Long Long Ago.
Robin Skelton. Illustrated by Pamela Breeze Currie.
Grades 1 - 3 / Ages 6 - 8.
In the beginning of things the Ostrich was the greediest and most conceited of birds. He had big, strong wings of which he was very proud, and when there was any food to be had, he flew very quickly indeed and got there before anyone else, so that when all the birds arrived, they found there was nothing left for them.
All the birds were very cross about this. . . . At last they decided something must be done, and met together in a quiet place in the forest to see what they could arrange.
ROBIN SKELTON'S LONG LONG AGO is a collection of seven fables which tell us how and why the ostrich, the bullfrog, the cat, and other animals came to be the way they are today. The answers are easy in Skelton's mythology: many animals are conceited and stupid, or simply stupid. It's an unpleasant world.
As we all know, pride goes before the fall. Conceited animals were (and continue to be) punished for this flaw, becoming the butt of the animal winged and four-legged world. They are now funny looking, or their voices sound bad. Skelton really wants children to learn this lesson. Why else would he tell the same dreary tale so often?
In other stories animals who are just stupid get tricked and bad things happen to them. We don't really learn or gain understanding from these "stupid animal stories," but I suppose that's okay. After all, they are just stupid animals.
Pamela Breeze Currie's illustrations suit Skelton's truly unimaginative and remarkably inane fables. Her black-and-white drawings add no sparkle, zest, or excitement.
Read the fables to a group of eight-year-olds and they'll justifiably riot. Read them to an adult and you'll cure insomnia (at least, they worked for me!).
Ian Stewart works at a Winnipeg elementary school and the University of Winnipeg library.
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