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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's NOT About the STRAW! et al, written by Veronika Martenova Charles and illustrated by David Parkins. Tundra, 2013. $7.99 ages 5 and up

"Elsa thought, Guessing his name shouldn't be that hard. And if he doesn't help me, I'll die from hunger and cold. "I'll do as you ask," Elsa promised. So the elf rescued her."

You and I know that Rumpelstiltskin's arrogance is what gets him in trouble. Luckily, Elsa does not have to fulfill her promise to marry him. She is able to guess his name before the deadline.

On a visit to his grandmother's farm, Jake and his friends find themselves in the barn. The straw stored there reminds them of stories they have heard about a little man and his ability to spin straw into gold. That would be cool!

The three tales are similar to the familiar Rumpelstiltskin story. One comes from the German tradition, one from Ireland and the last one from Japan. Following the stories shared, the author provides a brief description for the origins of each. They are simply told, and will hold interest for beginning readers. Reading them could lead to a search for other versions of the Rumpelstiltskin story. Reading this book is sure to lead to reading the others included in the series.

"We will love it even if it is as small as the tip of a finger." And soon after then a baby boy was born to them, as tiny as a fingertip. They raised the boy with love and care, but he didn't grow. When he was one year old, he was just one inch tall."

These stories are based on the tale of Thumbelina. Lily's tiny doll in a walnut shell sparks memories this time, and again they friends share stories from around the world. From Chile, the main character called Peanut Boy is carried off by an eagle and ends up protecting her nestlings from a snake. In Japan, Little Inch must tangle with ogres to protect his young charge and change his own life. From First Nations traditional lore, Baby-Man steals a fish from four menacing fisherman to prove that a small boy can be strong and powerful and take care of his sister.

I like the way the stories connect one to the other, and the appeal that these small books will have for their intended audience. In each one of these, the main character is a boy. Comparing their stories with the original Thumbelina would be an interesting literacy lesson.

"Elok carried the box through the jungle to her village. Finally home, she opened it. Inside were jewels and rings! She put some on.'

Traditional and moral tales have always been popular with young readers.
This book again contains three stories; the theme this time is kindness and greed. Diamonds and Toads is the original tale that inspired them.

The first story shared is the German one, Three Gnomes. Ema is treated abominably by her stepmother and sent to gather strawberries in the winter. Luckily, she encounters three gnomes, shares her bread, sweeps snow from their back door. She is rewarded. Her evil stepsister is not so lucky...deservedly so! Rice Cakes from Bali concerns two sisters, Lia and Elok. It takes an unfortunate incident for Lia to realize how lucky she is to have Elok as her sister. The third story, this one from Kenya, is called Old Man of the River. Tobi is rewarded with gold by an old man who appreciates his good manners. His brother Uba does not fare as well, proving that greed can be your undoing.

"RIBBIT!" the frog croaked loudly. Suddenly, the doors flew open, and wild beasts burst into the hall. Elephants charged, and leopards and tigers growled, surrounding everybody."

Here are three similar stories that Jake, Lily and Ben share when they visit a pond in the back garden. Based on the original Frog Prince tales, they come from Scotland, Vietnam and Chile. In The Promise, a young girl gets clear water for her mother but then must contend with a noisy and annoying frog, until a begged-for cut to his skin breaks a wizard's spell. In The Frog Boy a loving mother raises her son to be smart, powerful and learned despite his form. He marries a king's daughter and is changed by the love she has for him. In The Singing Frog, one of the king's sons chooses his life partner, not for beauty but for her beautiful voice. She proves to be a perfect choice for him and for his kingdom.

"When everyone was asleep, Molly crept across the bed and switched the necklaces. Now she and her sisters wore the gold ones, and the giant's daughters wore the straw ropes."

Three stories told, similar in nature, will encourage comparison and discussion. Each one concerns a young child who uses trickery when it comes to giants and riches. Climbing a tree together inspires the three friends to share their personal versions of Jack and the Beanstalk.

The Bean Tree is rooted in Appalachian folklore. Jack visits the land in the sky and comes home with a hen that lays golden eggs, allowing he and his mother to live in comfort for the rest of their days. In Norway's Olaf and the Troll, Olaf's good nature, caring ways and quick thinking garner him silver ducks, a golden harp and great admiration from the king. Finally, the Scottish tale is called Molly and the Giant. Molly's quick thinking, brave heart and a hair bridge allow her to trick the giant twice, and steal a magic sword that does not truly belong to him.

The design of this worthy series from Tundra called East-To-Read Wonder Tales makes them very accessible to young readers wanting to move up to chapter books. The font is large, the text is double spaced and the illustrations are engaging. Readers will find each one entertaining and will surely lead to wanting to know more about the original folktale.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you x 20! I was just working on building my collection of folktales from different perspectives, thrilled to see your post!