Fairy Tales & Folktales
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.
"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.
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.
Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elsbeth Graham is based on a centuries-old legend about tea-picking monkeys. As the story begins, the reader meets Tashi, a young girl who lives alone with her mother, a tea picker, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains. Each day Tashi accompanies her mother and aunts who travel to the rolling tea plantations to pick tea. While the adults work in the fields, Tashi plays and shares her lunch with a troupe of monkeys under the shade of an ancient tree.
Tashi’s life is disrupted when her mother falls ill and is unable to pick the tea that not only provides for their day-to-day needs, but also would pay for a doctor to heal her mother. Tashi sees this as a problem that goes “around and around, like a snake with its tail in its mouth.” Tashi decides to try and take her mother's place and pick the tea herself. How will a young girl fill a basket full of tea when the basket is taller than she is?
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Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Wilbur the pig is desolate when he discovers that he is destined to be the farmer's Christmas dinner until his spider friend, Charlotte, decides to help him. (catalog summary)
If you like Charlotte's Web, check out these other classic titles:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life! (catalog summary)
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Eleven-year-old Harriet keeps notes on her classmates and neighbors in a secret notebook, but when some of the students read the notebook, they seek revenge. The story about eleven-year old Harriet, who is a spy, plans to be a writer, and keeps a secret notebook filled with thoughts and notes on her school mates and people she observes on her after-school "spy route." However, when her classmates find and read her notebook, their anger and retaliation, and Harriet's unexpected responses, explode in a hilarious and often touching manner. (catalog summary)