Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde
Lisbeth Zwserger, illustrator Scholastic Inc, 1991

When I was a wee one in kindergarten class I remember our "nap time" ritual which involved fetching our rugs from the hooks where they hung in the entry way outside the classroom. Then we'd each find a place around the classroom and after the lights were dimmed we'd settle down for a little nap. I have no idea how long this lasted. 15 minutes? 30? Did anyone actually sleep? Or was this just a time for a "rest." I do remember that sometimes we were awakened by Mrs. James's white fluffly tickle feather. She'd move around the room and touch each student with the special feather and that was when you knew it was time to get up. During our rest times we sometimes listened to stories on tape or record, I guess. The one that I remember best was the story of The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde.

For many years I didn't know the name of the story, nor had I ever seen a copy of the book. At some point I discovered many of these tales by Wilde -- The Happy Prince, The Star Child, The Selfish Giant among others. Essentially these are fairy tales but more modern than some of their counterparts. I simply loved this story about a selfish giant who comes to see the error of his ways. I remember the idea of winter never leaving because of his selfishness. What I don't recall was the Christ child at the end of the story and I wonder if maybe our little record left that sad bit out.

Lisbeth Zwerger is an award-winning,l Viennese illustrator whose work is perfectly suited to the fairy tale. She has a sort of wispy, demure, soft colored look about her watercolor images. I have many books illustrated by her.

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