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The story might be a fairy tale for small children, but this illustration is pretty intense.

The story might be a fairy tale for small children, but this illustration is pretty intense.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Simplia said. “There’s no mail coming in through the slot in the door. None flying in through the window. Nothing at the post office or in the mailbox on the road. I checked under the chickens, just in case, and riffled the pages of all the books we’re reading. Nada. So I’m checking to see if any mail is lodged up inside the chimney.”

“Ah. Of course,” said Sagacia, as if her friend were actually making sense.  “I’ve noticed that lately at the Fairy Tale Lobby, talk is limited to orders for Throatcoat Tea.”

A little whoop reverberated off the chimney bricks. “Yes! Look what I found. Not one but two sooty envelopes.”

Envelopes which contained responses to Teaching in  Texas’s request for help creating a “Fairy Tale Bowl” competition for primary students — 1st and 2nd graders.

The first was from Pat Nease:

When I worked as the library media specialist in an elementary school, I was distressed with the lack of fairy tale knowledge.  So I organized the Third Grade Fairy Tale Showdown….

The teachers and I chose the fairy tales (I believe there were 10) and determined that they could NOT be the Disney versions.  Books were reserved for third graders only, (which made them feel important) and they dug in….

Another goal for this event was to get the students to work together, so each classroom (there were 3) divided their students into teams of 5 -6.  Each team had a captain.  The rule was that, when a question was asked, the group HAD to confer, agree, and the captain would give the answer.  No shouting out.  No whining.  No fits.

Each team gets a question, one at a time.  They confer.  The captain answers.  The first time we did this, I was on pins and needles, just waiting for the fight to begin.  The kids amazed us all and were GREAT!…

Okay, so each team gets a question.  Then we have two toss-up questions which ANY team can ring the bell and answer.  There’s no need to confer, but a wrong answer gives the other teams another chance….


“Sounds like fun,” Simplia said. “I wonder if second graders would act as sportsmanlike as her third graders did.”

Sagacia continued in the same vein, “And I wonder if the stories the third graders used would work on younger kids. For that matter, I wonder what stories would work for such a competition. What kind of meaningful questions could you ask?”

Simplia ripped into the second sooty envelope, studied the contents for a moment and said, “I think Charles Kiernan addresses those very matters right here.”

The Grimm collection will be the most familiar source. There are over two hundred tales to choose from right there. I like telling “The Flounder and the Fisherman,” “The Goose Girl,” “Three Gnomes in the Forest,” “White Snake,” and “The Three Spinning Fairies.”
I am guessing questions would fall along the lines of “name the character who… ,” “What magic device did… such and such a character… use… ,” “name the story in which… .” But the questions could be more general. “What number appears most often in fairy tale titles?” “What is the term for when a bunch of stories are similar?” “What were the Grimm brothers’ first names?”
Coming up with questions sounds like a lot of work, but could be fun.

“Okay,” said Sagacia. “He’s identified a few stories with might work with young kids. Can you think of any other ones?”

“I’ve loved The Shoemaker and the Elves since I was four years old. It was in a Little Golden Book I used to make my mom read to me over and over and over again. I didn’t like Rumplestiltsking when I was little. It scared me, and I didn’t understand it. Heck. I still don’t understand that one. But I did love The Three Spinning Fairies.And the one Harve and Margot Zemach did called Duffy and the Devil. And Goldilocks, and Red Riding Hood, and the Three Little Pigs…”

“Hold on!” Sagacia interrupted. “Those last three are ‘nursery tales.’ Not fairy tales.”

This brought her friend up short.

“Huh? What’s the difference?”

“Well, Obviously, it’s … uh … well, what it is … um … With one you have…” Sagacia shook her head dismissively. “Listen, I have work to do. Why don’t you toddle down to the Fairy Tale Lobby and see if there are any Magical Friends hanging out that you could ask.”

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