Get our free newsletter
Bill Adler Jr. (of Adler & Robin Books Inc.) may be a literary agent, but he hasn’t always been a good storyteller. In the interest of getting his preschool daughter, Karen, to fall asleep each evening, he used to rework some classic yarns: “I didn’t remember how “Goldilocks’ ended,” he says, “but it didn’t matter—in my ending, Goldilocks goes home, jumps into her crib, and goes right to sleep.” Adler’s attempts to recall plot lines gave him an idea, and he began to research children’s fiction; his Tell Me a Fairy Tale: A Parent’s Guide to Telling Magical and Mythical Stories (Plume) arrives in bookstores just in time for his younger daughter Claire’s second birthday. “I think we don’t tell stories as much as we used to,” Adler says of his former fairy-tale amnesia, adding that “one of the problems is that…they’ve evolved into feature-length films. If you try to tell a story the way it should be told, Disney has a different version.” In Tell Me, he approaches each traditional tale in four ways: summary, characters, plot, and “how to tell this story.” He aims for a 1-to-4-year-old audience, recommends ways to elaborate on brief tales, and explains how to lessen the violent aspects of some particularly Grimm pieces. There are even some stories of his own among such standards as “Hansel and Gretel” and “John Henry”; Adler invented “Sirens,” which stars a fire engine, an ambulance, and a police car, and “tells what each of these vehicles do to help people.” The downside of memorized tales is that young readers don’t get to see the words on the printed page, but at least there’s no VCR involved.