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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Angkat The Cambodian Cinderella

Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderellais the first Cinderella tale I have read with an evil father. In most Cinderella tales, the father is dead or neglectful of the child once married. However, this is the first time I have seen a tale where the father participates in harming the Cinderella character.

Angkat is the daughter of a fisherman and as with most Cinderella tales he marries a widow who has a daughter. His wife wants her daughter to be first daughter so she devises a fishing contest. Her daughter Kantok cheats and leaves Angkat in the traditional Cinderella servant role. When Angkat realized her stepsister had cheated and she would lose because her sister only left her one small fish, Angkat released the fish back into the pond. This act begins a relationship between girl and fish. She shares her rice ration with the fish each day. Unable to allow her stepsister even a small bit of enjoyment, Kantok decides to capture the fish. Angkat is devastated at the fate of her fish and the Spirit of Virtue appears before her to ask her about her troubles.

He tells her to place the fish bones under her sleeping mat and in the morning, a surprise will await her. She does as requested and finds golden slippers where the bones were in the morning. The girl follows the Sprits advice to leave one slipper under her mat and one by the open window. If you have read enough Cinderella tales, you can guess the fate of the shoe by the window. A bird takes the slipper to the Crown Prince who of course wants to marry the girl who owns it.

Angkat's stepmother provides the standard impossible task to prevent her from getting to try on the slipper. She scatters rice across the field telling the girl she can attend when every piece has been found. With assistance from the chickens, she is able to home, change, and pick up the other golden slipper.

Marriage was not the end Angkat's problems. In this version, even her father is filled with envy. He writes to her husband that he is gravely ill and must see his daughter. When she arrives home, they begin treating her like a servant, ordering her to cook soup for her father. As she is working, the three work together and kill her with the cauldron.

After her death, the story gets a little more confusing. The stepmother attempts to install Kantok in the palace. When the parents return home, they find banana plant growing where they killed their daughter. The father hacks down the plant carrying into the forest. There it grows into a bamboo forest. During a hunting trip, the Prince encounters the bamboo and feeling comfort from it has it cut down and brought back to the palace. Eventually sensing his wife's presence, he begs the Spirit of Virtue to return his wife to him. While not immediately clear, based on the fact the author states the Prince and Angkat are crowned King and Queen; one is led to believe his request is granted.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Terrible Tales

Terrible Tales: The Absolutely, Positively, 100 Percent TRUE Stories of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Those Three Greedy Pigs, Hairy Rapunzel, ... and Gretel as Told at the Beginning of Time is a humerous retelling of the listed tales.

In a forward, the "author" Sir Jasper Gowlings explains how he is compelled by elfin law to share the stories given to him by Feliccitatus Miserius.

As someone who enjoys alternate fairy tales I was surprised at the convincing case they made for Cinderella being mean and the story not getting out because the Prince was equally horrid and people were glad they found each other to torture. The anarchist three pigs were original. I have seen a variety of defenses made for the wolves, but that was a new one for me. Hansel and Gretel provide a very new twist on the old tale. I thought Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel were the weakest of the tales.

My suggestion with all these kinds of stories is preview before using with children. Everyone is different in what evaluating what material is comfortable for use with children. These stories are definitely focused on an older age group than normally read folk tales. I plan on picking up a copy of this book as a gift, but these books are not quite as child friendly as some of the other alternate fairy tales I have reviewed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

That Awful Cinderella

Cinderella-Pov (Steck-Vaughn Point of View Stories)was one of the first Steck Vaughn Point of View books I encountered. I had been doing Fairy Tale trials for a while and I loved the idea of a series that incorporated similar ideas. I found nursery rhymes and fairy tales were a wonderful way to engage children in thinking about the other side of the argument. It works well for teaching compare and contrast and it helps develop early debating skills.

That being said this was not the strongest entry into the series. The stepmother in Seriously, Cinderella Is SO Annoying!: The Story of Cinderella as Told by the Wicked Stepmother (The Other Side of the Story)makes a convincing case that she never set out to hurt Cinderella. Sadly, in this version, the sisters make Cinderella's case with their complaints and insults towards her. I found it did open discussions about why the sisters were jealous and how a little effort could have provided them with a better outcome when Cinderella did marry the Prince.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Equal Shmequal

What do people mean when they say they want something to be equal? Equal Shmequalhelps children understand the mathematics involved in making a game of tug of war equal between a group of animals. The focus at first is on making things fair.

As the animals work through the math involved they realize that to make things fair they have to understand the math involved with the game. Numbers alone do not make for a balanced game of tug of war. One large creature can beat a much larger group of smaller creatures if he is stronger. As the animals continue to work on the problem, they also learn that balance is not alone enough to make an equal contest. Effort is another factor that plays into the contest.

I thought the strongest part of the book was watching the animals use the seesaw to try to balance out weight as a factor in creating balanced teams. The premise was a bit unrealistic. Children will find that teams and life are rarely completely fair and balanced as the theme of this book pushes. However, I did think using animals was an interesting way to introduce children to the idea that there is a difference between having numerical balance, the same number of animals, and weight balance. From the pictures, children can see that there is balance in the numbers, but clearly not balance in the outcome until the weights are balanced. Even then, when the bear does not try, the outcome is not as expected.