Fairy Tales & Folktales

Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas

Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas

In the far-off days when the Picts and the Scots were dividing the ancient land of Scotland and fighting amongst themselves to decide who could get hold of the most of it, there came good men from over the seas to settle the land.

--“The Drowned Bells of the Abbey”

Firelight and drumbeat were the original backdrop for these tales, true and added to and some imagined altogether, that are retold in Sorche Nic Leodhas’ award-winning book, Thistle and Thyme.

Fe Fi Fo Fum!

Dream Big! Read! book with beanstalk

Fe Fi Fo Fum! There are rumblings of a giant loose at the Salem Church Library. Stop by to peer into our big book and “Dream Big @ Your Library!” Jack and the Beanstalk isn’t the only classic fairy tale that you will want to check out to kick off your summer reading list. Kudos to the creators, a joint effort by the Pursel Family.

Cold Cereal by Adam Rex

Cold Cereal by Adam Rex

Just what makes those Lucky Charms so "magically delicious™?" Why, the imprisonment of leprechauns, unicorns, uni…cats and other fantastic creatures.

At least, that’s according to Cold Cereal, the new fantasy novel by Adam Rex.

Goodborough, New Jersey, is the home of Goodco, a sugary cereal company that dominates millions of breakfast tables with an iron spoon—er…fist. The town is also the new home of Scottish Play Doe and his family. His mother has just accepted a job there. Scott’s absent dad is a famous actor whose latest claim to fame is punching the Queen of England in the face.

Making friends at a new school is pretty hard when you have a name as strange as Scott’s. Thankfully, he finds some pretty weird friends. Erno and Emily Utz are genius twins who look nothing alike. Their foster father, Mr. Wilson, also works for Goodco and is constantly challenging them with games of coded logic. Like when he suddenly stops using the letter E.

Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman, Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman, Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Once, luck was as free to be had in Ireland as sunlight, and just as plentiful.  It filled the air, and anyone could grab a handful of it as the need arose. This was largely due to the leprechauns, for they made luck like cows made milk.

Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day—and Irish-American Heritage Month—comes Fiona’s Luck, a delightful picture book that lyrically tells the story of how the extra luck came into Ireland with the leprechauns and was lost again from us “big folk” when the leprechaun king decided to hoard it all away in his castle.

African-American Folktales

African-American Folktales

Although I grew up with the traditional Grimm fairy tales, when my son was young, it was folktales that we read most often.  Passed down from the oral tradition, they’re perfect for children either as a read aloud or a story you retell together.  In honor of Black History Month here are a few of my favorite from the African-American tradition.

Although a picture book, “The People Could Fly” by Virginia Hamilton, is recommended for older children and teens.  The narrator tells us that in Africa, some of the people “would walk up on the air like climbin on a gate,”  but when they were captured, they forgot that magic.  Sarah, a young woman in the fields, was “standin tall, yet afraid” and had “a babe tied to her back.”  That didn’t stop the cruelty of the Overseer or the one who called himself their Master and she turned to fellow slave, Toby, for help.  He told her, “go, as you know how to go” and Sarah “lifted one foot on the air; then the other.  She flew clumsily at first...then she felt the magic, the African mystery” and was gone.  The next day, a young man fell from the heat.  Toby came and spoke words to him and he flew away.  One after the other, slaves fell and there was Toby helping them soar like birds, towards freedom.  Of course, the Overseer came after him, but Toby just laughed and said “we are the ones who fly” and a group of slaves rose and “flew in a flock that was black against the heavenly blue” with old Toby flying behind them towards freedom.  

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

“I think there is a destiny laid on me that I am not to know anything interesting, go anywhere interesting, or do anything interesting.”

In The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, Taran feels that nothing exciting happens in his life and that nothing ever will.  And yet, Taran longs to be a hero, like his idol Prince Gwydion, the famed warrior who fights in the name of the High King of Prydain.  Taran lives on a farm called Caer Dallben, named after the ancient enchanter who dwells there. Dallben, between reading from his mysterious tome, The Book of Three, and giving Taran wise but confusing advice, spends most of his time meditating--an endeavor that he often undertakes lying down with his eyes closed while snoring.  The only other person on the farm is Coll, who instructs Taran in making horseshoes, despite there not being any horses.

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Princess Celie’s favorite day of the week is Tuesday because that’s the day Castle Glower usually grows a new room or two, or a turret, or passage. Castle Glower’s favorite person is Princess Celie, the only one who has ever tried to explore and map the ever-changing structure. Castle Glower is not shy about making its opinion known. When the Castle decides Prince Rolf should be the King’s Heir, he awakes one day to discover his bedroom has been moved next to the throne room. Unwelcome guests find their quarters growing smaller and shabbier, while favored residents are housed in spacious comfort in Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George.

When the King and Queen disappear--ambushed and presumed dead--visitors from foreign lands arrive suddenly to advise Celie, Rolf, and their sister, Lilah, during the time of transition. But the Castle seems to know that something isn’t right and the plotters underestimate the Castle’s abilities. They also underestimate the courage and intelligence of the Royal children. The Castle creates a turret, stocked with useful items, that appears when Celie and her siblings need it. It provides a passage to a hidden room where the children can overhear the council’s scheming--complete with a magic cloak that muffles sound so the children will not themselves be overheard. Celie’s maps and her relationship with the Castle are the keys to saving the kingdom, the castle’s inhabitants, and the castle itself.

Author of the Month: Uri Shulevitz

Picture book writer and illustrator Uri Shulevitz came into a world on the brink of a devastating war.  The son of son of Abraham and Szandla (Hermanstat) Shulevitz, Uri (pronounced oo-ree), he was only four years old when German bombs falling on Warsaw drove his Jewish family out of the city and into an eight-year period of travel in exile throughout Europe before finally settling in Paris in 1947, when Uri was twelve years old. 

Once Upon a Time with Charles Perrault

"As soon as he entered the wood all those great trees, and the interlaced brambles and thorns, separated to let him pass. He walked towards the castle, which he could see at the end of a great avenue. He was surprised that none of his companions had been able to follow him, since the trees had closed in again as soon as he had passed. But he did not falter. A young prince in love is always brave."

Sleeping Beauty. Cinderella. Puss in Boots. Little Red Riding Hood.
These enduring stories were created as we know them by a brilliant man who lived in 17th-century France. Although similar, but simpler stories were gathered more directly by the folklorists Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century, it was Charles Perrault's addition of delicate and amusing words, crafted to entrance a noble audience, that caught fire with readers' imaginations and were the basis for the way these stories are remembered today. It is easy to see the difference between a story collected by Grimm and a tale sculpted by Perrault. A Grimm tale is simple and direct and sometimes alarming while Perrault's are laced with details that still fire modern imaginations.

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.

So begins Colin Meloy’s debut novel Wildwood, in which a girl named Prue journeys into the Impassable Wilderness, a dense maze of a forest outside her hometown of Portland, Oregon, in order to retrieve her brother--with an awkward classmate named Curtis tagging along. Due to some misfortune involving coyotes decked out in military uniforms, the two children must separately navigate this strange world where talking animals uneasily coexist with humans who have never met anyone from the outside. A revolution is about to happen, and Prue and Curtis quickly find themselves on opposite sides.