Fairy Tales & Folktales
No one knows the Sahara Desert like Issa. He is a famous guide along the dangerous paths the gold and salt caravans take to their far destinations. Everyone knows to ask for his help. But one day five riders with six camels come bounding through the village with a desert storm quick on their heels. They do not stop to ask for Izza's help. They gallop on, with the sixth camel carrying a basket with its tiny burden. In Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham’s The Mysterious Traveler, Issa watches them ride out of sight not knowing that the scrap of ribbon they leave behind will change his future.
A birthday gift from the North Wind. A pie so feathery-light it carries people away. A cat on a mat that grants wishes to a poor girl and her grandmother. Elves in the shelves, mermaids in the bathtub and a tiger that’s faster than the wind. Joan Aiken’s A Necklace of Raindrops and Other Stories is a magical book that is probably one of the best read-alouds out there for kindergarten and early elementary grades.
Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, starts on a magical, snowy day. There’s still school though so Hazel and her best friend Jack make plans to meet up and go sledding afterward. Since her Dad left her and her mom, things have really changed for Hazel in a bad way. She had to stop going to the fun school where the teachers were happy she had such vivid imagination and creativity. Now Hazel goes to classes where the desks are perfectly lined up all the time, and there is to be no fidgeting. Hazel fidgets anyway.
Ruth Sawyer lived an extraordinary life. Though born many years before women had the right to vote, there is no doubt that she was a thoroughly independent and extremely intelligent woman with a knack for collecting stories and retelling them.
She did more than collect interesting tales and set them in books, although that would be enough for many writers. But Ruth did more. For her, connecting children with stories was critical. After attending the Garland Kindergarten Training School, she moved to Cuba in 1900 to teach storytelling to teachers working with children who were orphaned during the Spanish-American War.
Nursery Rhyme Comics is an all-star line-up of cartoonists and illustrators who use their artistic chops to put fun spins on all sorts of old rhymes and songs. Fifty rhymes adapted by fifty cartoonists. Woo-hoo! I'd like to take a moment to point some choice selections.
The old king was beloved, but he had died, leaving in his place a handsome, intelligent and rich son. That was the good part. The bad part—in addition to those sterling qualities, Raphael was a grasping, cold-hearted, and vain young man. He was angry, too. Before his father died, he gave him a blessing that seemed more like a curse. Raphael could make all the horrible laws he wanted to, but he could not wear the crown until he found a girl to marry him who was The King’s Equal—as rich, good-looking, and intelligent as he is, and Raphael wanted that crown.
Something is stealing the grain in Mrs. Runnery’s granary. It must be weevils, thinks she, as she sets out spiders to eat them. But in the morning, the frightened spiders are clinging to the ceiling, their webs torn. It wasn’t weevils eating the grain. What could it be? The farmers need this grain from Runnery Granary to mill into flour so they can eat in the winter.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, is a gentle, wondrous Chinese fantasy book for children. Set in a long-ago times, it follows a brave and bright girl named Minli who lives with her parents in a poor farming village. There is barely enough rice to keep them fed and certainly not any for luxuries. Most all the people are downtrodden and worried about their daily lives, but not Minli. She does not like the hard work in the sticky, muddy rice fields, but every evening she can look forward to stories told by her beloved father.
These tales fill her heart and her mind in such a way that she becomes the most radiant and hopeful young girl living near Fruitless Mountain. Indeed, she is so hopeful that when a peddler comes to their village with bowls of lucky goldfish, she takes her small savings to buy one, with high expectations. But when no luck seems to come and her father starts sharing his small supper with the hungry fish, Minli knows she must let it go. Releasing it into the Jade River, a river created according to legend from the body of a grieving dragon, she is surprised when a sweet, high-pitched voice—the goldfish!—offers to help her find her fortune by telling her the way to Never-Ending-Mountain where lives the Old Man of the Moon. The Old Man knows all things, including how her family’s fortune might be changed.
In Andrew Peters’ Salt Is Sweeter than Gold, an old king has three daughters, but only one will inherit his kingdom. Who should it be? When it’s time to decide, the king holds a grand ceremony and asks in front of huge crowd a simple question: how much do you love me? The first answer pleases him very much: “I love you more than all the jewels that encrust your fingers and all the gold that lies hidden in the vaults of this castle!” The second daughter also gives a charming answer: “I love you more than all the land that spreads like an ocean beyond this castle!” But when the youngest, who did truly love him, says simply, “Father, I love you more than salt,” the king is so insulted he banishes her immediately and tells her she is no longer his…. until the day that salt becomes more precious than gold.
Children’s author and illustrator Margot Zemach was born into a show business family--her father was a theater director, and her mother was an actress. Growing up, she drew imaginatively costumed characters to retell her favorite fairy stories and folktales, something she continued to do as an adult that would lead her to worldwide fame.
As she wrote in her autobiography, Self-Portrait: Margot Zemach: "I can create my own theater and be in charge of everything. When there is a story I want to tell in pictures, I find my actors, build the sets, design the costumes and light the stage. . . . If I can get it all together and moving, it will come to life. The actors will work with each other, and the dancers will hear the music and dance. When the book closes, the curtain comes down."