I have been spending time every night with my oldest daughter reading middle grade ARCs that I receive. I don’t want my twins to feel left out, so I have started reading Best Book Club Ever books with them every night.
Last night, my twins chose Favorite Tales of Monsters and Trolls. This was my husband’s book when he was a child, and I remember reading this one as well. This book was first published in 1977, and was adapted by George Jonsen and illustrated by John O’Brien.
Favorite Tales of Monsters and Trolls includes three folktales. Each of the stories is rather short, so the entire book can read in one sitting.
The first story is The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Three billy goat brothers are having a problem with a troll who lives under a bridge. They want to cross over to a greener pasture, but are blocked by a troll. As the first two goats cross, they tell the troll to wait for his older brother. When the biggest goat crosses, will he be scared by the troll or will he do what goats do best?
The second story is The Trolls and the Pussy Cat. In this story, a hunter is traveling home to present the king with a gift: the polar bear he has just captured. He and the bear stop for the evening at a cottage. The farmer tells the hunter that trolls are coming to bother them that night, and the hunter tells them not to worry. The bear is inexplicably tame, and the family, the hunter, and the bear settle down for the evening. But what will happen when the trolls arrive and find the “pussy cat” (bear) sleeping under the table?
The third story is The Stone Cheese. This story is similar to the Billy Goats Gruff in that there are also three brothers, but these boys are humans and not goats. The brothers have been tasked with bringing back firewood, but they are plagued by a troll. It is up to the youngest brother to trick the troll- but all he has is a piece of cheese. Can the youngest brother bring home firewood for his family?
The illustrations are one of the things that I remember most about this book from my own childhood. O’Brien has created a vivid world filled with all sorts of trolls. The troll in the first book is a reptilian creature, and the troll in the third book is a hideous Cyclops. There are lots of little details throughout the illustrations: birds, tiny people, and more.
I would recommend Favorite Tales of Monsters and Trolls. My girls enjoyed reading this book with me. This book has been out of print for many years, but used copies are available for purchase. The stories are short enough for preschoolers, but will appeal to children in elementary school as well. This is a wonderful introduction to some of the most popular folktales involving trolls.