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The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone Children's Book Review

Updated on October 24, 2011
The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone
The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone

The Gingerbread Boy by author Paul Galdone retells the traditional folktale about a childless couple who bake a gingerbread boy because they have no children of their own to love and care for. The gingerbread boy jumps up fresh out of the oven and with great speed and agility, runs away from everyone he meets... until he meets a wily fox whose wit is a match for the gingerbread boy's speed. The clever fox outwits the gingerbread boy by convincing gingerbread boy first that he can cross the river without getting wet, and then encouraging the gingerbread boy to climb on his tail, then his back, his head, and finally his nose. At the story's climax, Galdone summarizes the action this way:

Snip, Snap, Snip at last and at last he went the way of every single gingerbread boy that ever came out of an oven....

Galdone's retelling of this traditional folk tale uses simple and direct language that paces the story quite well without modernizing the story, using new elements such as a different modern setting or jazzed up characters. Galdone's version also preserves the original moral of the story and the dangerous trickster, the fox.

I love the story of the Gingerbread Man and grew up listening to a version where the gingerbread boy/man says:

"Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread man!"

Galdone's book is an appropriate place to begin exploring the Gingerbread Man folktale, since its approach is simple and traditional, down to the last detail of the medieval-like village in which the story occurs.

Folktales in Children's Literature

Folktales passes down from a storytelling tradition that emerged long before the general population of the world was literate. Hundreds, if not thousands of years before people read books or watched television, storytellers, or bards, wandered from village to village spreading news, gossip, and stories like the Gingerbread Man. As storytellers would wander from place to place sharing the stories they knew, they also adapted the stories they learned.

Folktales share common elements, such as repeated verses, which are easy to remember for oral retelling. Folktales may be mainly for entertainment purposes or may carry a moral message or theme. Though folktales and fairy tales are an important part of the body of children's literature, folk tales are appealing to audiences of all ages, and make a wonderful study for young performers.

The Gingerbread Man or Gingerbread Boy story has been adapted in delightful ways by a number of different authors. Jan Brett, in her exquisitely detailed illustrated version of the tale, titled The Gingerbread Baby, invents a main character named Mattie who, instead of the fox, captures the Gingerbread Baby through with an inventive and beautifully decorative Gingerbread House. Many of Brett's books and characters are Christmas or winter-themed. The Gingerbread Baby would be a lovely addition to any family's Christmas collection.

Adapting this Story in a Storytime Setting

We have recently been attending a high-quality family storytime program at the Chandler Sunset Public Library. The wonderful librarians at this library host a successful program by acting out almost all of the stories they read. They feel this is necessary because their large crowds of 40+ people every week are very young and they can't always see or hear a story book. To engage the children they use props and toys depicted animals and people in the story. The gingerbread man story could be acted out using people and/or plush animals to represent the characters in the story.

My new friend at the Chandler Sunset Public library shared a wonderful rhyming story called Flip Flap Jack that could be incorporated with a lesson plan using the Gingerbread Man story. Her friend, a storyteller in the Phoenix area, wrote this story and adapted it to a flannelboard version that the storyteller built while reciting the lines of the story.

This version, published in the Johnson County storytime newsletter, is slightly different, and a bit shorter:

Flip Flap Jack

There was a man and he was made of food.

And his name was flip flap jack.

His head was made from a pancake.

And his name was flip flap jack.

His eyes they were blueberries.

And his name was flip flap jack.

His nose it was a strawberry.

And his name was flip flap jack.

His mouth was made from bacon.

And his name was flip flap jack.

His ears were made from kiwis.

And his name was flip flap jack.

Related Gingerbread Stories

The Gingerbread man story has many variations in the world of children's literature. One I particularly enjoy as a lover of the desert southwest, is the Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires. Please read my review of this delightful departure from the traditional tale:


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  • Ask_DJ_Lyons profile image

    Ask_DJ_Lyons 6 years ago from Mosheim, Tennessee

    Very entertaining hub! Thanks!

  • wannabwestern profile image

    Carolyn Augustine 8 years ago from The Land of Tractors

    That is so great! I wish every person could have a favorite storytime memory like that. It makes childhood sweeter!

  • Beth100 profile image

    Beth100 8 years ago from Canada

    Wow! The Gingerbread Man was the first book that I learned to read on my own. I still have my original copy, and am still reading it to my 3 year old. He loves it as much as I did.