Everyday Virtues: Rethinking Classic Fairy Tales

Dec 6, 2017

Twenty years ago, Rick Autry was looking for fables to read with his young children. He wanted stories that taught lessons but without all the violence and sexism found in centuries old fairy tales. When he couldn't find what he was looking for he approached his father, author Jim Autry. The result is "Everyday Virtues: Classic Tales to Read with Kids."

Over the twenty years since the idea first took hold, much has changed in childrens' lives. The Autrys have concerns about how much time kids spend with digital devices. Much of that concern centers around the lack of stories being read by kids or to kids.

"You learn by stories," says Jim. "We wanted stories about how to make sense of the world, but also how kids could make sense of their lives."

Rick says they wanted to focus on both individual virtues, and societal ones. While he grew up with books of little virtues, like thriftiness, he wanted to include great virtues, like compassion and justice. But, often in fairy tales, justice means vengeance.

"The lawyer in me wanted to focus on the process of justice," Rick says. "We wanted to talk about acting rationally, not in anger, because that's not justice."

The co-authors settled on six virtues: justice, humility, courage, compassion, freedom and respect. The stories are rewritten, updated traditional folk tales as well as true tales from around the world. The father and son learned quite a bit themselves while creating the book.

Rick says he enjoyed going on tour with his father, especially to the south where he was, "in his element," looking for bar-be-que joints. Rick's favorite moment was when he went to his father's and saw a stack of edited pages.

"And he starts going through the individual pages and asking if I agree with the edits. I said wait a minute, you've been editing longer than I've been alive, what makes you think I wouldn't agree with your edits?"

Jim says he learned quite a bit about his son as well. "Rick is an excellent writer and meticulous researcher. We found that in dividing up the chores, we worth together very well."