Fairy Tales & Folktales
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.