I don't know what it is that makes me love The Gingerbread Man so much. In the children's books he is kinda, sorta obnoxious and meets with an unhappy fate. Yet, the magical image of him popping out of the oven and taunting that poor old man and that shocked old woman outweighs all else and I am in love.
It may also be that I remember my Oma telling me this story when I was an impressionable kinder yuden. He is the original bad boy. And doesn't everyone fall for the bad boy? Plus, he is cute and witty as the world witnessed with the Shrek "not my gumdrop buttons" movies.
During the past two weeks I have been sharing different variations of this story with my first graders. Once they know the basic story we get into the fine differences (or not so fine) to compare the stories, read together, act them out and do some extension activities.
One activity I have done in years past has been to go up to our cooking room to bake and decorate these little guys ourselves. After we bring them back to the classroom and the students go to lunch I get busy. I hide all of their gingerbread men and leave a note for the children that reads "Run, Run, Fast as you can! You can't catch me. I'm the Gingerbread Man. I have run to Rebecca's office (our principal). Catch me there."
Everyone is "in on it" so that when we arrive in Rebecca's office she tells the kids that they just missed them but there is a note. The note directs the students to a new destination in the building and we are once again on the chase. We make several stops until finally being directed back to the classroom where the cookies have been set up with glasses of milk for the children to enjoy. The best part is that in our search the kids are sure that they catch a glimpse of the gingerbread men. It is all terribly exciting and fun. Well, I enjoy it.
I thought I would share some of my favorite versions of this classic story and the clever variations from some talented authors and illustrators.
The Gingerbread Man with pictures by Karen Schmidt.
This is my favorite illustration of Gingy; bright, colorful, plump and delicious. All of the illustrations are just delightful. Children are drawn to them. In this version GM meets his fate at the hands of a clever fox who feigns a hearing loss to get The Gingerbread Man to come closer. This section has the best pictures! The story ends with the fox wiping the crumbs away from his mouth. Yum.
The Gingerbread Man retold by Jim Aylesworth.
This is also a pretty straight forward retelling of this classic fairy tale that ends the same way as the book above. The cool thing about this book is that The Gingerbread Man is flat. You can see clearly that he is a cookie that has jumped from a cookie sheet. Jim Aylesworth's illustrations invoke an old world feel.
The layout of the print is also helpful. The oft repeated refrain "Run! Run!..." is always printed in bold print as is all of the dialogue. This makes it easy for young children to know when to join in or read along.
Plus, there is a recipe for making your very own cookies on the back cover.
The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski.
This version changes the setting of the story from the country to New York City. This is especially meaningful to my students who recognize many of the places The Gingerbread Boy visits such as the E train (subway) and Central Park. I am not sure how to describe the artwork but it reminds me of the paintings that J.J. created on the old TV show "Good Times". Really fun. And where else can you find The Gingerbread Boy chased by a rat?
It ends with the classic 'crossing the lake' scenario that finds another clever fox licking his lips.
The Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.
Cute, cute, cute. Again the setting has shifted, this time to the mountains. Exquisite drawings give previews to the coming scenes and a surprise is waiting at the end.
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith.
A riot! In this story a lonely old man and woman decide to make a man out of stinky cheese. However, he is more than they bargained for and when they check to see if he is done the smell knocks them out. Undeterred The Stinky Cheese Man runs off (but no one is chasing him). He meets various characters along the way, none of whom want anything to do with him. This poor guy can't get anyone to pursue him. The tale ends with a river crossing but the fox does not consume our stinky friend. He is so repulsed by the "funky smell" that he gags, causing The Stinky Cheese to plunge into the water where he falls apart. Not a huge loss but you gotta admire his determination.
The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman.
This is not a true Gingerbread Man story since there is no baking of cookies but it is in the spirit of the above stories. In this book a boy chases his sausage around town. Great artwork and an inviting story. I am especially in love with the peas and the fries who speak French.