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Mio Yamato has a secret sword hidden in the attic. Her grandfather, Ojiichan, showed it to her when she was nine years old, He told her that the sword would be hers when she turns 16, but he made her promise not to touch it before then. Ojiichan planned to teach her about the katana, but he never got a chance, because the next day he died from a massive stroke.
All these years, Mio has avoided the sword as she promised her ojiichan, and kept it hidden away, even from the rest of her family. But when she needs a katana to complete her costume for a costume party a few days before her sixteenth birthday, she figures that she's close enough to 16 to take it. As soon as she touches the sword, though, strange things start happening. She feels an immediate connection to the sword; it's almost as if the sword is alive and speaking to her. Then a giant, catlike, many-tailed monster called the Nekomata appears. The Nekomata claims the katana, and threatens to kill everyone that Mio cares about to get it.
With a distinctive teen voice and an action-packed plot full of Japanese monsters, sword battles, Kitsune, and a super-hot 500 year old Japanese dude, The Name of the Blade is loaded with teen appeal. It should especially appeal to anyone who likes anime, Japanese folklore or culture, but there's so much Japanese influence in pop culture today that its appeal should be much broader than that.
The characters are interesting, well-rounded, and authentic teens. Mio is ethnically Japanese, but culturally she's a Londoner. Her ojiichan taught her Kendo and some Japanese folklore when he was still alive, but her father eschews his Japanese heritage, and Mio knows very little about Japan except for Kendo and anime. Mio's impulsiveness in taking the sword and her other early behavior show an immaturity that she starts to grow out of throughout the book, as she begins to take responsibility for the consequences.
Her best friend Jack (Jacqueline) is a bit of a rebel, with pink and purple streaked hair and black fingernails. Both girls get along with their families, although Mio's relationship with her father is somewhat strained. Shinobu, the 500-year-old Japanese boy, is mostly a one-note character, but his hotness more than makes up for that. He looks out for Mio, and yet I found it refreshing that he doesn't try to take the sword from her, even though they both have a claim to it, and he lets her take the lead in battle. (Although he does teach her a few things about combat).
There is also a young Kitsune (fox spirit) named Hikaru. The Kitsune are one of my favorite parts of this book. Apparently, there's a London court of Kitsune; how cool is that? Mio, Jack, and Shinobu get caught up in Kitsune politics when they visit the court to ask for assistance.
The plot is exciting but well-paced. The story alternates the big battle scenes with quieter moments and other challenges. It's quite an enjoyable read.
There are a few things that weren't explained, but since this is the first book in a trilogy, I hope that everything will be explained fully before the end.
The Name of the Blade does well on diversity. Besides Mio's Japanese heritage, Jack and her sister Rachel had a grandmother who came from Barbados, and they have brown skin. Jack is also a lesbian, which comes up a few times, but doesn't really play a role in the story, except when Jack has to tell a Kitsune who is sweet on her that he isn't her type. The girls are multifaceted personalities that are not defined by their ethnicity or sexuality.
Who would like this book:
Anyone with an interest in Japanese folklore, culture, martial arts, or anime. Anyone who likes stories where the contemporary world intersects with the fantastic.
FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.
My family often wonders about my propensity to jump from one seemingly unrelated topic to another, often within seconds. What they usually don't realize is that in my mind, the topics are connected; I've merely forgotten to fill them in on the links.
With that in mind, I offer you three new books on Russia that in my mind, are dramatically different and yet completely complementary. A young adult nonfiction book, a young adult fantasy, and a children's picture book —a microcosm of Russia in history, magic and dance.
You can read my review or any number of stellar reviews, but I will sum up by saying that whether you listen to the audio book or read the print copy, The Family Romanov is a fully immersive experience into the final years of tsarist Russia - the time, the place, and the tragically doomed family.
I was happily mulling over this excellent book when I immediately received an opportunity to review Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Brilliance Audio, 2014). I had received a galley copy of Egg & Spoon in the spring. I thought it looked intriguing, but hadn't had time to read it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a folklore fantasy that takes place - of all places - in tsarist Russia. I couldn't believe my good fortune. The book was enhanced by my recent reading of The Family Romanov. With the history of modern tsarist Russia fresh in my mind, the location and historical setting was vivid, leaving me more time to ponder the story's underpinning of Russian folklore, of which I was mostly ignorant. I knew little of the witch, Baba Yaga and her peculiar house that walks on chicken legs, and I knew nothing of the magical Russian firebird.
My reviews are linked here and here. Again, you can read my review or any other, but I will sum up by saying that Egg & Spoon is grand and magical - a metaphoric epic for readers from twelve to adult.
So there you have it, my serendipitous encounter with Russian history, folklore and culture. As our two countries struggle with our relationship, may we always remember that there is more to a country than its leaders and politicians. There is always us, the common people. And as Egg & Spoon and Firebird will show you, there is always hope.
Very Little Red Riding Hood
by Teresa Heapy; illus. by Sue Heap
Preschool Houghton 32 pp.
9/14 978-0-544-28000-7 $16.99
In this re-imagining, Little Red is a toddler. She’s affectionate, stubborn, imperious, and has no time for the intimidation techniques of the wolf. “No touch my cakes!” She hugs him, calls him Foxie, and proceeds to order him around. Grandmama has her doubts, but Little Red insists that Foxie be invited inside for tea and an exhausting round of preschooler activities. When Little Red succumbs to homesickness, the wolf demonstrates unexpected child-minder skills. Was he ever really a threat or did he just come with a bad rap and a sweet tooth? The sprightly, scribbly watercolor illustrations particularize the characters: Red with her every emotion front and center; game Grandmama in her yoga pants; and the wolf, stylish in a mohair overcoat and polka-dot scarf and increasingly confused by kindness. Varied type sizes give the reader-aloud lots of performance hints. Tantalizing red endpaper maps, locating the houses of Very Little Goldilocks and Very Little Cinderella, expand our knowledge of this fairy-tale world.
Maguire, Gregory. 2014. Egg & Spoon. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio. Read by Michael Page.
Can what we want change who we are?
Have patience and you will see.
Set in the tsarist Russia of the late 18th or early 19th century, Egg & Spoon is an enchanting mix of historical fiction and magical folklore, featuring switched and mistaken identities, adventurous quests, the witch Baba Yaga, and of course, an egg.
Narrator Michael Page is at his best as the self-proclaimed “unreliable scribe,” who tells the tale from his tower prison cell, claiming to have seen it all through his one blind eye. In a fashion similar to that of Scheherazade, spinning 1001 "Tales of the Arabian Nights," our narrator weaves fantastical stories together and wraps us in their spell.
Ekaterina and Elena are two young girls - one privileged, one peasant - yet so alike that their very lives can be exchanged. Page creates voices so similar that one can believe the subterfuge, yet the voices are also distinct - a necessity in a book written to respect the reader's (or listener's) ability to discern the flow of conversation without the constant insertion of "he said/she said."
One girl finds herself en route to see the tsar, a captive guest of the haughty and imperious Aunt Sophia on a train to St. Petersburg. The other finds herself a captive guest of the witch, Baba Yaga, and her curious home that walks on chicken legs. As Baba Yaga, Page is as wildly unpredictable as the witch herself, chortling, cackling, menacing, mothering.
Michael Page is wonderful. He brings each of author Gregory Maguire's many characters to life with a distinct voice. He never falls out of character, and his pacing is perfect - measured to keep the listener from being overwhelmed by the story's intricate plot.
Grand and magical, Egg & Spoon is a metaphoric epic for readers from twelve to adult.
Ginger Nielson tells a soothing folktale set deep in the forest. When Little Bear asks, “Where did the stars come from?” Mother Bear leans in closely to share a Native American legend from “the far, far north.”
Brave Chicken Little
retold by Robert Byrd; illus. by the reteller
Preschool, Primary Viking 40 pp.
8/14 978-0-670-78616-9 $17.99 g
The chick is not just a witless wonder in this expansion of the familiar folktale. Bopped on the head by an acorn, this Chicken Little does rush off to tell the king that “the sky is falling,” joined as usual by other barnyard fowl. However, the numbers are doubled here by the likes of Natty Ratty, Froggy Woggy, and Roly and Poly Moley. Once Foxy Loxy has locked the whole crowd in his cellar, our chick turns clever hero, rallying the other animals to help him escape so he can then free them. Then, realizing his initial misapprehension, he turns the tables: he drops apples on the fox, who runs off with his own foolish warning for the king. Thus Byrd upends both the classic tale’s conventions and its cautionary message; still, his revision works as an underdog-makes-good story, much abetted by his elegantly detailed illustrations. The lively action is undertaken by comical yet delicately limned creatures in fabulous ancien regime attire and a bucolic setting alive with animated trees and multitudes of insects and flora. With Chicken Little learning his lesson, this is an entertaining variant; it’s also one further from the earthy nature of the tale’s animal prototypes, a difference highlighted at the end when Mrs. Chicken Licken (like Peter Rabbit’s mother) tucks her weary and wiser son into his cozy, well-appointed bed.
Louise Bennett Coverley, ‘Miss Lou’, has for decades represented the ‘face’ of Jamaican culture, the essence of what it is to be Jamaican. As a poet, performer, storyteller, singer, actress, writer, broadcaster, folklore scholar and children’s television show host, she won hearts and souls for Jamaica with her humorous yet compelling performances worldwide. It is Miss Lou, more than any other figure in Jamaica’s history, who showed that the language spoken by most Jamaicans – patois or Jamaican Creole – is worthy of respect. In Miss Lou: Louise Bennett and Jamaican Culture, Mervyn Morris traces the life of this legendary Jamaican from early beginnings through to her local and international eminence, and discusses aspects of her work. A listing of recommended books and recordings is an added feature of this worthy biography of Miss Lou. Mervyn Morris is Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing and West Indian Literature at the University of the West Indies, Mona. He is the author of ‘Is English We Speaking’ and other essays (1999), Making West Indian Literature (2005) and six books of poetry, including I been there, sort of (2006). Ian Randle Publishers: https://www.ianrandlepublishers.com/miss-lou-louise-bennett-and-jamaican-culture.html
Treasury of Egyptian Mythology:
Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Monsters & Mortals
by Donna Jo Napoli; illus. by Christina Balit
Intermediate, Middle School National Geographic 192 pp. 10/13 978-1-4263-1380-6 $24.95
Library ed. 978-1-4263-1381-3 $33.90
As she did for her Treasury of GreekMythology (rev. 1/12), Napoli brings a storyteller’s art and a scholar’s diligence to the myriad “slippery, entangled” deities of ancient Egypt, a pantheon generated over millennia, its gods multiplying or merging in response to an evolving civilization. Skillfully structuring her narrative from early creation stories to the Third Dynasty scholar Imhotep (deified two thousand years after his death), she weaves a well-chosen sample of myths into a disarmingly informal narrative spiced with plausible dynamics (“Set wasn’t in his right mind. The maiden was luscious; he was hot-blooded. Blind to the trap”). A scrupulous care for words, for language, and for the ideas they reflect all shine here. Illustrator Balit gathers ancient Egyptian forms and motifs into dynamic compositions, animating postures and perspectives for double-page-spread portraits and action-filled vignettes and enriching her illustrations with the colors of river and desert, pots and stones — carnelian, turquoise, topaz, lapis lazuli. Excellent front and back matter includes annotated lists of gods, bibliographies of sources and recommended reading, an index, sources for photos of artifacts, and — best of all — Napoli’s cogent rationale for her narrative choices, including using Egyptian names (Aset, Usir) rather than the more familiar Greek (Isis, Osiris). Beautiful and indispensable.
You Can’t Have Too Many Friends!
by Mordicai Gerstein; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary Holiday 32 pp.
4/14 978-0-8234-2393-4 $16.95 g
e-book ed. 978-0-8234-3101-4 $16.95
This retold French folktale (“Drakestail”) stars a farmer duck who, in this absurdist version, is wealthy in the jelly beans he has grown. When the little-boy king “borrows” his jelly beans and doesn’t return them, Duck sets off on a quest to get them back. Along the way, he meets a large, friendly, shaggy green dog who “shrinks and hops into Duck’s pocket”; “Lady Ladder” who does the same; a burbling brook that Duck carries in his gullet; and some wasps transported in Duck’s ear. These new friends all come in handy when the king declines to give back the candy. Listening children will anticipate the role of each of Duck’s pals and will enjoy seeing the king’s nasty acts rightfully rewarded, especially when he’s chased naked out of his bathtub by the wasps. This is anything but a heavy-handed moral treatment, though — Gerstein’s pen-and-ink, acrylic, and colored-pencil illustrations employ a cheerful palette, with scribbly lines and dialogue bubbles. Each picture includes humorous details such as the web-footed claw bathtub and the queen’s fuzzy slippers. And in the end, the king makes reparations, sitting down to a jelly-bean feast with Duck and his odd group of friends.
With the release of our new book, “First Fire,” which is a retelling of a Cherokee folktale, we decided to sit down with storyteller, Lloyd Arneach, to find out more about the culture and the art of storytelling. Arneach is a longtime Native American storyteller that got his start in a rather interesting and unexpected way. He’s keen on Cherokee culture, having grown up in Cherokee, North Carolina, and learning from his family. Arneach spent about twenty years sharing the culture and history of his people at universities, museums and even Girl Scout meetings. Now he’s been a storyteller now for over twenty years and still has a lot of stories to be told.
Me: Can you tell me a little bit about how you first got involved with storytelling? What inspired you?
Lloyd: Well, I really backed into it! My late wife and I were living in Atlanta, and we had a babysitter who was in a Girl Scout troop. And she couldn’t find a book on Indians in the entire county library system. And she said, “wait a minute! I babysit for an Indian, maybe he can help me.” So she called me up and asked if I could help her and I said sure. She told me the requirements, and they were fairly simple and I said, “sure! But I’m going to have to come straight from work, I won’t have time to go home and change. Is that going to be a problem?” She said no, so the next Girl Scout meeting I came straight from work. I went in and sat down and the young girls looked at me and I could hear one of them say, “I don’t know where the Indian is but he’s going to be here pretty soon.” I was working as a computer programmer at that time and I was wearing a three-piece suit, so you don’t see many Indians in three-piece suits. I got up to talk and you could hear their jaws hitting the ground. She started calling other scout leaders who had the same problem in that county, they couldn’t find books on the Indians. I became a resource material as a result. Boy scouts started calling, and then schools started calling, and museums started calling. I was sharing primarily Cherokee culture and history at that time.
In 1985, I got a call from student at Georgia State University and she said she was in a Folklore class. Her assignment was to record stories from original tellers, and I said she would need to go to the reservation in Cherokee to find a storyteller. She said “no, you’d be fine!” So she came and recorded some stories, and I didn’t think anything about it. Then in ‘88 I got a call from Dr. John Burleson at Georgia State and he said “I teach the Folklore class here at Georgia State and our students have been collecting stories. And the stories we have recorded from you I’m going to be putting in a book with these others I have collected, and I’m calling all storytellers to be invited to a book signing. Would you be willing to come?” I said, well let me know. Well, in November of ‘88, we discovered my wife had a terminal brain tumor. It destroyed her motor capabilities and she couldn’t walk, she had very little control of her hands. But her mental capabilities were still there and her ability to communicate had not diminished. My father-in-law, my son, and I brought her home and someone was with her twenty-four hours a day. I was still working at that time, so I would go to work and my father-in-law and son would be taking care of her during the day and I would come home and I would relieve my father-in-law and he’d go fix supper and come back and relieve me while I ate supper. This is how it went until the spring of ’89. Dr. Burleson called me back and said “we’re going to have a book signing in September would you be willing to come?” And I talked to my wife, Charlotte, and she said “go ahead!” you know, I needed to get out of the house. Well, she passed away in the end of August in ’89 and I was doing everything I could to fill my time. So I went to the book signing and as I was taking a break, a lady came up to me and said “I’m Betty Ann Wylie and I’m a member of the Southern Order of Storytellers. We have a storytime festival in January, would you be willing to come and share your stories?” and I said “YES!” so in January of 1990, I started sharing stories. It was never something I intended to do.
So from 1970 to1990, I was just sharing Cherokee culture and history, but in 1990 I started sharing stories and I’ve been doing it ever since. So it was never something I intended to do, I literally backed into it.
It’s something I thoroughly enjoy, I had never really thought about it. I was a very introverted individual. My late wife brought me out of my shell. She taught me that people are interesting, but you have to talk with them to find out these interesting things about them. If you don’t talk, you don’t know. She was a very good people person; she had unbelievable people skills. She taught me to come out and enjoy people, and if she hadn’t done that I would have never agreed to do the first session in front of the girl scouts.
Me: How did you learn the stories? Who taught you?
Lloyd: I had two great uncles who were wonderful storytellers and at our family gatherings, Uncle George would tell a story and Uncle Dave would tell a story. It was like a tennis match! And without realizing it, I was learning the old stories of our people. And then my mother had Tuberculosis for two years and I went to live with my great uncle. My great aunt taught French at the University of Oklahoma, so we went out during the winter to Oklahoma where she teached University. My other aunt, my mom’s sister, was studying languages and lived on the cottage at Aunt Dell and Uncle George’s property. She and Aunt Dell would speak French. Well without realizing it, I was in second grade, I started picking up conversational French. So after the school year ended, we came back to Cherokee for the summer. I was walking through downtown Cherokee, after graduating from the second grade, and this tourist stopped me and said “Hau! You speak-a the English?” and I said “Bonjour! Comment ça va?” He called his wife over, “hey Gertrude! Get over here and listen to this kid speak Indian!” So that’s when I realized how much people really didn’t know about Indians, in second grade. So when I was going out sharing culture, I tried not to dress in the feathers and buck skin, because I realized the young people would think this is what an Indian looks like today. So I wanted to try to avoid that stereotype. Also not many people knew of an Indian who was a computer programmer – they don’t associate those two.
Me: Do you find that stories change over time since they are all learned through word-of-mouth?
Lloyd: The nucleus of the story stays the same, but each person uses different words. Some people might use very flowery descriptions of the “long winding trail to the sharp rock,” somebody else might say “he took the long trail up to the top of the mountain.” But still, the important essence was that he went to the top of the mountain.
Me: Which do you prefer? Do you prefer more flowery descriptions?
Lloyd: Not flowery, but I try and visualize the story as I’m telling it and describe what I see. I’m aware the audience may not be aware if I say “there were snake dens,” but if I say “there were Rattlesnake dens,” suddenly they’re realizing “oh my gosh! This wasn’t just a walk past snakes, but they were dangerous snakes!” and it pulls their attention into the story. I’m trying to keep the audience involved in the story. If I say, “Well, there were some Indian medicine right along the trail, that means nothing. If I say “there was kudzu” which we have learned to use for medicine, they say “oh!” and it’s a totally different approach to the story.
Me: Do you have a personal favorite story to tell?
Lloyd: Yes, Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce. A very moving story and for me, I have to have about an hour with the audience. And what I do when I first go into a program, I do a couple of stories and do a very quick read on the audience. And by “read,” I mean that when I tell a story, there may be a point in the story where the audience should react and they may laugh, but instead their response should be an “ohhh yes” and when I get that reaction I realize they don’t understand the story. And so I’ll switch to a different group of stories and they’ll never realize the program has changed in mid-stride. It’s just been garnered over years of sharing with different groups and seeing how they respond. One of the best pieces of advice came from an internationally known storyteller named Carmen Deedy, and she was really my first good mentor when I was coming up. She was very quick, she picked things up very very fast, a very intelligent woman. And we were talking, I was grousing about the programs I had and how I couldn’t get this one guy to pay attention. And she said “Lloyd, if there are a hundred people in the room and one person isn’t paying attention to you, why are you focusing on them? There are ninety-nine people who are hanging on every word, share with them. If the one person comes around, fine, but reward the ninety-nine people for their attention.”
That would save me so much heartache over the years, because it was obvious some people didn’t want to be there. “Storytelling? That’s for kids!” But I’d tell them, if you give me twenty minutes and an open mind, I will change the mind of any adult.
I’m seventy and I only have a few summers left where I can get out and travel on my own without someone attending me or worrying about me. So I’m cutting down a lot of my programs now, because there’s still things I want to do – I’ve still got my bucket list! And that involves traveling.
Me: Is there one thing you’d want younger generations to know about the Cherokee or storytelling?
Lloyd: Stories are meant to be shared. Share them. Everybody has stories. They might not realize it but everybody has stories.
If you’re interested in learning more about Lloyd Arneach, visit his webstie at www.arneach.com
Today's Picture Book Roundup features older winners of the Caldecott Medal.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
In addition to learning much that I didn't know about art, I had the opportunity to encounter or revisit some Caldecott Medal winners that predate my career as a librarian. I have been working in a library since 2005, and received my masters degree and first professional librarian position in 2007. The Caldecott Medal has been awarded since 1938. Clearly, I had a lot of catching up to do.
Though I did not read them all, I did read many older winners. Here are some of my favorites from the years prior to 1990:
(In order by publication date - award dates are the January following the publication year)
Langstaff, John. 1955.Frog Went A-Courtin'. New York: Harcourt Brace. Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky.
Richly detailed and expressive animals illustrate this favorite old folk song. (If you don't know the song, Frog Went A-Courtin', Burl Ives' rendition was a classic) This is my favorite of all the older Caldecotts.
Mosel, Arlene.1972. The Funny Little Woman. New York: Dutton. Illustrated by Blair Lent.
Humorous, with inventive illustrations, the funny little woman travels to a world beneath her simple home in Japan.
Yorinks, Arthur. 1986.Hey. Al. New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. Illustrated by Richard Egielski.
Generally disliked by most of my classmates, this quirky, surreal story about a man and his dog really grows on you.
Yolen, Jane. 1987. Owl Moon. New York: Philomel. Illustrated by John Schoenherr.
I have been fortunate enough to hear owls in the night many times, though the only ones I have been able to spot are the low-flying burrowing owls. In Owl Moon, the thrill of a night-time owling expedition is captured brilliantly in both illustration and prose.
Young, Ed. 1989.Lon Po Po:A Red-Riding Hood Story from China. New York: Philomel.
A masterpiece of danger, suspense and courage - a classic folktale. The only one of my picks written and illustrated by the same person, it's no surprise that it's a pitch-perfect pairing of text and art.
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Fiction Keywords: Slovakia, folklore, prejudice, bullying Format: Hardcover Source: Sent for review by Lee & Low
When Tomas was six, someone — something — tried to drown him. And burn him to a crisp. Tomas survived, but whatever was trying to kill him freaked out his parents enough to convince them to move from Slovakia to the United States.
Now sixteen-year-old Tomas and his family are back in Slovakia, and that something still lurks somewhere. Nearby. It wants to drown him again and put his soul in a teacup. And that’s not all. There’s also the fire víla, the water ghost, pitchfork-happy city folk, and Death herself who are after him.
If Tomas wants to survive, he'll have to embrace the meaning behind the Slovak proverb, So smrťou ešte nik zmluvu neurobil. With Death, nobody makes a pact.
I will admit, I was a little sidetracked by the cover when I first received this book. There's just something too unreal about Tomas's face and the cutesy reaper logo on his shirt. He's a little too smirky. When I finally started the book, there were all these references to movies and American culture that I felt were a bit gratuitous and designed to draw in the reluctant reader. I put the book down for a while.
When I started it a second time (months later), I couldn't put it down! I could understand the culture shock that Tomas was going through, having gone back to my homeland to live (permanently, or so I thought at the time) after spending a few years in America. I found myself trying to sound out the Slovak as I went along. Vodník definitely gets points for originality--this is pretty uncommon territory for mainstream young adult novels.
I really enjoyed the storytelling and characterization in this novel. After a few chapters it became apparent to me that this was much more than an attempt to be different--Moore really engages the reader not just with geek references and creepy folktales, but also with family dynamics. The way Tomas interacts with his parents, his cousin Katka, and Uncle Lubos grounds this fantastic story and made him relatable despite the far-out mythology surrounding him.
Rejoice, apple aficionados, for Johnny Appleseed Day approacheth soon...or maybe not for a while yet. See, some list this holiday's date as September 26th, on account of that's the birthdate, circa 1774, of one John Chapman, AKA Johnny Appleseed.
But, there are others who insist that Johnny Appleseed Day is instead celebrated on March 11th, on account of that's the date of his exit from this world. However, since his death date was never formally recorded, there is some dispute as to its accuracy, as some place his death date at March 18. Sources do agree, though, on his death year: 1845.
I say we celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day here at Bugs and Bunnies on March 11, for two reasons. One: it gives me something to write about this week. And two: the apples Johnny is said to have planted in his travels all those years ago were of the tart green variety (known as Rambo, for the inquisitive among us).
So, green apples; along with March being the month where Spring comes into its own, and all the plant shoots are coming up a lovely young green; along with March being the month of St. Patrick's Day, which is known for lots and lots of green with its shamrocks and wee folk and connection with Ireland and all...well, isn't the March date kind of a no-brainer?
It is for me, so let's begin:
Most folks know the general story of Johnny Appleseed, so how about we talk about some of the lesser-known stuff? (If you are not all that familiar with Mr. John Chapman, who literally became a legend in his own time, then clicking on any of the sources listed at the end of this article will catch you up nicely.)
Here are some interesting Johnny Appleseed tidbits I came across in my research:
From the time he set out on his apple-tree-planting journey, John Chapman, who was by 1806 known as "Johnny Appleseed," remained a wanderer the rest of his life.
Johnny first got his apple seeds from cider mills as he passed through eastern Pennsylvania. The mills gave away the seeds for free, as they were considered leftovers from the apple crushing process.
Johnny was a vegetarian, favored sleeping outdoors, and avoided to
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Doman, Regina. (2007) Black as Night: a fairy tale retold. Front Royal, VA: Chesterton Press. ISBN #978-0-9819-3182-1. Author recommends teens and adults. Litland.com recommends ages 15+.
Publisher’s Description: Blanche Brier entirely on her own this summer in New York City while Bear is wandering through Europe and her family is on vacation. Blanche is fast becoming the focus of a terrifying play of evil forces. Even the refuge she takes among some lively Franciscan friars does not protect her from dangerous attacks. Rather, they continue to escalate as she struggles to persuade a sick and aged man from killing himself. Discovering Blanche’s disappearance, Bear and Fish cut short their European vacation and join up with Rose to begin scouring New York City looking for Blanche. But the same malevolence that is lurking over Blanche seems to be hunting them as well and drawing them all togther into a death trap until it seems that all hope is gone. Yet during this time, the desires of Blanche’s heart are being clarified – and so are Bear’s.
A black night. Tested faith. Honest love.
I’ve read the first book in the series three times over the past dozen years and always enjoyed it. But I was pleased to finally get around to reading book 2. And wow! It immediately takes the reader into an assault and robbery of a girl on a train with subsequent chase through early morning New York until, just in the nick of time of course, she finds sanctuary… in a sanctuary. It reminds me of how Catholic churches were sanctuaries in the middle ages, and those being victimized could run through its doors declaring “sanctuary”, and be kept safe from harm. The learned or well-read mind automatically makes this connection, giving the story even more of a historical or fairy tale feel to it. Thanks to Doman’s almost poetic writing, the scene is far beyond normal. “The church stood a silent soldier against the slow destruction of the night.”
Slowly we are introduced to the characters both new and old. We know from book 1 they were bright, well-read, and funny in an intellectual way. Now the portrait of each is filled in with greater depth. Those familiar with book 1 wonder why Blanche isn’t telling these monks her history with “their church”. Doman’s style takes us in-and-out of past conversations, transitioning between past and present, moving between sets of characters so slowly we begin to understand the current situation that Blanche, Bear and Fish find themselves in.
In the process, we are given glimpses into how Bear and Blanche’s relationship grew into that awkward point where they try to decide if they will continue into the future together. Thus simultaneously we have the suspense of the mystery along with the agony of a relationship in limbo. Very unsettling, which makes for a book you cannot put down…
Just like the best written of mysteries, we have important characters come in and out of a scene, so watch not to miss them. Like the bag lady in black…what is she up to?
This story’s underlying theme of discernment doesn’t just pertain to Bear trying to discern his vocation in life. Blanche can discern she is in danger, being followed, her belongings rifled through. Brother Leon discerns the feeli
W. B. Yeats is usually seen as a great innovator who put his stamp so decisively on modern Irish literature that most of his successors worked in his shadow. R. F. Foster's new book, Words Alone: Yeats and his Inheritances, weaves together literature and history to present an alternative perspective.
This striking book takes a very interesting approach to the subject of hummingbirds (which, incidentally, make up the second-largest group of birds in the Americas.) It combines factual information with folktales. And quilts! When I first held this book in my hand, I felt like I was looking at one of those trick pictures with two images. When you look at the picture above, what do you see first
Wallis, Michael. (2011) The Wild West: 365 days. New York, NY: Abrams Press. ISBN 978-0810996892 All ages.
Publisher’s description: The Wild West: 365 Days is a day-by-day adventure that tells the stories of pioneers and cowboys, gold rushes and saloon shoot-outs in America’s frontier. The lure of land rich in minerals, fertile for farming, and plentiful with buffalo bred an all-out obsession with heading westward. The Wild West: 365 Days takes the reader back to these booming frontier towns that became the stuff of American legend, breeding characters such as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Author Michael Wallis spins a colorful narrative, separating myth from fact, in 365 vignettes. The reader will learn the stories of Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley; travel to the O.K. Corral and Dodge City; ride with the Pony Express; and witness the invention of the Colt revolver. The images are drawn from Robert G. McCubbin’s extensive collection of Western memorabilia, encompassing rare books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, including Billy the Kid’s knife.
This is one of the neatest books I’ve seen in a long time. The entire family will love it. Keep it on the coffee table but don’t let it gather dust!
Every page is a look back into history with a well-known cowboy, pioneer, outlaw, native American or other adventurer tale complete with numerous authentic art and photo reproductions. The book is worth owning just for the original pictures. But there is more…an index of its contents for easy reference too! Not only is this fun for the family, it is excellent for the school or home classroom use too. A really fun way to study the 19th century too and also well received as a gift. I highly recommend this captivating collection! See for yourself at the Litland.com Bookstore.
Nordhielm Wooldridge, Connie. (2011) Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek of Boyds Mill Press. ISBN 978-1-59078-710-6. (26 pgs) Author recommends grades 4-6; Litland adds excellent for younger advanced readers.
Publisher’s Description: Change. Who needs it? We do! Mr. John Slack, the keeper of a tavern beside a rutted dirt road in the early 1800s, thought things were just fine the way they were. So did Lucius Stockton who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid 1800s. So too, did the owners of the railroads when the first model T appeared in 1908. Yet with each new innovation, Americans were able to move around the country more quickly, efficiently, and comfortably. Connie Woolbridge offers an informative, yet light-hearted look at how the dirt roads of the early 1800s evolved into the present-day U.S. highway system. Richard Walz’s gorgeous paintings capture both the broad sweep and the individual impact of change and progress.
What a great overview of American history focused on transportation! Told in a folky style, the narrator’s storytelling voice reminds us of sitting on the front porch and listening to elders of the family recount the same stories over and over again. And even though we already knew the story, we enjoyed hearing it once more. Only for 8-11 year olds, these stories will be new :>)
Just Fine the Way They Are has lots of potential uses:
* reluctant readers, particularly boys, will find an easy and entertaining style holding their attention.
* a discussion tool for talking about feelings or conflict, making it great for family book clubs or class discussions.
* illustrations are brilliantly eye-catching—I was sitting in a diner reading this, and the waitress walked over saying “What a cute book!”. As such, it would surely keep the students’ attention if read to the class, whether reading to a traditional classroom or homeschool kids around the dining table.
* While intended for 4th, 5th & 6th grades, it also would be great for accelerated students writing their first book report.
An added touch: it comes complete with a historic timeline, bibliography, and list of relevant websites. Plus the author (a former elementary school librarian) has lesson plans on her website too (see http://conniewooldridge.com/ )! This is one of those unique books that provide diversity on the bookshelf, catching the eye of the reader looking for something a bit different, and being enjoyed many times over :>) Pick up a copy at our Litland.com Bookstore!
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