The Emperor’s New Clothes

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a Hans Christian Andersen tale. In the original story, two weavers tell the emperor that they can weave beautiful clothing that can only be seen by clever people. The emperor gives the weavers money and expensive cloth. The weavers are, of course, tricking him. The emperor sends his men to check on the clothing. None of them are brave enough to admit that they can’t see the clothes, and so the emperor himself also doesn’t. The emperor parades through his kingdom naked, and only when a small child can acknowledges the truth does the crowd and the emperor suspect they’ve been fooled. The emperor simply continues to proudly march on.

Biro, V. (2017). The Emperor’s New Clothes. New York, NY: Windmill Books.

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Since I personally didn’t find the illustrations appealing, this version was my least favorite of the three. The emperor wears a sash around him to soften this story enough for children. The ending concludes that it is the emperor’s vanity that proves him foolish.

Sedgwick, M. (Adapter), & Jay, A. (2004). The emperor’s new clothes. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

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This picture book adapts the story using animals. The emperor is a selfish, overweight lion and the weavers are, fittingly, weasels. The story is also told in rhyme. A small frog points out that the lion is naked. Unlike the original tale, the emperor does not proudly march on but is instead ashamed. The fact that the book uses animals tones down the saucy ending.

D. (Adapter) (2000). The emperor’s new clothes: a tale set in China. New York: McElderry Books.

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Set in China, this is the only version I read where one of the weavers is a woman. As the author states in her notes at the end, the Chinese symbols in the illustrations represent purity and wisdom. The emperor, surrounded by these symbols, still plays the role of the fool. In this version, the emperor isn’t naked, but parades in his underwear.

In a public library setting, it’s difficult to determine what age group this tale would be popular for. Despite the illustrations softening the content, I would feel uncomfortable reading this to children in a library. Every parent is different, and I would worry that a parent would be angry to hear that I’d read his/her child a story that ends with a man publicly naked and ashamed. Less mature kids might find this hilarious and repeat it to their friends and family. For that reason, if I did read this book to children it would be the one set in China, because the emperor is in his underwear still. Underwear is amusing still, but more kid friendly while still retaining the theme of the story. I would read this book to children ages seven and up, as there a considerable amount of text in this.

 

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