Literary arts

New twist on old tales

Taos author John Biscello to read his reinterpretations of kids’ stories


We can see it now. Taos author John Biscello standing before a crowd of small faces, each looking up at him with eager anticipation, waiting for him to begin reading from his new book, “Once Upon a Time: Classic Tales Reimagined.” Then, pandemonium.

Maybe not. But, at least he is prepared for anything. If he loses their attention at the free Saturday (Feb. 3), 11 a.m.-1 p.m., event at Twirl: A Playspace, 225 Camino de la Placita, he might burst into song with musical guest Ashleigh Grycner or act out funny characters or dance about. Whatever happens, it’s all cool.

No matter what, Biscello is mellow about the whole thing because in some ways this is a dream come true.

Some time ago, Biscello was commissioned to adapt for a modern audience, the classic 1921 children’s book, “An Argosy of Fables,” edited by Frederic Taber Cooper. The 15 stories he did are short and designed to appear on one page, the other side of which features a gorgeous illustration by Paul Bransom. They are among hundreds that originally appeared in “Argosy.”

“These classic tales have been reimagined for today’s families, both children and the adults reading to them, and have been selected based on the popularity of the fable, the strength of the original illustrations and the variety of geographic origins of the stories,” the book’s opening pages read.

“Not only are fables one of the most enduring forms of folk literature, they’re global,” the opening pages continue. “Several of these fables are credited to the Greek storyteller Aesop, going back more than 2,500 years. But we’ve also included fables from the Cherokee tradition (’Hummingbird and Crane’), Armenia (’Fox and Icicle’), Angola (’Frog’s Servant’), China (’Crow and Peacock’), Russia (’Eagle and Spider’), and Spain (’Three Friends’). Cultural traditions vary a bit, of course, but wit and wisdom are universal.”

Biscello said the fables were often published along with the “moral” of the story. But, in the spirit of reimaging fables for a modern audience, he said he hesitates giving the impression there only one “right” answer.

The following bits of wisdom are some of the possible lessons learned in the fables in this little collection, the book states. They’re not in order, so have fun matching stories and morals—or make up your own: Be careful what you wish for. Beware of enemies disguised as friends. Do for others what you would have done for yourself. Don’t be gullible. Know your limits. Incentive spurs effort. It’s not easy to change your nature. Necessity is the mother of invention. No act of kindness is ever wasted. Paradise is not for the cowardly or the vain. Slow and steady wins the race. The treacherous can be destroyed by their own actions. There’s nothing beautiful about being prideful. Things are not always as they appear. And, when the mighty quarrel, the humble may pay the price.

So, bring the whole family, and if it’s not too crazy, listen close to Biscello tell the tales in his own particular fashion.

Copies of the book will be available for sale. There will also be animal-themed games and activities and, of course, music by Ashleigh Grycner.

For more information, call Twirl at (575) 751-1402.