Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Emperor's New Clothes - Hans Christian Andersen & The Starbright Foundation

Summary: Sure, you may know the story of The Emperor's New Clothes. But have you ever heard it from the point of view of the Emperor's underwear? Or from the Imperial Mirror? Or the honest boy's mother? An all-star cast retells and illustrates Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale about the foolish king who is too vain to admit he can't see his sumptuous new clothes, which, according to the dastardly weavers, can only be seen by "visionaries gifted with true taste and imagination." Twenty-three celebrities and 23 acclaimed illustrators donated their time and creativity to this project sponsored by the Starbright Foundation, which develops products and programs that enable seriously ill children to confront the mental and emotional challenges beyond their medical conditions. From Madonna to General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, from Robin Williams to Dr. Ruth Westheimer, these well-known personalities each take on a different perspective of the fairy tale, creating a riotous retelling that will have everyone in the family bent double with laughter (Calvin Klein himself tells the royal underwear's version of the story!). But that's not all. Award-winning artists like William Joyce (who did the cover), Chris Van Allsburg, Kinuko Y. Craft, Maurice Sendak, Quentin Blake, and S. Saelig Gallagher lend their imaginative skill to each chapter, depicting two dozen fabulous and unusual angles to the story. Winner of a 1999 Hans Christian Andersen Award, this amusing version of a classic will keep readers in stitches, as it were. The accompanying CD of this new paperback edition brings the story to vivid life. (Summary and image from

My Review: Instead of being 4 separate stories like the other Starbright Foundation book, Once Upon A Fairy Tale, this is one, long story. It feels far longer than the other as well. The illustrations alone would make this book worthwhile. The compilation of various famous artists give the book such a unique appeal. The accompanying CD adds to the novelty. While the book can be enjoyed without it, the CD showcases famous celebrities at their best: donating their talents (voice acting in this case) to help sick children.

When I use this in the classroom I focus on teaching the difference between first person and third person. The book actually offers both examples. Most of the story is told from different characters' points of view (first person) with the additional insight of a kingdom moth (please enjoy the irony because of the emperor's invisible clothes) who buzzes in and out of the story (third person objective). Another aspect I teach is personification. There are many added characters to this version of the Emporer's New Clothes: take his underwear for example. My favorite character is Robin Williams. He plays the court jester. My students love this book, despite it being a children's book that usually they'd say they're too old for, and ask me to share it again and again.

Again, I think what adds the cherry on top is the fact that all the proceeds go to helping sick children. It is definitely worth checking out.

Rating: 5 Stars

In a phrase: Hilarious, vivid artistry, and a great CD all included with the story of a classic fairytale.

1 comment:

alastaircookie said...

This sounds really good- I love Robin Williams! I think its really nice that so many people contributed to the charity. I'll have to check it out sometime! =)


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