Any preconceived notions about the traditional “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” should be abandoned before reading Mo Willems’ “Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs.” Instead of the familiar bears that leave the house absentmindedly while their porridge cools, Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur and “some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway” make chocolate pudding in varying temperatures.
As they leave the house for “someplace else,” the plot thickens with a mocking voice, “I sure hope no innocent little succulent child happens by our unlocked home while we are uhhh someplace else.”
Goldilocks then appears. This girl who never listens to warnings about entering strange enormous houses, steps over the giant welcome mat and is entranced by the smell of chocolate pudding. By luck (or is it?) a ladder is available to climb to the counter and the giant bowls containing both hot and cold pudding; it didn’t matter. Soon Goldilocks is like a “chocolate–filled-little-girl-bon-bon.”
As she ponders a rest on too-big chairs and beds, she takes a minute to think (“longer than she was used to stopping and thinking”) and realizes her mistake at trespassing at the wrong house. Her exit might be expected, the dinosaurs' return isn’t.
Willems’ trademark tongue-in-cheek humor is accompanied by bold flat illustrations with few extraneous details, ignoring conventional folklore. Sketched endpapers with the author’s various crossed out titles of fractured tales such as “Goldilocks and the Three Crawfish” are memorable snippets to make the reader realize the irony of this whole story. Even the moral lessons, one from Goldilocks (“If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave.”) and one from the Dinosaurs, (“Lock the back door!”) contain twists of nonsense.
“Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs” is definitely Willems at his best and readers of all ages are going to read it again and again for the subtleties he pokes into a fresh new telling of an old favorite.
If you go
What: Mo Willems book signing
When: Tuesday, Sept. 11, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City