by Larry Broutman, Rich Green, and John Rabias
Lake Claremont Press
Is Chicago a fairy-tale city? Wait a minute. I’ve asked that before. But it’s a question worth revisiting, particularly in service to a deserving cause.
Chicago Treasure is Larry Broutman’s fourth Chicago-themed photography book, and his first for children. A collection of light verse and retold fairy tales set alongside Broutman’s photos, the stories are shared through whimsical newspaper articles and familiar fantasy scenes employing digital sorcery to put real-live kids in the middle of the action. Most of the book’s young models are beneficiaries of local social service organization Chicago Lighthouse, which has worked with the visually impaired for a century now, and is the raison d’être for Chicago Treasure. Following an overarching principle of “the beauty of inclusion,” kids of all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities interact with various enchanted aristocrats, mythical beasties, and big-eyed anthropomorphic animals. Adorableness ensues, and for extra warm fuzzies, Broutman—a Chicago Lighthouse board member—has pledged all author proceeds to the organization.
Ordinarily I’d be perfectly comfortable reviewing a new approach to fairy tales on my own. I loved them as a kid and enjoy them even more now after reading Dr. Maria Tartar’s scholarly works on the freakiness (and occasional gore) of folktales. But for this review I needed to call in a fairy-tale expert. My daughter, Flynn.
Seven years old and a reader for the past three, Ms. Kelly comes by her critical bona fides honestly, being the daughter of a history teacher (mom) and America’s least-beloved literary critic (me). With a little help from Momma and myself, she’s read her way through the Western fairy tale canon: from the Grimms to Perrault to Andersen—with stops along the way to explain that people had terrible ideas about gender roles, morality, and footwear back then. I’d place Flynn’s style of literary criticism somewhere between Michiko Kakutani’s and Susan Sontag’s—but only alphabetically. We chatted about Chicago Treasure. Please note that, unlike her father, Ms. Kelly eschews superfluous verbosity.
Did you like the book?
What did you like best about it?
That it was about fairy tales. And I really liked that it was about children.
You liked that it was about children?
Why is that?
Because…it’s nice for the children to be in an actual book.
Did you like reading it together?
What was your favorite story?
I like all of ’em.
You liked all of them?
What about the ones that were newspaper stories? Do you remember those?
They were silly.
Did you like hearing all these old stories told in a different way?
Yes, yes, yes. It made the book awesome!
It was awesome? What did you like about that?
Um, because it was silly. Because they were not real newspapers.
And they were funny?
Now, does Chicago make you think of any particular fairy tales?
Mm, not really.
What did you think about the ones that appear in the city? Let’s find those. (Page flipping) What did you think of the pictures of the city with the children in fairy tales?
(Shrill, high-pitched voice) AWESOME!
(Page flipping) Do you recognize any of these places?
No. (Hesitates) But the pictures were…unspeakable!
Yeah! (Cackles demonically)
Uh… Okay… Hm, what else should I ask you about? Do you feel the book is “a triumph”?
Yeah? Even though I don’t know what that means.
(Laughs) Do you have any other ideas, or things you remember about this book that you liked?
I liked that there were rhymes like “Little Orphan Annie.”
Would you recommend this book to other children?
Okay. Thank you, Flynn!
Copies of Chicago Treasure may be purchased at the Everything Goes Media site.