Take a moment to savor the summer delights and craft some new traditions while learning the legends of summer.
Humans in prehistoric times built monuments to commemorate both the winter and the summer solstices throughout the world. Solstice comes from the Latin words sol meaning sun and sistere meaning to cause to stand still. As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky. Nature religions, both ancient and modern, hold the solstices in great esteem. Modern-day druids perform rituals based on old beliefs at Stonehenge each year. In the Americas, Machu Picchu and the Sun Dagger of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico show evidence of ancient astronomical design.
Without Jacob and Wilhelm’s efforts to gather folk tales from their German homeland and making them popular worldwide, it’s unlikely we’d know Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, or Snow White.
Every morning, Patricia (Trisha) Polacco wakes to the sounds of singing birds on her old Michigan farm. She goes downstairs, pours herself a cup of coffee, and then plays an antique music box, enjoying its magical beauty. She then sits in her favorite chair, rocks and rocks, and dreams of stories, old and new, that she can tell to children through her words and her drawings.
They flutter around the tall, bright flowers in springtime and summer, only stopping to drink sweet nectar or lay their eggs on green leaves. Who would believe a gorgeous butterfly could come from a homely caterpillar?
You can watch this miracle happen at your house. Grab a butterfly book from the library to learn how to find their eggs and raise them from creepy-crawlies into splendid winged beauties. While you wait for them to grow, try a butterfly folktale or two. People around the world have made up stories about butterflies!
"Long, long ago, when the earth was set down and the sky was lifted up, all folktales were owned by the Sky God."
So begins an Ashanti tale, Anansi Does the Impossible!, retold by Verna Aardema. Anansi the Spider and his clever wife, Aso, use their wits to buy the folk tales for the Ashanti people. Verna Aardema spent much of her life retelling these folktales.
Two-time Caldecott medalist Nonny Hogrogrian grew up in a stone house in the Bronx, New York which had belonged to her family for three generations. She came from a hard-working and artistic family with strong Armenian roots. When very young she would settle into a big chair in the home library and page through books of beautifully illustrated children’s stories dreaming about one day drawing such pictures herself.
Ethiopia-the faraway land on the horn of Africa, was Jane Kurtz's home when she was a young girl. Her parents were missionaries there, and her playmates were dark-skinned, smiling children. They mostly lived in grass-covered huts with dirt floors covered with mats—as did Jane and her family. The boys might work as cattle herders; the girls would help their mothers with cooking until it was time for them to be married.
Bored? Nothing to do? Jump into a cozy picture book on a winter night. Troublesome trolls and a beauty's Beast! Helpful hedgehogs and polite polar bears! Whether you find yourself surrounded by swirling snowflakes or a chilly blue twilight, there are no better companions for winter's frozen brightness than Jan Brett's tales from the European tradition.
Jan Brett knows all about the magical relationship between a book and a reader. "I remember the special quiet of rainy days when I felt that I could enter the pages of my beautiful picture books," she once recalled. "Now I try to recreate that feeling of believing that the imaginary place I'm drawing really exists."
It ain't over 'til it's over! Every year kids and adults build up a head of steam for the Christmas holidays. Then the magical day comes and goes too quickly, leaving scraps of wrapping paper and half-munched cookies all around the house, as well as the nagging feeling that someone special has been left off the greeting and gifting list.
In fall, the woods are filled with trees and squirrels and birds and perhaps outlaws with hearts of gold, if your imagination stretches far enough. In England, long ago there arose a legend of a man who lived in the forest with his band of other outlaws. The story goes they stole from the rich, gave to the poor, and fought for justice. Their legend continues to be told today.