, and reminder to all of us to care beyond our own lives.
Thankyou Laura, it is at times like these when we need to think of others.
With the Thanksgiving season upon us, this is a perfect choice, Diane. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful book with us…I remembered the story and am so glad there is a new rendition. I will surely try to get a copy…I’d love to be able to read it for my new series. 🙂 Wonderful activities and resources as well!
Thankyou Vivian for your lovely comment. I know it is perfect for being appreciative and grateful for what we have and helping others. Of course it’s ideal for Thanksgiving!
I can see why you picked it for today. It sounds lovely and wonderfully timeless. Great review!
Thankyou Penny, glad you liked it. Timely to.
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