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Little LitReview - Little Lit
Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies
by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly (editors)
HarperCollins Children's Books, 2000
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Dec 14th 2001 (Volume 5, Issue 50)

This large format comic book comes with the following motto on the back cover: “COMICS—they’re not just for grown-ups anymore!”  It includes work by Art Spiegelman, William Joyce, Daniel Clowes, Bruce McCall, Kaz, Charles Burns, and many others, in a total of 64 pages inside the hardcovers with a board game on the inside front and back covers.  These artists, mostly known for their work on comics for the more mature reader, here aim their work at children.  Children will, I hope, appreciate the sly humor and wonderful artwork. 

Spiegelman gives us the story of Prince Rooster, a prince who believes he is a rooster, and acts accordingly.  An old man manages to stop the prince from behaving so outrageously, but telling the prince that he too is a rooster, and joining him in his cock-a-doodle-do-ing, but then saying that roosters can also act like humans when they want to.  William James provides a terrific image of Humpty Dumpty lying broken, but in this story, he is put together by Myron & Ethel Orbly, who are egg lovers.  Daniel Clowes, the artist behind Eightball comic, draws the tale of Sleeping Beauty.  Although one might think that his distinctive style is best suited to the postmodern blankness of contemporary teenagers, in fact it works very well with castles, kings and queens.  His characters still have that same blankness, and their presence in a traditional fairy tale gives the story a bizarre feel – but there’s no reason why children should not be able to appreciate this incongruity as much as adults. 

A sense of irreverence and self-consciousness pervades these stories, but they are not poking fun at the genre of the fairy tale as mining the genre for the pleasures inherent in them.  The sense of awareness of the genre in these pages is hardly new or subversive – it’s in such popular movies as Shrek, after all – and children are savvy and creative enough to play with the genre themselves.  Little Lit takes great pleasure in silliness and fantasy, and allows its characters to make wise cracks at the same time.  Several of the stories also show a heightened awareness of the existence of evil and tragedy that threatens us, rather than editing out the nasty bits that have been an essential part of the tradition of fairy tales.  That contrast between the fortunate and the unfortunate helps to heighten the appreciation of the absurd moments in the tales, as well as bringing to mind the way that fairy tales can be a part of moral education of children.  This book is great fun and I recommend it to readers of all ages. 

 

Link:

Little Lit Web Site

© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life. He is available to give talks on many philosophical or controversial issues in mental health.


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