Monday, December 17, 2012

Help Yourself Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen/Help Yourself, Little Red Hen (Another Point of View)is another Point of View story written by Dr. Alvin Granowsky.

As with all the books in this series, the first side tells the traditional story, in this case The Little Red Hen. In the traditional tale, the Little Red Hen tries to gather the farm animals to help her grow wheat so they can all enjoy the bread that will be made from it. They all refuse to help and when the bread is made, they all want to eat it, but she refuses to share since they refused to work. Wendy Edelson has beautiful illustrations in the traditional tale. As I mentioned before two different styles of illustrations and fonts are used to distinguish the stories. This is the first time I have checked and realized there are two illustrators for the stories although one author for both stories.

In the alternate version, the pigs in the story begin by telling the story of a spoiled red hen who has been enabled by her friends. She always comes to them for help and as a result, they find themselves doing the work instead of helping her to complete the task. As a group, they decide it is time for her to become more independent. When the issue with the wheat arises, they practice tough love and force her to learn to handle tasks for herself. They are proud and supportive of her as she overcomes each obstacle. Instead of being upset, they are supportive when she chooses to enjoy the fruits of her labor instead of sharing it with the others.

This is an interesting take on the story of the Little Red Hen. I know I have encountered people who left me doing the chore after telling me I would only be helping with it. Therefore, I found the second story was believable. As far as the original story of the Red Hen, I thought she was free to grow her own food and eat it herself. However, she had no right to be angry the others were not interested in raising food and they had no right to the food she grew. I always thought the focus was on the benefits of being able to have control of one's food source and not be dependent on others for food.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tell the Truth B.B. Wolf

Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolfis the second of the B.B. Wolf stories by Judy Sierra.

While working at Saturday fix up day at the Villain Villa, the Big Bad Wolf is invited by the local librarian to come to the library and tell his side of the incident with the Three Little Pigs. His friends at the Villain Villa suggest he spin his involvement in the story. After all everyone likes a happy ending.

He starts his story with a song and comes up with some creative stories about how the houses came to be blown down. It turns out this is not really an open time for the wolf to tell his story. This is more of an intervention designed to make the wolf take responsibility for his actions. Pinocchio tells him his nose is growing longer and other fairy tale characters demand he tell the truth regarding his actions. The wolf finds it impossible to apologize with words, but does sing an apology. He also decides to change his middle name to Big Bodacious Benevolent Bookish Wolf.

With the help of his friends at Villain Villa, he redesigns the Pig's home as penance for his previous bad actions against them. Peace is created between Pigs and Wolf.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Mind Your Manners BB Wolf

Amidst all his financial worries over the money he owes for settlements to various fairy tale characters, BB Wolf receives a welcome distraction in Judy Sierra's Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf.

The local librarian has invited the Big Bad Wolf to tea. Never having been to a formal tea he asks his best friend at the Villain Villa, the crocodile if he should go. After all, the wolf is not a fan of tea. The crocodile informs him one does not go for tea, but for the cookies. Before he heads off the crocodile gives him a list of rules to remember and the wolf creates a song as a memory technique.

The wolf is first thrown when he realizes that not only Red Riding Hood, but the Three Pigs, and several other characters he has hurt in the past are present. However, he holds on waiting for the cookies. His stomach starts to get upset after his third cup of tea and he forgets the rules regarding burping. He rushes to the computer to find a book on etiquette. He finds the word he seeks just in time as his burp nearly blows down the library. While the three pigs tease him and the gingerbread man flees in terror the librarian is impressed with his manners. She tests his will power once more when the only cookies she serves are gingerbread men. He refuses to eat them, but promises to return and tell her the real stories of the books she has on her table.

This was a cute Big Bad Wolf Story and it is part of a character series. The second book deals with telling the truth. It gets the message across in a cute way that will entertain children and perhaps even get them to remember the rules.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Book That Jack Wrote

The Book that Jack Wroteis Jon Scieszka's adaption of the nursery rhyme, The House that Jack Built.

With the assistance of Daniel Adel's beautiful illustrations, Sciesaka creates a story that is slightly different from the one most of us remember from the traditional nursery rhyme. He leaves out a few characters, changes a few, and adds a few to create a little different take on Jack's story. We visit with Humpty Dumpty, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and a few other familiar characters on our journey through Jack's rhyme.

I found myself going back to check the original language because I could not remember everyone who had been to Jack's house and I wanted to see how it compared to the situation with Jack's book.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giants Have Feelings, Too

Giants Have Feelings, Too: Jack and the Beanstalk Retold (Another Point of View)is another Dr. Alvin Granowsky Point of View book published by Steck-Vaughn. The format continues with the traditional Jack in the Beanstalk Story told on one side and the giant's story told when you flip the book upside down.

One thing I noticed as I reviewed this book is the font and the illustrations are very different for the two stories. The illustrations in Jack's stories are bright and vivid. The font is very traditional. The Giant's story has more of a cartoon style and a different font designed to set the story apart.

Any child who has heard the story of Jack in the Beanstalk will be familiar with the traditional version. The second tale ponders questions that have been raised for generations. Is Jack a hero or a thief? Was it OK for Jack to steal from the Giants and because they were giants? Since the story is told from the Giant's perspective, it does not begin with the magic beans and the cow, but with the first encounter between Jack and the Giants. The Giant's wife makes a very clear case that she and her husband Herbert were taken advantage of by Jack and as a result lost all of the treasures they accumulated through hard work and sacrifice. She even expresses hope at one point in the story that Jack's mother will not want her boy to prosper from stealing and have him return what he has stolen.

This book would be the basis for a very lively debate even among older children who may believe they are past the age for reading fairy tales. The issues are very interesting and some students may never have considered the questions raised by the Giant's wife.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Petite Rouge A Cajun Red Riding Hood

In Petite Rouge (Picture Puffins)Mike Artell retells the story of Red Riding Hood with animal characters and a Cajun setting.

Red Riding Hood, or Petite Rouge, is a goose who sets off with the traditional goodies to visit her sick grandmother. We meet not a wolf, but Claude the Gator, who also appears in Artell's Three Little Cajun Pigsas the villan.

Claude is no more successful with Red than he was with the pigs. There is also no vengeful woodcutter to kill the gator. Claude is distracted from his desire to eat Red and her grandmother after Red gets him to eat a bottle of hot sauce.

Artell has created another cute alternate fairy tale. Claude the gator makes an interesting substitute for the Big Bad Wolf.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Frog Prince Continued

The Frog Prince, Continued (Picture Puffin)answers the question what happens after the book tells us they lived happily ever after.

The Frog Prince is troubled. His princess is not happy with him and he wants to become a frog again. He heads out into the world seeking a witch who can grant his request. First, he meets the witch from Sleeping Beauty who seeks to prevent him from waking the Princess, so he has to escape from her. Along the way, he meets the witches from Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. Knowing his fairy tales the Prince keeps moving. Finally, he finds the fairy Godmother from Cinderella who offers to help him. Instead, she turns him into a carriage and he is terrified this will be his life. Instead, the curse wears off at midnight and realizing his good fortune he hurries back to his princess who has been worried about him. He kisses the princess and his wish is granted for both of them.

As a fan of the The Frog Princess (Tales of the Frog Princess series)I thought it was great to see a picture book that addressed some of the same challenges of transforming from frog to man.

Monday, November 5, 2012

What Really Happened to Humpty

What Really Happened to Humpty? (Nursery-Rhyme Mysteries)
is one of the best nursery rhyme adaptations I have read yet.

Humpty has fallen. Police Chief Mother Goose has given Humpty’s brother Joe Dumpty until 5PM to find evidence of a crime or she plans to write it up as an accidental fall. Joe is convinced his brother’s fall has something to do with his recently acquired position as neighborhood watchman. As Joe proceeds to interview witnesses and potential suspects he becomes even more convinced his brother’s fall was no accident.

Those familiar with nursery rhymes and fairy tales will appreciate the blend of characters in this tale and perhaps even start to put the plot together before the culprits are revealed to the reader. In this version Humpty does recover due to modern technology and medical knowledge gained from Jack’s broken crown. Joe Dumpty makes a wonderful fairytale detective for young readers. I wish I had this book when I was doing fairy tale trials with my fourth grade students.

My main disappointment is while the end of the story hints that Joe may have more stories to tell, it does not appear that anything has been published since 2009. I would love to see more Joe Dumpty books on the market. Updated the Crown Affair debuted in February of 2015.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Adelita a Mexican Cinderella

Tomi dePaola retells the story of Adelitathe Mexican Cinderella using his distinctive illustrations and adding Spanish words to give the reader a more cultural feel for the story.

This version shares many of the characteristics most children associate with Cinderella, but there is no footwear in this version. Cinderella's mother dies in childbirth. As she reaches her young adult years, her father remarries a woman with two daughters. I always find it interesting how the widow always seems to have one or two daughters, never three. In this version, she has a beloved servant that has been with the family since her birth. As her stepmother forces her to become a servant, she sends Esperanza away. Even when the woman offers to work for no wages, the stepmother senses she could cause trouble and forces her to leave.

When Dona Micaela discovers the Gordillo's will be hosting a party for all the local families and it is expected their son Javier will be seeking a bride, we have our required Cinderella ball. In this tale, Adelita is banned from attending. The stepmother is taking no chances in setting impossible tasks that might be achieved. When the family leaves, Esperanza arrives and uses the hidden key for Adelita's mother's trunk to provide her with a dress and a beautiful red shawl. Esperanza drives Adelita to the ball in a cart and she has a wonderful evening. In this version, she and Javier knew each other as children. She is afraid to tell him the truth about her circumstances and flees to Esperanza leaving nothing behind. Her prince sets off in search of her.

She puts the shawl out the window to attract him to the house and then dresses in the outfit she wore to the dance. When he arrives, the other daughters try to attract his attention. When she arrives dressed as before, he only has eyes for her. The family is invited to the wedding, but only Esperanza is invited to live with them.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wake Up Rip Van WInkle

Rip Van Winkle/Wake Up, Rip Van Winkle is another book in Steck-Vaughn's Point of View Series.

One side of the book tells an abbreviated version of the Rip Van Winkle Story. While I am not a huge fan of abbreviated classics it is always possible to skip this version and have students or your child read the classic instead. The other side is of more interest to me. When you flip the book up side down, the other side of the story is presented.

In the classic tale, Rip Van Winkle is married with children and while he will help the neighbors with chores never does any work for his own family. His wife grows frustrated with his failure to provide and Rip spends more time away from home telling stories to the local villagers. One day he leaves home and encounters some creatures in the wood who give him some drinks, which make him tired. He falls asleep. When he wakes he finds his gun is rusted and his beard long. He arrives home to find his wife dead and that he has missed the American Revolution.

In the alternate version, Rip’s daughter tells the tale. She is very protective of her mother and wants the world to know her mother is no shrew. She believes her mother was supportive of her father's storytelling and that it was her father who started the stories of her mother's nagging to cover up his own embarrassment. The daughter claims Rip Van Winkle's manipulation of the villager's opinions made life very difficult for her patient mother. In fact, any attempts to persuade him to come home and help reinforced the rumors he had started about her being a shrew. The daughter believes her mother ultimately died of a broken heart, not of anger as the cruel villagers implied.

This is one of the stronger entries in the series. Since both characters are flawed, there is a case to be made for both sides and the author has done a good job of using the daughter as a character witness for the mother.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Rough Faced Girl

The Rough-Face Girlis an Algonquin Native American Cinderella Story.

The Rough Faced Girl is very similar and based on the same traditional tales as the Ojibwa tale, SootfaceI reviewed earlier.

This story takes place near Lake Ontario. The prince in this version is also an invisible warrior who will only marry the woman who can see him. A poor man in the village has three daughters. The youngest has become scarred from tending the fires and they cruelly taunt her calling her the roughed faced girl. The two oldest sisters demand their father make them presentable so they can take the sister's test to marry her invisible brother. He does so and both fail, as they are unable to see the warrior.

The Rough Faced Girl approaches her father for help in taking the test, but he has little left to offer after his older two have cleaned him out. She takes what he offers and heads off with a birch dress to meet the invisible warrior. The villagers are cruel, but beyond the village, she encounters great beauty. She is able to pass the sister's tests and is welcomed into the family. As with Sootface, she gains a sister along with a husband.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Marlborough Friends of the Library Book Sale

The Marlborough Friends of the Library will be having their fall book sale this Saturday October 27 from 9-4 in the lower library.

The Libray is located at 35 West Main Street in Marlborough, MA.

For those of you looking to increase your children's library this is a great opportunity. The books are sorted by by genre and and there are board books, picture books,leveled early reader books, chapter books and non-fiction.

Adult books are priced at $.50 for paperbacks and $1.00 for hardcover.

Children's books are priced $.25 for paperbacks and $.50 for hardcover and paperbacks. There are a couple of sets and special items marked with sale prices including a LeapPad with a couple of books/discs that was donated for the sale.

For those of you in the area who can not make the sale the Friends of the Library has an ongoing booksale in the Children's area which the Friends try to keep stocked with a range of picture, chapter and non-fiction books. The prices are the same. That should resume in a few weeks as the Children's library just installed a new rug and the sale had to stop the until they were finished. Please check out our cart near the checkout desk in the library.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Legally Correct Fairy Tales

Imagine what would happen if Nursery Rhyme and Fairy Tale characters got access to legal counsel and the court system and you have the basis for David Fisher's Legally Correct Fairy Tales an amusing collection of cases.

In the first case, a lawyer is civil court suing on behalf of Jack and Jill for defective pails that caused them to fall while acquiring water. With the current awards for people spilling hot coffee on themselves, the outcome of this case is not hard to predict.

The second case finds us again in civil court with a tailor suing the Emperor for payment of clothing delivered. Considering the power of the Emperor and his humiliation suffered at the hands of the boy, I was amused, but not surprised by the outcome.

The third story covers a hearing to determine the sanity of Hansel and Gretel to determine if they can be considered guilty of the crime of murder in killing the alleged witch that threatened to eat Hansel. The outcome of this case was touch and go.

The next story is a petition for guardianship of Sleeping Beauty that would award the sole survivor of her family the right to prevent anyone from waking her up and thus total control of her estate. This one is left without resolution.

Next, we discover Snow White is being sued by the EEOC for discrimination because she only hires the dwarves to work in her mining and food service industries. Again, no resolution to this case just an announcement of pending actions.

In the next story, Mr. Wolf is brought to court to give a deposition under the RICO act as a member of an organized crime family the Wolves. The lawyers grill him about various activities of his family including Red Riding Hood, Peter and the Wolf, and specific to him the incident with the three pigs.

Humpty is next on the docket as he is lodging a complaint against King's hospital for negligence and malpractice.

The Old Lady in the Shoe dies without a will leaving a lower court to rule that her eldest son inherits all. In the next case, the children appeal the ruling.

The courts are next presented with a custody battle over Pinocchio between an Oak Tree and Gepetto. While Gepetto admits he found him in the forest, he says the boy was neglected and in need of care. The court psychologist expresses concern over Pinocchio's delusions about nose growth. Eventually the judge decides drug treatment is required before any custody choices can be made.

The author also covers cases involving Cinderella's Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, the Frog Prince, and Goldilocks. Some are stronger than others.

My suggestion is to read the stories before sharing them with children. Some are more appropriate for certain age groups than others. Prince Charming's foot fetish is not something I would want to explain to children.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Gift of the Crocodile a Cinderella Story

The Gift of the Crocodile: A Cinderella Storyis set in the Spice Islands in Indonesia and has details those familiar with multicultural Cinderella stories will recognize and a few new ones to keep readers interested.

Damura starts the story with a mother who dies leaving her with a respect for nature and kindness for its creatures. Her father draws the attention of a widow with a daughter of her own. This version has a unique warning about temptation. The widow offers Damura a beautiful doll if she tells her father he should marry the widow. The father resists, but the child wants the doll and insists. Thus begins the traditional Cinderella tale. The widow starts slowly. She and the daughter are kind at first. As they grow more comfortable with their power, she quickly becomes the family servant.

One day while doing laundry at the river she loses her sarong and is afraid to return home without it. In her distress, she remembers her mother's counsel and calls out to the creatures of the wild to help her. An ancient crocodile rises up and the girl greets her without fear as Grandmother. Since she greeted her politely, the crocodile does not eat her but inquires about her problems. The crocodile offers to retrieve the sarong if the girl holds her baby. The girl rocks the baby, singing it a lullaby and refrains from calling it a name despite the smell. The crocodile returns with a beautiful sarong and tells the girl to return if she needs anything.

The stepmother refuses to allow her to keep the sarong and forces her to tell her how she got the sarong. The next morning, her daughter throws a rag into the river crying that she has also lost her sarong. While she remembers her stepsisters warning to be polite, she cannot tolerate the baby crocodile’s behavior spanks it and is sings a cruel song to it. The Grandmother Crocodile appears with a silver sarong that the girl tries to grab from her. Since her behavior to the baby was bad, it turns into a filthy leach covered rag she cannot remove.

When a Prince comes to the village to choose a bride the stepmother steals Damura's silver sarong for her daughter to wear. Damura goes back to Grandmother Crocodile who provides her with a gold outfit and the traditional warning to return before the rooster crows. There always seems to be a curfew. Grandmother Crocodile adds an additional requirement. Damura must return everything she wore. She heads off into the carriage and mindful of the crocodile's warning, she heads out as soon as she hears the crowing. The prince grabs a slipper and Damura is concerned she may have offended the kindly reptile. When she returns, Grandmother Crocodile informs her that losing the slipper will make her a princess. Damura shows up in rags to try on the slipper and of course, it fits. She returns to Grandma Crocodile to get her golden clothes to appear before him appropriately attired.

Her stepmother and sister are not pleased and decide to get rid Damura so her sister can have the prince. They take her out on a boat and dump her into a river where she is eaten by a crocodile. Instead of accepting a substitute bride, the prince is devastated and pleads with Grandmother Crocodile for help. She summons her children and demands that the one who has swallowed Dumura spit her up. Grandmother Crocodile wakes her up by licking her and warns her children that none of them must eat Damura, the Prince or any of their children. However, she does tell them it’s open season on the stepmother and daughter.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Three Little Cajun Pigs

Three Little Cajun Pigs has an interesting twist on an old tale. Along with adding the Cajun cultural flavor and language to the story, the wolf is gone. In his place, we have a very appropriate Claude the gator who knocks down the houses of straw and sticks.

I had never encountered a version of the tale without a wolf. Claude makes a believable alternative. The story ends with the pigs showing compassion to their foe and he survives the attack on the pigs.

Since so many students know the traditional tale, this would be a great way to shake things up a bit and introduce a new threat to the three pigs’ story.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Moss Gown

Moss Gowndraws on tales the author heard growing up in North Carolina. The story is based on another version of Cinderella known as Rush Cape. However, it is also similar to the Jewish version I reviewed called The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Traditionin that it provides the same family basis for Moss Gown's banishment from the family and meeting with her prince.

Moss Gown's father is a wealthy southern plantation owner. He has three daughters and as he is determining how to divide his property, he asks them how much they love him. He is insulted when Candace, the youngest, tells him she loves him the way meat loves salt. In anger he disinherits her and her sisters throw her out of the house during a hurricane. During the storm, she meets an African American woman who she believes to be a witch. The woman gives her a moss gown, which appears beautiful when the woman gives it to her, but soon returns to its moss state. The woman tells her she will return when summoned with the appropriate words and leaves the girl to travel through the swamp.

At the end of the swamp, she finds a house and the Mistress of the house is kind enough to provide her with employment, sending her to the kitchens to work. She is very distressed over the situation with her father and does not see how she is to be reconciled with him. However, she does take interest when she finds out there is to be a three-day celebration and those with a ball gown may attend. Moss Gown remembers the words of the woman she met in the swamp and summons her to help her prepare. She is warned the magic will only last until the Morning Star begins to fade. She escapes each night and when the balls are over the Master's son is devastated that he cannot find the girl of his dreams. The servants are all worried he is wasting away as he refuses to eat. Moss Gown dons her dress again and summons the woman who changes the dress again. She brings food to him and even when the dress returns to rags he pledges his love and they are married.

The father's story is resolved when we discover his daughters have spent the estate into bankruptcy leaving the father begging in the streets. Moss Gown finds her father and has pity on him. She has the servants bring him in and orders the cook to make a dinner with no salt. When her father tastes the meal, she reveals who she is and her father finally understands the comment she made about the depth of her love for him. Her husband invites him to stay and the family is reunited.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Scarlett Flower a Russian Beauty and the Beast

For those who have read Grimm's Beauty and the Beast The Scarlet Flower. A fairy tale for children: in Englishwill have a familiar feel to it.

A wealthy merchant leaving on a long trip promises his daughters gifts. The older daughters want special gifts that will cost the father money to acquire, but his youngest daughter's request leaves him troubled. She wants a scarlet flower equal to none other in the world. He is challenged because he feels he can never be sure he has met her request.

This is of course where he encounters the Beast and has the choice to forfeit his own life or surrender the hand of one of his daughters into marriage. He returns home saddened at the prospects before him. The older two daughters refuse to help feeling since it was the youngest daughter's request that caused the problem, she should be the one to sacrifice to fix it. She willingly goes to the Beast.

The two overcome their challenges and do become friends. While initially, overcome at his physical looks she convinces him that she can adapt to his appearance and even that hurdle is overcome. In this version, she is provided with a magic ring so that if she cannot tolerate him, she is free to leave. In a dream, she receives word her father is ill and asks permission to visit her father. He reminds her that she is free to use the ring and go. He does warn her if she does not return within three days and nights he will die.

She enjoys her time with her family. Her sisters are envious of her new wealth and try to convince her to stay with them. She feels loyalty to the Beast and is prepared to arrive back an hour early. Her sisters trick her and set the clocks back so she will arrive late. She finally leaves and is surprised that the Beast is not waiting for her. She walks into the garden to find the Beast dead holding her flower. She holds him, kisses him, and tells him she loves him as she would her betrothed.

This of course releases the Prince from beneath the Beast. He tells her the tale of how he became the Beast. This is where the tale differs from many I have read. In this version, he was cursed from birth. It had nothing to do with any actions on his part. However, the release still required someone to love him in his Beast form.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sootface An Ojibwa Cinderella Tale

Sootfaceis another Native American Cinderella Tale.

In this version, Sootface is not a stepchild, but lives with her father and her two sisters. Her father is typical of many Cinderella fathers neglectful, but not directly involved with the abuse. Her sisters are mean and lazy leaving her with all the chores and refusing her any comforts.

The Prince in this tale is a mighty warrior who has been blessed with the ability to make himself invisible. When he decides to marry, he tells his sister that he will marry the woman who can see him. Predictably, all the available women in the village, including Sootface's sister fail the test. Sootface wants to try, but her sister's refuse to help her prepare. She is mocked by the village for the outfit she makes from birch and the flowers she wears to visit the warrior's sister.

On arriving at the tent, she asks the sister who the handsome man is and is provided with the same test questions as the previous contestants. She answers correctly and is rewarded with not only a husband, but also a kind sister. She helps her to clean up and provides her with clothing and appropriate adornments so she can be married.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Legend of Scarface

Legend of Scarface is a Blackfeet Indian Traditional Tale that tells the story of a poor scarred brave who is something of an outcast. He spends much of his time among the animals of the forest and even learns to communicate with them.

He falls in love with the Chiefs daughter Singing Rain, but expects nothing to come of it. She likes him, as he does not show her arrogance and boastfulness. Scarface is surprised that she does not even seem to notice his disfigurement. While she cares for him, she is unable to marry him. She has promised the sun she would remain unmarried and is unable to break her vow. Scarface sets off to find the Sun and his kindness towards the animals of the forest is rewarded as they help him find the path to the Sun's home.

At the end of his journey Scarface encounters Morning Star, the Sun's child and is rewarded for his honesty, by being brought home to meet his father the Sun. He is humbled by the honor of meeting the Moon and the Sun and unable to ask for the favor he has traveled to have granted. He stays with the family, being warned to stay away from the mountains to the North, as the birds there were savage and dangerous. When he finds Morning Star missing, Scarface sets out to find his friend and ends up doing battle with the dangerous birds. Even after saving his friend, he is still unable to ask a favor of the Sun. Moon comes to his rescue and tells the Sun what is in his heart. Singing Rain is not only freed from her vow, but Scarface has his face healed. When he returns to the village, he is given the new name, Smoothface. Both the Sun and the Moon blessed him and his wife Singing Rain.

One of the things that struck me when I first read this story was that she never even noticed his scars because she loved him. I always thought that was such a beautiful lesson that love was about more than physical beauty.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ashpet An Appalachian Cinderella Tale

Ashpet: An Appalachian Taleis one of the more assertive Cinderella's I have reviewed recently.

Hired out as a serving girl to a widow with two selfish daughters, Ashpet follows the path of most Cinderella's. She works hard, yet is denied basic pleasures like attending a Church meeting. On the night before the meeting Ashpet it up preparing for the family to attend the service and the fire goes out. She is unable to visit a neighbor to get a starter fire. It is unclear why they cannot start their own. The widow’s daughters must visit Granny, a neighbor to bring fire home.

Granny expects her neighbors to be respectful and polite and when the girls are rude and refuse to help her, she refuses them fire. Even though Ashpet is needed for other chores, the Widow Hooper sends her to fetch the fire.

She politely asks for the fire and agrees to brush the old woman's hair in return for the fire. With the fire built, the Widow Hooper's family prepares for the service, leaving Ashpet home to tend to her chores. After the family leaves, Granny arrives at the door and with the tapping of her cane, the house is cleaned and Ashpet finds herself with a new dress and matching shoes.

With a warning from Granny to arrive home before midnight, Ashpet heads off to Church where she catches the eye of the Doctor's son. When she realizes it is getting late, she distracts the son, by leaving one of her red shoes and asking him to help her find it. As he sets off to find her shoe, she takes off for home, setting up the traditional Cinderella tale. This time it is intentional.

As with many Cinderella tales, the doctor's son does come looking for the girl with the shoe. The Widow tries to hide her, but a helpful bird makes sure that the couple is reunited.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Dragon Prince A Chinese Beauty and the Beast

The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Taleis Laurence Yep's adaptation of Beauty and the Beast melded with Chinese mythology.

In this version, a poor farmer has seven daughters, each one known only by the number of their birth. The seventh is a kind hard working girl with amazing needle skills. As is often the case the other daughters do not appreciate her skills nearly as much, especially number three. Right from the beginning, we can see there will be conflict between Three and Seven.

While working in the fields, Three raises her hoe to kill a golden serpent only to be stopped by her sister Seven. We quickly discover the serpent is a dragon who has set his sights on marrying one of the farmer's daughters. Returning to his dragon form he captures the farmer and tells him in order to live one of his daughters must marry him. As is predictable, all but seven refuse to marry the dragon to save the father.

Seven heads off with the dragon, but finds she is not scared of him. He takes her to a sea palace and he changes shape into a handsome prince. She enjoys life with her Prince and is even give a loom to continue the work she loves. However, in keeping with the Beauty and the Beast story, she misses her family and wants to visit them. Her Prince sends her home, but her sister Three's envy has only grown with Seven's good fortune.

Three attempts to kill Seven and returns to the palace in her place telling the Prince she has been ill and does not look the way he remembered. Seven is not dead and is taken in by an old woman. The Prince does not believe Three can be the woman he loves and he tells her he is going hunting and he heads off to look for Seven. Seven convinced that her husband could not love her if he was fooled by her sister's charade makes silk items to help the old woman who sells them in the market. The Prince seeing the shoes in the market hopes he has found Seven, buys a pair and follows the woman home to find his wife.

They are reunited and her sister is sent home in shame. The old woman goes to live with the Prince and Seven as a reward for her kindness.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Turkey Girl a Zuni Cinderella Story

The author of The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story
warns readers in the author's notes that the outcome of Native American Cinderella tales is not happy ending marriage reward that one comes to expect from most traditional Cinderella tales. I am not sure I agree with this, as I believe I have read other Native American versions that align more with the traditional marriage ending. In this Zuni tale of Cinderella, the focus of the lesson is much different. In many Cinderella versions, there is a time by which Cinderella must be home and she usually breaks curfew. However, in most versions the story is focused on rewarding Cinderella for her patience, hard work, and other virtues, not focused on her tardiness. This version of the story has a very different lesson to teach. This may surprise children familiar with traditional Cinderella tales. Do not expect a Prince or a wedding at the end.

The Turkey girl has a life familiar to most of the other Cinderella's I have reviewed. The orphan girl herds turkeys for wealthier people in the area, watching over and protecting them each day. As with the other Cinderella's she longs to be accepted into general society. Her job, her clothing, and the attitude of those around her keep that dream highly unlikely.

As the dance of the Sacred Bird approaches, her dreams of becoming part of society grow even larger. She longs to be more than a turkey herder. She wants to be accepted by the rest of her peers. In this story, the turkeys act as fairy godmothers cleaning her up and providing her with appropriate clothing and jewelry for the dance. The turkeys only request that she not forget them and that the proof of this will be that she returns before the Sun Father returns from his sacred places. The girl agrees and hurries off to the dance.

As with most Cinderella's, she loses track of the time and is tardy in returning. On her return, she finds the turkeys have left and her fine clothes returned to rags. The turkeys refuse to communicate with tall people any longer. There is no happy ending for the Turkey Girl. I doubt the people the turkey's belonged to would be very kind to her, although the story does not provide any information about her life after the turkeys leave.

For parents or teachers who are looking to show a different side to the story, this would be a good addition to add to your study. The focus is not on marriage or looking for Prince Charming. The story is about loyalty, keeping your word, and not looking down on those who take care of you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Inchworm and a Half

I thought Inchworm and A Halfwas an interesting introduction to the English Measuring system. While the Metric system is based on ten, which is tied in to the counting we teach children in the early grades, the English system can be more challenging for children to understand.

Elinor J. Pinczes takes on the challenge by introducing the whole unit of an inch with an inchworm and then the fractional parts with the inchworm’s fellow worm friends. The inchworm starts out being thrilled with his ability to measure things that are whole inches because his body measures one whole inch. Then he hits a snag. A cucumber has a fractional piece left over and he is puzzled by the challenge of measuring it. It is then that he meets a half-inch worm and they head off to enjoy life, measuring things that are composed of whole and half inches.

Of course, they eventually have challenges that require a third and a quarter inch and as they do, they find worms who can help them meet those measuring challenges.

I have seen parents and teachers use yarn and paper to help children understand the various lengths in measurement, so worms seem like another creative way to engage children in thinking about the concept. This book would be a useful tool in engaging young readers in thinking about the English system of measurement.