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.