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There were many books on vampires before Bram Stoker's Dracula. Early anthropologists wrote accounts of the folkloric vampire -- a stumbling, bloated peasant, never venturing far from home, and easily neutralized with a sexton’s spade and a box of matches. The literary vampire became a highly mobile, svelte aristocratic rake with the appearance of the short tale The Vampyre in 1819.
I’m a sucker for fairy-tale and folklore retellings, and a major sucker for selkie lore…so I had very high hopes for animated film Song of the Sea (Cartoon Saloon, December 2014), directed by Tomm Moore (whose The Secret of Kells was a 2009 Best Animated Feature Academy Award nominee) and cowritten by Moore and William Collins. I wasn’t disappointed — in fact, my expectations were far surpassed. And I’m not alone in my enthusiasm: Song of the Sea has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 98% and was nominated for this year’s Best Animated Feature Award.
Set in contemporary Ireland, the film begins on a craggy island with a lighthouse. The lighthouse-keeper Conor’s wife Bronagh (Lisa Hannigan) is expecting a baby, and their young son Ben is excited to meet his new sibling. Bronagh assures Ben that he will be “the best brother ever” and tells him a bedtime story about the god Mac Lir — myth and legend are clearly a comfortable part of their everyday lives. That night, Bronagh’s labor begins, and in distress, she runs into the sea and does not return. Conor discovers the baby girl, wrapped in a white selkie skin, on the beach.
On Saoirse’s (pronounced “Seer-sha”) sixth birthday, she sneaks out of bed and discovers the child-sized selkie’s coat. She dons her coat and — now with the ability to assume a seal’s form — goes for a joyful midnight swim, scaring the wits out of her family in the process. The children’s overbearing Granny insists that the island is not safe for Saoirse, and dad Conor regretfully agrees; Granny takes them to her home in the city.
Ben (David Rawle) is determined to get back to the island and to his endearingly goofy sheepdog Cú; Saoirse longs to return to the sea. The siblings set out for home, soon encountering some (also endearingly goofy) fairies who tell them that the goddess Macha is turning supernatural beings into stone, and only Saoirse can undo Macha’s magic with her selkie’s song. But since Saoirse is growing weak far from the ocean — not to mention that she doesn’t talk yet, let alone sing — this is a tall order. Now with added urgency, Ben and Saoirse (eventually reunited with Cú) continue their quest. They come across many figures from Celtic mythology, including the not-so-bad-after-all Macha, along the way.
In both story line and its execution, the movie does a remarkable job of intertwining specific threads of Celtic mythology and folklore with universal human themes. The relationship between dad Conor — still very much mourning the loss of Brongah and afraid he will lose Saoirse to the sea as well — and Granny, for instance, parallels that between the grieving god Mac Lir and his mother Macha; the similarities of their dynamics are echoed in the characters’ appearances, personality traits, and voices (Conor and Mac Lir are both voiced by Brendan Gleeson, Granny/Macha by Fionnula Flanagan).
And the film is just gorgeous. The animation is lush, inviting, and masterful — fans of Miyazaki’s work will find plenty to love here — with many traditional Celtic visual motifs subtly worked in. Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell) does not speak for the majority of the film, but she doesn’t need to: her small face and big eyes are incredibly expressive. Rounding out the lovely presentation is an original score by composer Bruno Coulais and Irish folk band Kíla.
Song of the Sea has a very limited theatrical release, so it may be difficult to find at a theater near you (although I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen if you can). Happily, it’s out on DVD and iTunes today! And if you’re lucky enough to be close to The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, you can check out the exhibit “Songs and Secrets” — featuring concept art from Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells — through June 21.
Life was harsh for the country people who told this story to relieve the cruel reality of their daily existence.
Hansel and Gretel encounter abandonment, fear, hunger, cannibalism, and magic...they are lost in a cruel world of kill or be killed.
The children must rely on their own courage and ingenuity to survive and prevail.
Welcome to the world of the wonder tale.
Wonder Tales before the Grimms
During the reign of Louis XIV, cultural endeavors in all the arts were encouraged and highly regarded in the court of Versailles. Writers, including Moliere, Racine and Marais, were respected and often admired. Ideas were in the air in the salons of Paris and in the court itself.
Marina Warner, edited The Wonder Tales, Six French Stories of Enchantment, introducing the reader to the European birth of the fairy tale and making a case for calling then tales of wonder. Among the writers with stories included are Charles Perrault, Marie-Catherine D'Aulnoy and Henriette- Julie De Murat. Perrault was perhaps the most influential, if one considers the stories (from folk tales) he published under the title, The Tales of Mother Goose. These eight stories included Cinderella, Blue Beard, Little Red Riding hood, and the Sleeping Beauty in the Woods.
Here are excerpts from the Oxford University Press overview of the book...
"Once upon a time, in the Paris of Louis XIV, five ladies and one gentleman-- all of them aristocrats-- seized on the new enthusiasm for "Mother Goose Stories" and decided to write some of them down. Telling stories resourcefully and artfully was a key social grace, and when they recorded these elegant narratives they consciously invented the modern fairy tale as we still know it today."
Heroes and heroines are put to mischievous tests, and their quest for love is confounded when their objects of desire change into beasts or monsters. Still, true understanding and recognition of the person beneath the spell wins in the end, for after wonder comes consolation, and after strange setbacks comes a happy ending. In Wonder Tales, a magical world awaits all who dare to enter."
The illustration of Blue Beard is by Gustav Dore.
Good but Grimm Bedtime Reading
Mary Leland, in theIrish Examiner, has written a most insightful and interesting article on folktales and myths and the life and times of the Brothers Grimm. She also writes about Jack Zipes and the significance of his recent translation of the original version of Children's and Household Talesby the Brothers Grimm.
Here is an excerpt from the beginning of her excellent article:
"Many readers may argue with the poet Schiller’s assertion that ‘Deeper meaning resides in the fair tales told to me in my childhood that in the truth that is taught by life.’ Even so, perhaps those same readers will admit that the belief, quoted in Bruno Bettelheim’s master-work ‘The Uses of Enchantment’ (1976) has some validity.
They will certainly do so if they acknowledge the staying power of the fairytales told or read to them in childhood, and if they remember that strange hinterland in which mystery, search, loss, redemption and triumph still bring some imaginative consolation to the perceived injustices of the very young.
The fact is, as Jack Zipes discusses in his fascinating anthology, fairy tales incorporate the truth that is taught by life...."
The illustration of the Elves and the Shoemaker is by George Cruickshank.
The Grimm's Wonder Tales Sweep England in the Nineteenth Century
David Blamires, in a very comprehensive and rather scholarly article for Open Book Publishers, details the impact on readers in England of the Edgar Taylor translation (1823) of the Grimm's original Childrens and Household Tales. The article provides both overview and details of the English versions throughout the 18th Century. Blamires credits the illustrations by George Cruikshank as being very important to to wide popular acceptance.
"Without a shadow of doubt the single most important German contribution to world literature is the collection of traditional tales made by the Brothers Grimm and first published in two small volumes in 1812-15. It outshines Goethe’s Faust and such twentieth-century classics as Mann’s Death in Venice or Kafka’s The Trial by virtue of an infinitely greater readership. Not only have the tales been translated in whole or in part into virtually every major language in the world, but they have generated countless new editions and adaptations and become the cornerstone of the study of folktales not only in Germany, but throughout the world...
When Edgar Taylor made the first translation of the Grimms into English as German Popular Stories, translated from the Kinder und Haus Märchen, collected by M.M. Grimm, from oral tradition (London: C. Baldwyn, 1823), the fairytale as a genre was very much in the grip of the French. Of course, such truly English fairytales as ’Jack the Giant-killer’, ’Whittington and his Cat’, ’Tom Hickathrift’, ’Tom Thumb’ and ’Jack and the Beanstalk’ had circulated in chapbooks, but English tales were not systematically collected until later. It was the fairytales of Charles Perrault, Madame d’Aulnoy and Madame Leprince de Beaumont that dominated the scene..." The illustrations of Rapunzel and Cinderella are by George Cruickshank.
Born Without A Tail Returns
The enhanced second edition of Born Without A Tale, by C.A. Wulff will be published later this month by Barking Planet Productions. The book is a heartwarming life journey memoir by of Wulff's never ending rescues, healings, and adventures with a melange of dogs and cats.
Here's a description of the first edition from Amazon:
When your home has a revolving door for abused and abandoned animals, keeping pets takes on a whole new dimension! Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-rending, Born Without a Tail chronicles the true-life adventures of two animal rescuers living with an ever-changing house full of pets. The author takes us on a journey from childhood through adulthood, sharing tales, (mis)adventures and insights garnered from a lifetime of encounters with a menagerie of twenty remarkable animals.--
And here is an abridged sample of a review...there are many more on Amazon :
"I can't say too much about this book, it's more than a 'dog book' it's a people, animals, life book. I was hooked from the first page and read it straight through... The writer has a great way of drawing you in, making you at home in her world. Anyone who's ever had a heart dog, a misfit cat, ever been touched by the love of an animal should enjoy this book. It's a keeper." -- Bookpleasures.com
Lost Wonders Found In An Immersive Theatrical Experience
Imagine walking into a warehouse converted into an environment of wonder where you find clairvoyant ravens, a runaway princess, and elves with magic powers. I discovered all of this is happening in London when I read a recent post by Kristenin her Tales of Faerieblog. Here is an excerpt...
Reviewers seem overall very impressed with the play, especially the format. Instead of an audience sitting in chairs in an auditorium, they follow the characters through a large warehouse with different sections set up as each fairy tale. Props to the creators of this play for not only staying faithful to the Grimm fairy tales, but introducing audiences to lesser known tales, such as "Faithful Johannes" and "The Three Little Men in the Woods" (which seems to be the audience favorite)."
In the words of Philip Wilson (Director & Adapter) of this theater piece:
"I love the fact that, in German, these are known as 'wonder tales' rather than the more twee term 'fairy tales': and so audiences coming to the Bargehouse will find themselves plunged into a parallel universein which extraordinary adventures happen - and the darker side of these stories will come to light..."
Paws Giving Independence (PGI) is a multi-faceted, grass roots organization, located in Peoria, Illinois, that does wonderful work in providing service dogs for people with disabilities. Their dogs serve people ranging from the Jesse Brown Veteran's Hospital in Chicago to the Peoria Children's Home Youth Farm.
The photo on the left is of Monty, who recently had his first day of school with his new friend, the young girl in the photo. They are both in fourth grade. Monty now lives with her in her home, and they go everywhere, including the school bus, together.
Monty was trained by a Bradley University student as part of the Wags for Mags program, initiated by Paws Giving Independence (photo on the right).This ongoing program of student volunteers works directly with people and training the dogs for service. Anyone with a disability can apply for a PGI service dog. Saturday, June 6, 2015, is the day for PGI's Running With The Dogs Day.
Dogs As Healers in the Planet Of The Dogs Series
In the first book in the Planet Of The Dogs we are introduced to Bella, the healer lady of Green Valley. And it is through Bella that people have their first experience with dogs as healers...the first Therapy Dogs. Here is an excerpt...
"The next morning, just as daylight brightened their home, Tomas and his family had another visitor, Bella, the healer lady. Bella helped the people of Green Valley when they were having babies, or when they were sick. She had a large garden of flowers and herbs that she used when healing people. All the people in Lake Village, including Omeg, liked her and respected her. Bella had been dreaming of the dogs and understood the reason they had come to Planet Earth.
Before Bella reached the house, Robbie and Buddy, who now slept in the barn, sensed her arrival and ran up the road to greet her. The family was happy to see her and to find that she welcomed the dogs. They were surprised that Bella was so comfortable with Buddy, who lay at her feet while she sat at the table drinking a refreshing cup of mint tea. Bella had an even bigger surprise for everyone. She said, “From my dreams, I have learned that the dogs can help me in my work. I know they have the power of love and the power to help people heal,” she said. Tomas and Sara looked at her in amazement. Daisy and Bean were not so surprised. Then Bella said, “I want to take the little dog to visit Delia, the sad one...”
For sample chaptersfrom Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale -- and more information about all of our Barking Planet books -- visit our Planet Of The Dogs website.
Free copies of the Planet of The Dogs book series for therapy dog organizations, individual therapy dog owners, and librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs...simply send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"In PLANET OF THE DOGS, Robert McCarty weaves an enchanting story that will delight the young reader as well as the young reader's parents or grandparents. Parents and grandparents should be forewarned, however, that their young readers will be pleading with them unrlentingly for a visit to Green Valley." Warner V. Slack MD, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Father, Grandfather ..............................
All Barking Planet Productions Books are available on the internet at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other booksellers -- as well as your local independent bookstore.
LitWorld and World Read Aloud Day
LitWorld brings literacy, reading, books, and empowerment to disadvantaged children.
LitWorld celebrated their annual World Read Aloud Dayon March 5th.
"World Read Aloud Day allows members of our year-round programs to invite more people into their literacy community and brings LitWorld’s messages to the rest of the world. World Read Aloud Day is now celebrated by over one million people in more than 80 countries and reaches over 31 million people online. The growth of our movement can be attributed in large part to our network of partner organizations and “WRADvocates” – a group of reading advocates and supporters taking action in their communities and on social media."
Visit their website and learn more about their wonderful work: LitWorld
The Wind In The Willows
"But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties."--Kenneth Grahame, The Wind In The Willows; Illustration, E.H. Shephard
I was drawn to read this book.
TheMotherless Child Projectis terrific and timely. The central character, Emily Amber Ross, a 16 year old girl, is bright, interesting, conflicted, and very likable. The fact that she lives in a home where there can be no mention of her mother and her childhood becomes a driving force in her life. The story builds into a suspenseful, compelling, poignant rush of events. The ending is exciting and satisfying. I would think that word of mouth will be significant. In addition to being an excellent, and meaningful read -- The Motherless Child Project would make a great YA crossover movie.
Laura Miller, in Salon, conducted an excellent interview with Maria Tatar on the occasion of the publication of The Turnip Princess. Here is an excerpt:
What do you in particular find so compelling about this form?
"What I really love about fairy tales is that they get us talking about matters that are just so vital to us. I think about the story of Little Red Riding Hood and how originally it was about the predator-prey relationship, and then it becomes a story about innocence and seduction for us. We use that story again and again to work out these very tough issues that we have to face. My hope is that this volume will get people talking about not just the stories and the plot but the underlying issues.
Milan Kundera has this quote in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” about painting that goes something like: Painting is an intelligible lie on the surface, but underneath is the unintelligible truth. Folktales are lies, they misrepresent things, and they seem so straightforward and so deceptively simple in a way. It’s the unintelligible truth beneath that’s so powerful, and that’s why we keep talking about them. They’re so complicated. We have a cultural compulsion about folklore. We keep retelling the stories because we can never get them right." Illustration by Lancelot Speed
"He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him;”
“It is only with the heart that one can see clearly, for the most essential things are invisible to the eye.” ― Hans Christian Anderson, The Ugly Duckling
Animated Movies and Inspiration from Tales of Wonder
Last year (2014), the Oscarfor the best animated film -- Frozen -- was "inspired" by Hans Christian Anderson's classic story, The Snow Queen. In addition to substantive story changes, this Disneyfantasy removes the dark fear and danger of the original and substitutes dazzling animation, fast pacing, and romantic gloss. Frozen has a sound track of soaring romantic music. the film also won an Oscar for best song:Let It Go.
Disney achieved their goal. In addition to recognition by their peers in winning the Oscars, the film has been extremely popular and made a great deal of money, grossing $1,274,219,009. That figure represents an incredible number of children and adults experiencing the Disney version of the story.
Here is an excerpt from Anderson'soriginal Snow Queen, which, unlike the film, I find permeated by a sense of the ominous, of danger and events beyond control...
"There stood poor Gerda, without shoes, without gloves, in the midst of cold, dreary, ice-bound Finland. She ran forwards as quickly as she could, when a whole regiment of snow-flakes came round her; they did not, however, fall from the sky, which was quite clear and glittering with the northern lights. The snow-flakes ran along the ground, and the nearer they came to her, the larger they appeared. Gerda remembered how large and beautiful they looked through the burning-glass. But these were really larger, and much more terrible, for they were alive, and were the guards of the Snow Queen... but all were dazzlingly white, and all were living snow-flakes."
Hopefully, many more children, having experienced the Disney version, will be drawn to read the original.
Illustration of the original Snow Queen is by Vilhelm Pedersen.
Little Red Riding Hood...There are many versions and many interpretations in film, TV, theater and illustration of Little Red Riding Hood. The story had a major role last year in Disney'sproduction of Into The Woods, a film inspired by a popular Broadway musical.
On a more modest scale, Cale Atkinson, a talented young Canadian illustrator, created a delightful short animated version (1:37) of Red Riding Hood on Vimeo.
Disney's Big Hero
This year, Big Hero 6 , also a Disney film, has won the Oscar for best animated film. This time , inspiration for the film was inspired by a Marvel comic story. The film is a significant departure from the original. Humor, imagination and outstanding animation bring Hiro, a brilliant teenage robotics inventor, Baymax his robot, and the fantasy future world of San Fransokyo to fun-filled life.
Disney, through the collaboration between Winnie the Pooh director Don Hall, and Chris Williams,director of Bolt, succeeded in adding charm and fun to the original premise; as a result, Big Hero 6 found a large audience worldwide: $546,225,000 (this figure will grow with winning the Oscar).
Cinderellaback and, once again, has a cruel stepmother ... If Kate Blanchett was my cruel stepmother, I would be most grateful if Helena Bonham Carter was my fairy godmother -- especially if Kenneth Branagh was my director. This comment is based on watching the trailer for Cinderella - the next Disney movie.
See for yourself: Cinderella Trailer...and listen to the soaring music.
The advance reviews suggest this Cinderella will please and delight young girls and their families. Personally, I'm still marveling at the movie created by Linda Woolverton, Robert Stromberg, and Angelina Jolie in Malificent, inspired by Sleeping Beauty.
Alison Flood writes about the drop in popularity of JRR Tolkien'sbooks in the UK in an article for the Guardian. The article suggest that movies have been a primary influence in the reading choices of UK students. Perhaps Peter Jackson's Tolkien-based films don't inspire readers. Here are excerpts...
"Annual What Kids Are Reading report sees dystopian fantasy and larger-than-life comedies dominate...
JRR Tolkien’sfantasy novels have been elbowed out of the annual lineup of the most popular books for schoolchildren by a deluge of dark dystopias and urban fantasies.
The seventh What Kids Are Reading report, which analyses the reading habits of over half a million children in over 2,700 UK schools, revealed today that Tolkien’s books have dropped out of the overall most popular list for the first time since the report began six years ago. In previous years, Tolkien’s titles have featured within the chart’s top 10 places, mostly among secondary-school children.
Instead, this year in secondary schools the most popular title was John Green’s tale of a heartbreaking teenage romance, The Fault in Our Stars, followed by two dystopian stories: Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire, from the Hunger Games series, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent, set in a world where people are classified according to their personality traits...."
Nancy Houser posted an informative article in Way Cool Dogs on Separation Anxiety in Dogs. To people who don't know dogs, this may sound a bit over the top. Dog owners, however, will appreciate this fact-filled article.
"Separation anxiety in dogs is that dreadful moment as they fall apart in front of our eyes as we walk out the door, leaving them … alone. We could be be having a medical emergency, a day of shopping, a day of hard work, an exhausting afternoon at the grocery store … or maybe even a quick trip outside to check our mail. And truthfully, it does not matter. Every situation becomes a period of hell for dogs with separation anxiety, an animal who is a social animal that needs a lot of companionship.
Where and when we go does not matter; what matters is the fact that we are gone and they are not. They are at home, and alone. Mother Teresa once said, “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” She was speaking of humanity, of course, but current dog studies are proving that dogs not only have intelligence but similar emotions and emotional disorders as we do, and should be treated as such.
What is canine separation disorder?
According to dog experts, canine anxiety is divided into three different categories:
Canine separation disorder is considered to be one of the most common causes of behavioral problems in dogs..."
The article continues to analyze of canine anxiety disorders; Read more:Separation Anxiety. The illustration is by Nancy Houser
The Wonders of Reading for Children
An excerpt from Neil Gaimon's impassioned presentation on the importance of libraries, books and reading:
"There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.
Well-meaning adults can easily destroy a child's love of reading: stop them reading what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that you like, the 21st-century equivalents of Victorian "improving" literature. You'll wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and worse, unpleasant..."
This link, Neil Gaimon, will take you to all of this excellent presentation as reprinted in the Guardian. Illustration of Tom Thumb by Alexander Zick.
“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin
How To Greet A Dog...and How Not To Greet A Dog (or cat)....
Unlearn polite human greeting behaviors … greet a dog or cat safely...Here is an excerpt and link to an article by Anna Nirva...
Yesterday at the shelter where I volunteer, a group of new volunteers were being led through the dog kennel room as part of a shelter volunteer orientation tour. I was returning a dog to a kennel after a walk, and several of the volunteers left the group to investigate the dog as I was leading him toward his enclosure. Two well-meaning people quickly approached the young dog straight-on, with hands outstretched, staring directly into the eyes of the shelter dog. Chief, the dog, a young, sensitive coonhound mix, feeling threatened, immediately moved through the open gate to the back of the kennel with his tail tucked and head lowered. “What’s wrong with him?” one of the new volunteers asked.
I had just found the topic for my weekly post...
In the western world, we are taught at an early age to greet new people by approaching them with upright posture, looking directly into their eyes and offering a hand to shake or squeeze. It becomes second nature to us, so as a result, many of us animal lovers greet every living thing–except bugs–using those same “good manners.”...
We must UNLEARN that set of social rules to avoid frightening dogs, cats, and other animals... read it all on SunBear Squad
The illustration from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty
" You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us." -- Robert Louis Stevenson
It's striking, in all of my reading the fairy lives in this 'in-between' place. Most would say "I have never seen one, but I believe they have a place on this earth.". I'm paraphrasing of course, but that's the gist.
Interesting. There are definitely those who believe in them, and those that do not, but most fall in the middle. The history of fairies is also of that, they are in the middle. Neither heavenly, nor demonic, just either stuck or thrown out and left to hide.
It started as a romance. I was drawn to the beauty and mystical qualities of the fairy. They appeared to be one with nature, dance on air, and talk to animals. As a child I wanted all of this. I was swooned in. As I grew older I discovered their magic, their power, and the mists of Avalon. There was sensuality and mystery.... all that I thought was stronger and more valuable than anything else I had encountered.
When I first experienced magic I was astonished and thought I had the same power that the fairies had. When I believed I could conjure fire in my own hand out of nothing I thought I could BE someone, or something. I truly believed they were all around hiding and waiting to find the right time to reveal themselves to me. I worked so hard to make them think I was worthy enough for them.
I believed fairies were elemental workers of the earth. They were misunderstood, agents for our environment, spoke to us through runes and other natural tools (fire, water, air, stones, etc.). I thought by being an ambassador for them I was helping the earth and thus my own heart. I thought I was fighting for a better place in this world so full of pain, hate, and disregard for the tree spirit I talked to every day at school. I never saw anyone standing up for them quite like the fairies. Of course I sounded crazy to many.
The Reality Sets In
With most of my experiences, when I came into contact with a fairy or spirit, it was unpleasant and always made my depression worse. Something so beautiful didn't prevent me from thoughts and attempts of suicide, they didn't make me feel valued, loved, or gifted. This isn't to blame the craft and to say it caused these, but it didn't help either, and I thought it would.
In my early adult life I was asked many questions about my faery tradition practices and witchcraft. In an attempt to answer, I began to notice how much of a religion it all was, how it was similar to other religions. A group of people, a hierarchy, priests, elders, book of stories, etc. I had myself convinced it was different, but now not so much. I started to attend a church through a relationship and, although I had MANY negative thoughts and accounts about Christians and the religion, I left my heart open. I was desperate, in pain, stuck, and at my lowest. I fled the paganism and jumped on board. How???
It's simple, all I wanted was to feel loved, to be an agent of the earth, and to freely use my gift for good. I had seen so many testimonies of the love people felt when they gave their life to God, to Jesus, I wanted it too. In my circles, I saw SO many people depressed, searching but never finding, and always wanting to gain more. In my experience I never met a witch who was at peace with who she was in her heart. I know they are out there, but it made me wonder and question from my own perspective.
Because of the mystery found in fairies and their folklore, I can now enjoy and experience the mystery found in the Bible and in God. Because of the belief I had in something unseen before, I can believe in Jesus. Because of my romantic lure into fairytales, I can read the Bible and see my prince, play the princess, and be the warrior on a horse fighting battles.
What I Believe Now
I was given this imagination from the start. I would run around in the backyard pretending I could talk to animals, connect with a tree and learn it's secrets, and fly. I would imagine running then taking off and flying just to fall asleep each night. I have always been drawn to the world of magic, mystery, and ethereal. So why, then, would that go away the moment I started to follow Jesus?
Why would I be given this imagination only to not use it? To deny it? That doesn't make sense. Not with the God that I know.
I wrestled with fairies for a long time after I began studying the Bible. There was nothing to guide me away, or anything that alarmingly stood out telling me to stop, drawing fairies. I read once somewhere that Brian Froud put wings on his fairies as an expression to who they were. To their personality. This resonated with me, and it's part of how I see fairies.
They are expressions of the earth, it's elements, it's spirit, and to aid in the belief that there is more out there than what we see. They are part of our imagination to get us wondering, to see outside the box, and to question.
They exist because we want them to exist. Are they as real as the flower I hold? I don't believe they are real like that. But what that flower does to your senses is what I believe a fairy can do, and that is where they are real.
Fairies represent vitality, freedom, expression, the possibilities, the unknown, wonder, beauty, humor, fears, and even what haunts us.
Interestingly fairies are more like a bridge in my opinion. They are that bridge between real and imaginary. They can bring you closer to God BECAUSE you are free to imagine and wonder. They can bring you closer to nature BECAUSE you're gardening to make a creative fairy garden. They can open up possibilities BECAUSE they are the stuff of magic and give us hope.
Angels are referenced as stars throughout the Bible and spirits of light. Fairies are accompanied by auras of light and twinkling 'fairy dust' about them. They are a reminder of my home, heaven, and the imagination God has given.
Fairies are a sensitive, but intriguing subject. I come from a background of spell casting, fairy seeking, séances, horned gods/goddesses, priestess', and a mountain of metaphysics.
I describe that because I want you to hear that I studied fairies. My senior project in college was about fairy folklore and the Celts. I was VERY interested in being a high priestess in the occult, and according to many whom I spent my time with, I was well on my way.
Then Jesus grasped my heart and pulled me up for air. To my surprise, this was a very quick, rather simple and easy transition. Except for a few bumps. One was my belief in fairies.
Now where did the fairy stand? This is what I paint, what I love to paint. What do I believe about them now? What do YOU believe about them?
Brian and I were talking about the origins of fairies this past Saturday during a small road trip. I forgot how excited and interested I am in their history, and I hadn't really looked into it again since college. Re-reading about them has sparked my interest as a Christian, and as a professional artist of the fairytale.
This is part one. How many parts will this discussion have? I don't know. Yet I'm so mystified by being a Christian, painting fairies, and all of the gray in the middle, that I can't leave it be.
One Christian belief held that fairies were a class of "demoted" angels. One popular story described how, when the angels revolted, God ordered the gates of heaven shut: those still in heaven remained angels, those in hell became demons, and those caught in between became fairies. Others suggested that the fairies, not being good enough, had been thrown out of heaven, but they were not evil enough for hell. This may explain the tradition that they had to pay a "teind" or tithe to hell: as fallen angels, though not quite devils, they could be seen as subjects of the devil. For a similar concept in Persian mythology, see Peri.
A third, related belief was the fairies were demons entirely. This belief became much more popular with the growth of Puritanism. The hobgoblin, once a friendly household spirit, became a wicked goblin. Dealing with fairies was in some cases considered a form of witchcraft and punished as such in this era. Disassociating himself from such evils may be why Oberon, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, carefully observed that neither he nor his court feared the church bells.
The belief in their angelic nature was less common than that they were the dead, but still found popularity, especially in Theosophist circles. Informants who described their nature sometimes held aspects of both the third and the fourth belief, or observed that the matter was disputed.
If I'm a Christian then, should I believe this? That fairies are demons? Is what I create demonic or a symbol of the demonic? Upon further reading on other sites I read this (found on this site):
Evil spirits are like actors. They will take on any role that suits their cause or present climate. If people want angels, they will be angels. Departed loved ones? This is one of their best performances. Fairies? If that’s what people want, and if there are people out there who are seeking them out and want to communicate with them, they will be happy to wear the badge and play the part.The Bible tells us that even Satan himself "... masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). However, a demon is a demon and will lie, deceive and lead people astray.
The end result is spiritual bondage and ruin. Demons, in their many guises, will lead you up a very slippery path of deceit and despair, wanting you to focus on them rather than God and the peace and salvation He gives through faith in Jesus Christ.
I can agree that they usually are described having the nature/personality of biblical demons. As much as it pains me to say it. Even as a fairy believer I never saw them (the ones I wanted to see) as demonic, but more elemental to help. Like the ones in Disney's Fantasia.
I am left chewing on this resounding throughout information, the belief from the Christian religion that all fairies are demons. In a couple of days I hope to share and explain why, then, if this is the belief, are so many fairies painted as bright, sweet, adorable little people? Is it still part of Satan's act to get us to follow him, making them more romantic and captivating? Or is there more to the story?
The photo is of a statue of a woman who could recite (sing) 32,000 verses of poetry from the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. Her name was Larin Paraske (1833-1904), one of the last Finnish Rune singer-storytellers. During the Finnish renaisance of the nineteenth century , artists, writers, and composers (including Jean Sibelius) listened to her interpretation of the Kalevala. The Kalevala was passed on for centuries by rune singers. In earlier times, there were hundreds of Rune singers in this land of lakes and forests.
Cinderfellas: The Long-Lost Fairy Tales
Here are excerpts from an excellent article about the soon to be published (February 24), The Turnip Princess. The article is a preview from the New Yorker of Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "Lost" Fairy Tales. It was written by Maria Tatar, who also wrote the English translation of the new book.
..."Schönwerth’s tales have a compositional fierceness and energy rarely seen in stories gathered by the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault, collectors who gave us relatively tame versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” and “Rapunzel.” Schönwerth gives us a harsher dose of reality than most collections. His Cinderella is a woodcutter’s daughter who uses golden slippers to recover her beloved from beyond the moon and the sun. His miller’s daughter wields an ax and uses it to disenchant a prince by chopping off the tail of a gigantic black cat. The stories remain untouched by literary sensibilities. No throat-clearing for Schönwerth, who begins in medias res, with “A princess was ill” or “A prince was lost in the woods,” rather than “Once upon a time…”
This fascinating article continues, describing the cultural shifts that resulted in the softening of these folk stories, and noting many instances where stories that were originally about boys, became stories about girls.
" ...Boy heroes clearly had a hard time surviving the nineteenth-century migration of fairy tales from the communal hearth into the nursery, when oral storytelling traditions, under the pressures of urbanization and industrialization, lost their cross-generational appeal. Once mothers, nannies, and domestics were in charge of telling stories at bedtime; it seems they favored tales with female heroines."
Tatar offers several examples of these changes. Here is her summary of a change in role that struck me as a vivid example, a precurser of the Princess and the Frog...
"Equally charming is the story about Jodl, a boy who overcomes his revulsion to a female frog and, after bathing her, joins her under the covers. In the morning, he awakens to find himself in a sunlit castle with a wondrously beautiful princess..."
Greater Understanding of Fairy Tale Magic
...Here at last is a transformation that promises real change in our understanding of fairy-tale magic, for suddenly we discover that the divide between passive princesses and dragon-slaying heroes may be little more than a figment of the Grimm imagination."
The illustration of Snow White is by Franz Juttner. The illustration of the Prince and the Frog is by Maxfield Parrish.
Tales Told by People
"...Von Schönwerthspent decades asking country folk, labourers and servants about local habits, traditions, customs and history, and putting down on paper what had only been passed on by word of mouth. In 1885, Jacob Grimm said this about him: "Nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly and with such a sensitive ear." Grimm went so far as to tell King Maximilian II of Bavaria that the only person who could replace him in his and his brother's work was Von Schönwerth."
This excerpt is from an early Guardian article by Victoria Sussens-Messerer reporting on the discovery of a trove of "new Fairy tales" by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth
The illustration of Snow White is by Walter Crane.
The Original Tales of the Brothers Grimm
Jack Zipes has translated into English, for the first time, the original volumes (1812-1815) of folk and fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm.
Zipes, a pioneering scholar and prolific author of books relating to folk tales, fairy tales, legends and myths, has also written an insightful and informative article on the Brother's Grimm, their motivation, methodology, and the world in which they lived and worked. The article, The Forgotten Tales of the Brothers Grimm, was published in the The Public Domain Review. Here are excerpts...
"...Turning to the tales of the first edition the first thing a reader might notice is that many of the stories...were deleted in the following editions for various reasons, not because they were poorly told but because they did not meet some of the requirements of the Grimms...
...The second thing a reader might notice about the tales in the first edition is that most of them are shorter and strikingly different than the same tales edited in the later collections. They smack of orality and raw contents. For instance, Rapunzel reveals that she has become impregnated by the prince; Snow White’s mother, not her stepmother, wants to kill the beautiful girl out of envy...
...The literacy of the informants, however, did not diminish the folk essence of the tales that, as the Grimms and other folklorists were to discover, were widespread throughout Europe and told more often than not in dialect. The tales came to the tellers from othertellers, or they read tales, digested them, and made them their own. Indeed, we always make tales our own and then send them off to other tellers with the hope that they will continue to disseminate their stories...
And yet, the Grimms, as collectors, cultivators, editors, translators, and mediators, are to be thanked for endeavoring to do the impossible and to work collectively with numerous people and their sources to keep traditional stories and storytelling alive. In this respect their little known first edition deserves to be rediscovered, for it is a testimony to forgotten voices that are actually deep within us. Hence, the irresistibility of the Grimms’ tales that are really not theirs, but ours. "
The illustration of the wolf about to eat Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother is by Gustav Dore.
Grimm Legacies: The Magic Power of the Grimms' Folk and Fairy TalesbyJack Zipes was published in December, 2014 (Princeton University Press) as a complement to his translation of the Original Fairy Fairy Tales(above). Here is a review:
"In this landmark work of fairy-tale scholarship, Jack Zipes comes to grips with the multiple legacies of the Brothers Grimm in German and Anglo-American cultures. With nuance and inexhaustible insight, Zipes shows how mythmaking, marketing, hype, Americanization, the appeal of collective action, and utopian longing have sustained 'the magic spell' of the Grimms' tales throughout two centuries of use and abuse. Anyone seeking to understand the popularity of the Grimms' fairy tales or their richly diverse reception will do well to begin here."--Donald Haase, editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairy Tales
The Rune Singer Storyteller begins Poem 1 of the Kalevala...
"It is my desire, it is my wish to set out to sing, to begin to recite, to let a song of our clan glide on, to sing a family lay, The words are melting in my mouth, utterances dropping out, coming to my tongue, being scattered about on my teeth."
Translation by Francis Magoun from the Kalevala poems compiled by Elias Lonnrot (1802-1804)
The illustration is from a painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela
Paws 4 Autism is "helping families help their kids connect to the world 4 Paws at a time."
The following excerpt is from the Planet Dog Foundation (PDF) which provided a Grant to help Paws 4 Autism fulfill their mission.
"Paws 4 Autism utilizes specially trained dogs to help children with autism and their families. The PDF grant will specifically fund the Canine Assisted Social Skills in Education Program (CASSIE) which provides social and communication skills training for individuals aged 6-14 who have autism...Paws 4 Autism is 100% staffed by volunteers."
World Read Aloud Day is LitWorld's Celebration of reading. In 2014, over 75 countries participated.
This photo is from Nepal
Every year, on the first Wednesday of March, World Read Aloud Day calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.
"World Read Aloud Daymotivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creates a community of readers taking action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their futures: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their stories.
World Read Aloud Day allows members of our year-round programs to invite more people into their literacy community and brings LitWorld’s messages to the rest of the world. World Read Aloud Day is now celebrated by over one million people in more than 80 countries and reaches over 31 million people online. The growth of our movement can be attributed in large part to our network of partner organizations and “WRADvocates” – a group of reading advocates and supporters taking action in their communities and on social media. "
Here is the link for more information or to be a part of this wonderful event, LitWorld.
The photo on the lower left is from a World Read Aloud Day group in the Phillipines.
"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me that any talent for abstract, positive thinking. Albert Einstein~(1879-1955)
The International Children's Digital Library (ICDL)
Free Children's Books on the Internet in a huge digital library. Many of them appear to be from another era. From their site...
"The ICDL has been visited by over three million unique visitors since our launch in November, 2002.
The ICDL collection includes 4619 books in 59 languages.
Our users come from 228 different countries.
Free access to high-quality digital books from around the world. Browse by age, genre, book length, character types, or even the color of a book's cover."
SurLaLune , Heidi Anne Heimer's website for Fairy Tales and Folklore is a veritable constellation of fairy tale books, information, annotations, illustrations, and links. Here is a excerpt from an article she posted on folklore, fairy tales and the oral tradition of storytelling.
"...Then there is the whole explanation of how folklore comes from oral storytelling tradition. Be aware that this website and most fairy tale studies deal with literary fairy tales, tales that are once removed from oral tradition, set down on paper by one or more authors. Once the story is written down, it becomes static in that version. It is no longer only folklore, but part of the world's body of literature. In contrast, the beauty of storytelling is how the same story is slightly different each time it is told, even by the same storyteller. Oral fairy tales are elusive creatures that folklorists study, record and try to trace through history. It is an invigorating field of study, but not the one I have pursued on SurLaLune. Note that sometimes the literary fairy tale came first and was then absorbed back into oral tradition, such as with 'Beauty and the Beast.'"...
The illustration of Rapunzel is by George Cruickshank. .....................
The Planet of the Dogs, as the Story Was First Told
Daisy and Bean,who lived on a farm near Lake Falls Village (on planet Earth), found themselves on the Planet of the Dogs. They were the first humans to be there. This was long, ago, before there were dogs on planet Earth.
They had been chosen as emissaries, to help with a transition -- the dogs had decided to come to earth to help people learn again about loyalty, courage and love. And they needed to learn how non-violent solutions could turn back invaders. .
The following excerpt takes place following a huge gathering of the dogs,who had come to hear the decision, by Miss Merrie, Queen of the dogs, and the Dog Council, about helping people on earth....
"Rex, a big shaggy dog -- bigger than Buddy, and very old -- then spoke. 'You must not tell anyone about visiting the Planet of the Dogs. People won’t believe you, and they’ll think that you aren’t telling the truth, or that it was just something you imagined. And some will become frightened and tell false stories about you. And this will interfere with our efforts to help people. You must keep your visit here a secret. Can you do that?' ”
Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs -- If you email us at email@example.com , we will send you free readercopies from the Planet of the Dogs Series...Read dog books to kids and dogs.
The photo is of therapy reading dog Jezebell, seen here with a reading student friend. They were part of teacher Julie Hauck's pioneering Pages for Preston reading program for second and third graders in the Longfellow Elementary School, Sheboygan, WI.
Up On the Woof
"I’ve been accused of treating my dogs like children, but I honestly see that as more of a badge of honor than a criticism. After all, the more science learns about dogs, the more apparent it is that they are like children. They are as bright as any toddler, and because they are completely dependent on us, it means they stay babies all their lives. That means it’s our responsibility as pet parents to make sure their physical (food, water, shelter, safety, hygiene, play, medical) and emotional (love, encouragement, comfort) needs are met. It means teaching them, and seeing that their lives are enriched and that they are intellectually stimulated."
The excerpt above is by C.A. Wulff, from her Up On The Woofblog. Wulff is a dog loving animal advocate/activist; book reviewer and columnist (Examiner); yelodoggie artist; author of dog world books; and associate publisher at Barking Planet Productions.
In the Spring, Barking Planet Productions will publish an updated and revised edition of Wulff's fascinating memoir, Born Without a Tale.
Your off to great places,
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So...get on your way! -Dr.Seuss
New Cinderella from Disney opens March 13.
Cinderella returns..Will it be Sugar Coated Survival Skills or will the spirit of Malificent return?
After the success of Frozen, which glossed over Hans Christian Anderson's Snow Queen, it's no telling. However, the director (Kenneth Branagh) is excellent, as is the cast (Kate Blanchett, Lily James, Helen Bonham Carter, Richard Madden).
Frozen, with its romantic music and sugar coated romance, is a favorite to win an Academy Award (February 22).
Lizzy Burns wrote a caring, thoughtful, and very lively blog defending little girls who like playing princess. Here is an excerpt...
"There is nothing wrong -- absolutely nothing wrong -- with your young child liking princesses. Any princess...I get annoyed at the gendering of toys and books -- Legos and science are for boys, feelings and dress up are for girls -- but that is because Legos and science and feelings and dress up are for any child, boy or girl, and problematic messages are sent by calling one "boy" and one "girl."
Princesses (especially pink sparkly princesses) can be problematic not because they are pink sparkly princesses but because what it means to be a princess, to want to be a princess, and how society views that, along with misunderstandings about the nature of play and imagination (and I'd add, that goes for children, teens, and grown ups.)
I'm not the first person to talk about princesses, what they mean, what they don't mean, and the depth and substance that is needed for the "princess talk..."
The Tin Man Returns in a theatrical perfomance piece invoving actors, puppets, a musical soundscape and innovative staging. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times Review by Laura Collins Hughes...
Led by a Tender Heart, Before It Is Ripped Out
‘The Woodsman’ Tells the Tin Man’s Tale
"Using words is dangerous in this eastern corner of Oz, yet sound is everywhere: the mournful music of a violin, the rasp of a witch, the spooky wind of the woods.
A movement piece with puppets, James Ortiz’s “The Woodsman” is an elemental reimagining of L. Frank Baum’s world of Oz. The spectacle is handmade, infused with breath and light... This is the Tin Man’s back story: how a regular human named Nick Chopper (Mr. Ortiz) came to be a rusting pile of metal in need of a heart. The story, laid out in a spare spoken prologue in this largely wordless piece, involves the witch who rules this part of Oz. Her only apparent vulnerability is an aversion to sunlight..."
"The Divergent series has sold 5 million booksand is regularly called 'the next Hunger Games' or 'the next next Twilight.'Interested in writing the next next next teen franchise? Here’s a step-by-step guide.
1. Start a blog. Early online readers got to watch Roth write Divergent, find an agent, and sell it to HarperCollins—all in real time on her website. By the time the book was published, “she was already a social-media phenomenon,” says editor Katherine Tegen.
Pro tip: Blog about lots of things! A list of non-writing topics mentioned on Veronica Roth’s blog: dead raccoons, traffic lanes, sweet-potato soup, spiders, a OneRepublic CD.
2. Don’t be afraid to be trendy. The Hunger Games was big at that point, but there were a couple other books that were on the cusp of the dystopian-sci-fi trend—Matched and The Maze Runner. But the timing just worked so that Divergent ended up...Read it all: Amanda Dobbins
"How to find the best vet for your poochis about providing the best care for your dog. Dogs have a way of working their way into our heart and becoming more than just an everyday pet. If you have a pet dog then the chances are that they have become a firm member of your family. For this reason alone you are going to want to make sure that they receive the best veterinary care, which involves the best choice of vet. You probably wouldn’t visit a doctor with a bad reputation, and you will want the same for your dog..."
Read more on Nancy Hauser's Way Cool Dogs: Best Vet
Motherless Child Project.
The voice of Emily Amber, a 16 year old girl in South Carolina, pulls you in. I rarely read YA books and I'm still in the process of reading The Motherless Child Project. However, I can report that a compellingmomentum drives this story. Here is an excerpt from early on in the book...
"...In my house, no one talks about anything concerning my mother, not dad, not Jon, Nicky nor me. The best way I can explain it is like this - when it's a fact in your life that your mother is MIA, and you know you'll never get anywhere by asking where she is because you tried numerous times with bad or worse results, you just move on with your life. What else can you do?..."
On Jan 29, Kaitlin Jenkins, posted an article on her blog, She Speaks Bark, about National Seeing Eye Dog Day. I found her article to be warm-hearted and informative. Here is an excerpt...
"Guide Dogs, or Seeing Eye Dogs as they’re often called, provide support and independence to visually impaired individuals. Often, the companionship of the seeing eye dogs allows a visually impaired person to take many of their daily tasks back into their own hands. Suddenly a world that was always limiting a person is once again re-opened, and they’ve got a constant companion who is looking out for them at all times. The partnership between a trained guide dog and their person is something to behold, and it’s something I’ve always found incredibly powerful and fascinating."
Her article led me to Guide Dogs for the Blind. This outstanding organization, located in San Rafael, CA, and Boring, OR, offers a lifetime of support to visually impaired people. In their own words...
"We are a passionate community that serves the visually impaired. With exceptional client services and a robust network of trainers, puppy raisers, donors and volunteers, we prepare highly qualified guide dogs to serve and empower individuals who are blind or have low vision. All of our services are provided free of charge; we receive no government funding."
Here is a link to their humorous guide to Blindness Etiquette video...I smiled, laughed and learned.
The photo of the woman and her dog is courtesy of Guide Dogs for the Blind
"She was made to work like a slave from morning to night. She had to get up at daybreak, carry water from the well, clean the fireplace and the fires, cook all the food and wash all the dishes. But that wasn't all, because the sisters did everything they could to make things worse for the poor girl...And when she was done at the end of the day, could she look forward to a comfortable bed? Not a bit of it. She had to sleep on the hearth, in among the ashes and the cinders..."
Cinderella - from Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm
A Dog's Life, Outside and Inside
Anna Nirva,in her Sunbear Squad blog, discusses how dogs are social animals who are happier, and usually healthier, when they live inside. There, they can be part of a pack (people are also members of their pack). Often, however, dog owners choose to keep their dogs outside and this can necessitate -- if humane conditions are to prevail -- the need for a proper doghouse. Here is a brief excerpt:
"If you must keep your dog outdoors, construct an excellent dog house and kennel based on considerations of your dog’s breed, age, health status, your climate and environment, and safety and health features. Schedule daily activities so that your dog doesn’t become depressed or frustrated, leading to difficult behaviors. Never chain your dog..."
Anna offers detailed, comprehensive, information and considerations ranging from the dog's physical limitations and the local environment to design features that will help the dog to stay safe and healthy. Here is a link to read it all: the Humane Dog House.
The illustration by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty is from Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale.
A man may smile and bid you hail Yet wish you to the devil; But when a good dog wags his tail, You know he's on the level. --Author unknown
It was an era that began with the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars. The years that followed were marked by internal conflict and political disagreement.
Life was hard. Wealthy land owners and nobility controlled nearly all of the land. Most people were farmers, living in rural areas. Books were few and few people could read them. Serfdom kept many people poor.
This was the time of the cumbersomeGerman Confederation, created by German princes to retain their control in a time of growing upheaval and conflict.
The shifting sands of power lay in 37 principalities and four cities. Uncertainty reigned.
Folklore and folk tales were an integral part of people's awareness. Forests played a major role in these stories. The forests were deep and often dangerous.
We know that stories -- folk tales -- were often told by country women when several gathered together in a neighbor's farm home while sewing, weaving and cooking.This was their social life. Perhaps men told these stories in markets, or taverns, or around a campfire.
The stories that were told were collected by the Brothers Grimm and remain today the foundation of our children's fairy tale literature.
Next month, on February 24, we will see the publication in English of over 70 tales collected in Bavaria by a contempoary of the Grimm Brothers, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth. The Grimm's admired Schönwerth and his work.
The collection is now entitled The Turnip Princess, The book has been translated by Maria Tatar, author of many books on children's literature, blogger (Breezes from Wonderland), and chair of the Program on Folklore and Mythology at Harvard.
The painting is by Jean- Francois Millet. The bookcover is by Walter Crane; the translation from German is by Lucy Crane.
The Stories Never End
“It has generally been assumed that fairy tales were first created for children and are largely the domain of children. But nothing could be further from the truth.
From the very beginning, thousands of years ago, when tales were told to create communal bonds in face of the inexplicable forces of nature, to the present, when fairy tales are written and told to provide hope in a world seemingly on the brink of catastrophe, mature men and women have been the creators and cultivators of the fairy tale tradition...."
Inevitably they find their way into the forest. It is there that they lose and find themselves. It is there that they gain a sense of what is to be done. The forest is always large, immense, great and mysterious. No one ever gains power over the forest, but the forest posses the power to change lives and alter destinies....”
The illustration is by Arthur Rackham
The above quotations are byJack Zipes, theauthor of many books on myths, folklore, and children's literature including The Brothers Grimm, From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World.
Recognized as a pioneer in the field of children's literature, Zipes latest publication is a translation of the first edition (1812-1815) of the The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (see the Guardian article below). The first edition (Volumes One and Two), of 156 tales, had previously never before been translated into English. By the time of the Grimm's final edition in 1857, "immense changes had taken place".
The original edition of the Grimm's fairy tales incorporated oral tales, legends, myths, fables and pagan beliefs. The book was intended for adult readers. This edition is illustratrd by Andrea Dezso.
Writer for the Guardian create leading edge articles on fairy tales, folklore, and children's literature. Philip Oltermann recently wrote about von Schoenwerth, The Turnip Princessand Maria Tartar. Alison Flood wrote about Jack Zipe's translation of the first edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Both of these books are major events in the world of folklore, fairy tales, and children's literature..
Illustration by Alexander Zwick
Here is an excerpt from Oltermann's article:Forgotten Fairytales Slay the Cinderella Stereotype...
The stash of stories compiled by the 19th-century folklorist Franz Xaver von Schönwerth – recently rediscovered in an archive in Regensburg and now to be published in English for the first time this spring – challenges preconceptions about many of the most commonly known fairytales...
Harvard academic Maria Tatar argues that they reveal the extent to which the most influential collectors of fairytales, the Brothers Grimm, often purged their stories of surreal and risque elements to make them more palatable for children.
“Here at last is a transformation that promises real change in our understanding of fairytale magic,” says Tatar, who has translated Schönwerth’s stories for a new Penguin edition called The Turnip Princess. “Suddenly we discover that the divide between passive princesses and dragon-slaying heroes may be little more than a figment of the Grimm imagination.”
Here is the headline from Alison Flood's article: Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales Have Blood and Horror Restored in New Translation....
The original stories, according to the academic (Zipes), are closer to the oral tradition, as well as being “more brusque, dynamic, and scintillating”. In his introduction to The Original Folk andFairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which Marina Warner says he has “redrawn the map we thought we knew”, and made the Grimms’ tales “wonderfully strange again”, Zipes writes that the originals “retain the pungent and naive flavour of the oral tradition”, and that they are “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”, with the Grimms yet to add their “sentimental Christianity and puritanical ideology”.
The Frog King or Iron Henry...an Excerpt from the new Jack Zipes translation of the Brothers Grimm...
"The princess became terrified when she heard this, for she was afraid of the cold frog. She didn't dare to touch him, and now he was to lie in her bed next to her. She began to weep and didn't want to comply with his wishes at all. But the king became angry and ordered her to do what she had promised, or she'd be held in disgrace. Nothing helped. She had to do what her father wanted, but she was bitterly angry in her heart. So she picked up the frog with two fingers, carried him upstairs into her room, lay down in her bed, and instead of setting him down next to her, she threw him crash! against the wall. "Now you'll leave me in peace, you nasty frog!"
"The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep to one version or one translation alone is to put a robin redbreast in a cage. A fairy tale is not a text..."- Author Phillip Pullman
Wonder Tale...An alternative term for “fairytale” is “wonder tale”, from the Germanwundermärchen, which catches a quality of the genre more eloquently than “fairytale” or “folk tale” because it acknowledges the defining activity of magic in the stories. The suspension of natural physical laws produces a heightened and impossible state of reality, which leads to wonder, astonishment, the ’ajaib(astonishing things) sought in Arabic literary ideas of fairytale... An excerpt from How Fairy Tales Grew Up, by Marina Warner, author, critic, in the Guardian
A Fair Shake for Youth... uses therapy dogs to help disadvantaged children "build empathy, self-esteem and reduce bullying...
"31% of New York City youth are living in poverty - often facing challenges of inadequate housing, under-performing schools, violence and fractured families. Many kids see few possibilities for the future...
A Fair Shake for Youth partners with schools and community organizations to bring therapy dog teams to disadvantaged and vulnerable middle school-aged youth...The kids discover (the) social tools and build a view of themselves that enables them to envision greater possibilities for their lives...
Hands On and a Curriculum that Resonates
The Fair Shake program can be integrated into the school day, after school, weekend or summer camp programming. The ten-week curriculum includes hands-on work with the dogs and dog-related topics covered by speakers, demonstrations"...read more about this excellent, results-oriented program at Fair Shake
Video: See Fair Shake in action when Isabella and Samantha, two young girls, tell us, in their own words, of their experiences with the dogs and the Fair Shake for Youth program.
A Fair Shake for Youth has been the recipient of a grant from the Planet Dog Foundation
The following is by librarian Liz Burns, excerpted from her outstanding blog, A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
"I read for fun. Not for enlightenment, not to be a better person, not to learn about the universal human experience. I read to get scared, I read to fall in love, I read to feel less alone, I read for adventure, I read for so many reasons that all fall under.... because I want to.
And if that's why I read, why shouldn't that be OK for teens and kids?
Oh, I get that just like I have things to read with a purpose for work, they have things they have to read with a purpose for school. But that's not the only way or reason to read. And, especially outside the school environment, reading for fun, rather than reading "because", should be championed.
It shouldn't be a guilty pleasure.
It should just be ... a pleasure."
A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy was founded on April 2, 2005 with a welcome post that set forth a mission statement: to write about "story. Because it's all about story: the stories we tell, the ones we believe, the ones we read, the ones we watch. The ones we want to believe in; the ones we're afraid of. The stories we tell because we're afraid. While the majority of my posts are about children's and young adult books, I also write about television and film, sometimes adult books, as well as publishing and library news." - Liz Burns
In the photo by Susan Purser, Chase reads with his friend, therapy dog Rose
Aesop's Fables Never End
"No author has been so intimately and extensively associated with children's literature as Aesop. His fables have been accepted as the core of childhood readingand instruction since Plato, and they have found their place in political and social satire and moral teaching throughout medieval, Renaissance, and modern cultures...
...Fables have long ago escaped the confines of the nursery and the schoolroom. Their readerships have included parents as well as children, masters as well as slaves. rulers as well as subjects..."
Seth Lerer writing onAesop's Fables and Their Afterlives in his book,Children's Literature, A Reader's History From Aesop to Harry Potter
The Loyal Dog and Her Not-So-Loyal Owner
Ann Staub, a former vet tech, caring person, mother, and blogger on Pawsitively Pets (dedicated to all things animal), wrote a touching account of finding a lost dog, and the sad aftermath. Here is an excertpt and link:
My hopes and dreams of a spectacular reunion were destroyed with what I learned next. The family member I was helping didn't want the dog back. He "wanted his friends to adopt her from where ever she was at"...
There would be no reunion between loyal dog and not-so-loyal owner. And I find it both depressing and infuriating.
I'm not an emotional person. I don't get teary-eyed over things that most people do. Perhaps this is one of the "strengths" that allowed me to become a good veterinary technician. This, however, made me cry.
This dog was adopted from the animal shelter about 3 years ago. After about a year, those people no longer wanted her so my family member took her in. Now, he no longer wants her so someone else will take her. How many more times will she face this same situation? Will she be thrown out like trash again when she's old and sick?...This is a good dog and she deserves so much better than this.
So I guess it's up to the people who know better to educate those who don't. If you have a friend or family member that wants to get a new pet, tell them that pets are a lifelong commitment. Ask them if they are prepared to care for that animal during the entire duration of their life.
Here is a link to read the entire article and see photos...Ann Staub
LitWorld celebrated World Read Aloud Day with disadvantaged children in over 75 countries last year..." motivating children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words and creating communities of readers...showing the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people."
The photo was taken in Suriname.
KidLitosphere has helped many readers find their way to these pages. Here is an excerpt from their home page...
"Some of the best books being published today are children’s and young adult titles, well-written and engaging books that capture the imagination. Many of us can enjoy them as adults, but more importantly, can pass along our appreciation for books to the next generation by helping parents, teachers, librarians and others to find wonderful books, promote lifelong reading, and present literacy ideas."Here is a link to Kidlitosphere.
The illustration from Planet Of The Dogs is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty
Our story begins long, long ago, before there were dogs on Planet Earth.
There was plenty of space in those days for people to settle and grow things. Many of the places where people lived were very beautiful. There were clear lakes and cool streams with lots of fish. There were fields and woods with game to hunt. And there were rolling hills and open plains with plants growing everywhere. Many people settled in these places of abundance and prospered.
And then, invaders came. Where once there had been harmony and friendship, there was now fear, anger, and unhappiness. Something had to be done -- but what could anybody do? No one knew it at that time, but help would come from the Planet of the Dogs.
Our books are available through your favorite independent bookstore or via Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell's and many more...
Librarians, teachers, bookstores...Order Planet Of The Dogs, Castle In The Mist, and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale, through Ingram with a full professional discount.
Therapy reading dog owners, librarians and teachers with therapy reading dog programs -- you can write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send youfree reader copies from the Planet of the Dogs Series...Read Dog Books to Dogs...
The map of Green Vally and the illustration of Stone City are by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty
"Any one of these books would make for a delightful—and one would assume cherished—gift for any child. All three would be an amazing reading adventure."Darlene Arden, educator, dog expert, and author of Small Dogs Big Hearts.
A Master of Childhood Dreams...His Stories never End Miyazaki Wins Again, After 11 Animated Features
Hayao Miyazaki was given an honorary Oscar on Nov. 8 at the Governors Awards ceremony, one that he can put on the shelf next to the statuette he won in 2003 when his masterpiece, “Spirited Away,” was named best animated feature...
What makes his films so memorable — from the great ones, like “Spirited Away,” which is a coming-of-age tale, and the ecological fables “Princess Mononoke” and “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” to less profound but still captivating works like“Kiki’s Delivery Service” and the mesmerizing “My Neighbor Totoro” — is something that’s harder to label. You know it when you feel it: the mastery of tone and emotion, embodied in every gesture, expression, movement and setting, that give the films a watchfulness, a thoughtfulness, an unaffected gravity. To watch a Miyazaki movie is to remember what it was like to be a smart and curious child..."
The Hunger Games-Mockingjay Part One
This third episode of Hunger Games is relevant to disturbing real world events. Like like the to earlier films it is entertaining . However, this episode has more substance as Andrew Lapin writes in his excellent and thoughtful review for NPR, "all of these images have resonance in real events of this year." The film has grossed over $700 million worldwide thus far and still drawing audiences. Here is an excerpt from his Andrew Lapin's review:
"When producers were laying track for the Hunger Games series years ago, they couldn't have foreseen how discomforting author Suzanne Collins' descriptions of a war-torn authoritarian state would look on the big screen in 2014. In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One, Jennifer Lawrence witnesses and/or learns of: towns reduced to rubble, refugee camps next to mass graves, public executions of innocents with burlap sacks over their heads, law enforcement gunning down protesters in the street, and a military bombing a hospital filled with civilians. All of these images have resonance in real events of this year, generations before Collins predicted civilization would devolve into a regime that maintains control over its citizens with televised death matches..."
Fairy tales are combined in this Walt Disney adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's broadway musical hit...71% of the critics (Rotten Tomatoes) wrote favorable reviews. However, there were often reservations in the reviewer's responses.
"It is rated PG. But kids watching the film in my local theater seemed dampened by the mopey second half. They laughed at the cleverness of the first act, as well known storybook characters crossed into each other’s stories and interacted; still, it should be said that when it comes to clever fairy-tale mash-ups, “Shrek” does it better. But as for the second act’s dreary sharing of existential facts (regarding mortality, adultery, etc.), all in the name of growing-up and becoming undeceived, well, kids aren’t big on Weltschmerz. And that’s because, as James Barrie complained in “Peter Pan,” the young are gay and heartless."
Peter Jackson has had enormous box office success with films inspired by Tolkien's Middle Earth books. It seems, however, that Tolkien's ideas have again been overcome by Jackson's computer generated violence. Here is the opening of Andrew O'Hehir's review in Salon...
"Presumably everyone now understands that Peter Jackson’s bloated “Hobbit” trilogy has only an arm’s-length, tangential relationship with the classic children’s novel that J.R.R. Tolkien first published in 1937, essentially launching the epic fantasy genre that now dominates so much of popular culture...
And here is an excerpt from Nicolas Rapold's review in the New York Times....
"What this adaptation of “The Hobbit” can’t avoid by its final installment is its predictability and hollow foundations. It’s been said before, but Mr. Jackson himself is still haunted by the past: For all the craft, there’s nothing here like the unity and force of “The Lord of the Rings,” which is positively steeped in mythology and features (wonder of wonders) rounder characterization than the scheduled revelations on display here..."
Nancy Houser, has several posts on her Way Cool Dogs blog about puppies, from "Taming Puppy Aggresion" to "Wonderful Small Puppies for Children". Here is an excerpt and link from : 6 Incredible Reasons to Get a Rescue Puppy
"When you save a rescue puppy, you are saving its life. Many shelters have to put dogs to sleep because they can’t afford to keep them. When you decide to take a rescue animal home with you, you are giving it a second chance in life. Many rescue dogs used to have owners, but their owners treated them poorly or abandoned them. Pets deserve better than that. You have a chance to make a real difference to an animal’s life, and so you should take it..."
I haven't seen The Giver (released in theaters last year) nor read Lois Lowry's YA book, The Giver (1993). However, it was favorably cited by Jerry Griswold, Director of the National Center for the Study of Children's Literature, and author of Feeling Like a Kid, Childhood and Children's Literature. Therefore, I did some research...
I found enough information on the internet to be intrigued. The Giver is a different take on a dystopian future; relying more on concept than violence. The trailer and descriptions/synopsis provide a provocative look at a different approach to dystopia, quite at variance from the strife ridden simplicity of YA films like Divergent and the Labyrinth.
The book of The Giver was well received as a young adult book, winning a Newberry Award in 1994 as well as awards from the ALA, the NEA, and the School Library Journal. It has sold over 10,000 copies. The film, however, didn't fare well at the box office and has already been released as a DVD. Here is the Film Critics Consensus according to Rotten Tomatoes: "Phillip Noyce directs The Giver with visual grace, but the movie doesn't dig deep enough into the classic source material's thought-provoking ideas."
Empowerment for Animal Advocates in C.A. Wulff's Book
How to Change the World in Thirty Seconds, is empowering...it's the internet made easy, the internet as a tool, the internet as a dog's best friend... a book and a way to make a difference... for dog lovers, animal advocates and anyone who wants to make the world a better place.
Here is an unedited Amazon review excerpt by Johanna:"This is probably the best "how-to" book I have ever seen. It is written in a very conversational manner while being extremely educational. Along with giving step-by-step instructions on how to use each advocacy tool, Cayr gives some background on each website, organization, and group, and explains how each is set up and how the different helping processes work. She walks you through the necessary steps and gives tips...
Rocket Boy, the dog in the photo by C.A. Wulff, one of her pack of rescued dogs.
YA Book Preview of The Motherless Child Project by Janie McQeen and Robin Karr.
I don't often discuss YA books. However, I have long admired Janie McQueen's previous Magic Bookshelf books and I am currently reading (report coming in my next blog) her poignant new book The Motherless Child Project.
Meanwhile, I am posting an excerpt from Midwest Book Review:
"To say that The Motherless Child Project is a book about change and self-discovery would be doing it an injustice: it's so much more... Any teen reader looking for a powerful, compelling story--especially those who are motherless themselves, whatever the reason--will find The Motherless Child Project a powerful saga worthy of attention and acclaim."--
D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Jingles...a book, a toy, and dog rescue
The Story of Jinglesis the first book in the newly launched Operation ResCUTE series. Each Book comes with a Stuffed Animal Set. And each purchase helps to rescue a dog!
Here's the review by C.A. Wulff in the Examiner...
"The book, authored by Jingles, is 24 pages long, with full color illustrations. It comes adorably packaged in a window box with a stuffed animal of Jingles and an “I am a ResCuter!” Operation ResCute sticker for the child. The second book in the series will feature a rescue dog named Tanner. Operation ResCute has a contest underway to find a third dog and his/her story.
Kids will love the book and the toy, and parents will love the message. Giving this as a gift will make you feel great, too, because 100% of the proceeds go directly to animal rescues."
The ResCUTE books and stuffed animals are not available in retail stores, but can be purchased on amazon and through the organization’s website."
The Hugging Bears (from the Guardian)
"Inspired by the delightful statue of two bears on display in Kensington Gardens in London, "The Hugging Bears" is the story of two bear cubs, Ruggley and Teddi, who live with their mother in the wintry wilderness. A sudden and violent encounter with humankind changes the cubs' lives forever.
Told with great simplicity and much heart by Carol Butcher, and featuring charming colour illustrations by Sue Turner, "The Hugging Bears" will be enjoyed by young children everywhere. The book also has a useful message about human's often unkind treatment of wild animals."
The profits from this book will go to the charity Happy Child International, which supports the street children of Brazil.
"Fences for Fidois a group of volunteers who get together to build fences for dogs in Oregon who are currently living out their lives on a chain. They do fundraisers and accept donations in order to make this work possible. On their facebook page, Fences for Fido share many inspirational photos and videos of the building process, and especially the happy dogs taking their first off-chain run in their brand new yard- always great! I love how this organization focuses on the positive aspects of what they are doing, and come from a non-judgmental approach. I believe these two things are the key to their success so far..."
The above information is from She Speaks Bark, Kaitlin Jenkins dog-loving blog. Kaitlin wrote about this being National Unchain a Dog month; as part of the article, she wrote about Fences for Fido. I, too, much admire the work they do, having previously written about them in this blog. Here is the link to read more of her excellent post about the wonderful work of Fences For Fido:KaitlinJenkins
Submissions are now being accepted for the twelfth annual issue, The Ochre Issue, of Fairy Tale Review. The Ochre Issue has no particular theme—simply send your best fairy-tale work along the spectrum of mainstream to experimental, fabulist to realist.
We accept fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry, in English or in translation to English, along with scholarly, hybrid, and illustrated works (comics, black-line drawings, etc.).
The reading period will remain open until the issue is full—we predict closing it sometime in late spring or early summer.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.