Almost any work of fiction requires the suspension of disbelief; when it comes to fairy tales, though, that disbelief needs to be suspended a few notches higher. It’s just part of the deal. Breaking free from reality’s tethers and entering a made-up world is, after all, one of storytelling’s chief pleasures.
So how should we take Paulette Bourgeois subjecting classic tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears to logic’s microscope? As part of the continued trend to prioritize STEM subjects over the arts? If, as Professor Goose says in the opening pages of her book, misinformation is the concern, then wouldn’t our attention best be focused on news and social media instead of fairy tales? Perhaps, but if you lighten up, our goose guide – with notable help from Alex G. Griffiths’s brightly daffy illustrations – does offer some enlightening fun.
Some of her points of contention: bears don’t live in cute cottages and generally don’t eat porridge, unless it’s topped with nuts and berries. And – honestly, this was news to me – apparently they don’t technically hibernate.
The law of thermodynamics is invoked to explain that if papa bear’s bowl of porridge had been too hot, then mama’s would logically have been just right (not baby bear’s, which, being the smallest, would cool the quickest).
Professor Goose’s examinations don’t always hew to her stated mandate. When Goldilocks loses her way, for example, we’re told that this rarely happens nowadays because people have GPS-enabled smartphones. True … but Goldilocks doesn’t have a phone, so what is being “debunked” exactly?
It’s explained that baby bear’s chair would have broken because Goldilocks exerted a downward force on it greater than the chair’s upward one, which is more a fact than a fact-check. (There are instructions for building a chair out of cardboard, paper-towel rolls, and popsicle sticks, which seem like ideal materials if you want to recreate the story’s chair-collapsing scene.)
It’s never too early to teach kids to question what they read or watch. But if the child you’re reading to prefers the original story, sans the wet-blanket effect of scientific correctives, that’s easily accomplished by skipping every other page.