Archive for the ‘Folk Tales’ Category

Writing Reviews, Posting Reviews

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

I have a problem. It’s a good problem. I am way behind on reviews I have written but haven’t posted. Right now there are 97 of them.

Partly, this problem came from the solution to an earlier problem: I was way behind on books I’d read but hadn’t reviewed. I decided to solve that problem by spending 30 minutes per day writing reviews. Some time ago, I’d tried and succeeded — for an entire year — to write 30 minutes a day on my book. For now, I’m putting my book-writing on hold. I went to the William Morris Seminar in January to learn about ALSC’s Book Evaluation Committees. It’s seen as conflict of interest to have a book being published when you are evaluating books for a committee (like the Newbery), so I decided I haven’t gotten published in all this time, why not wait a little longer and see if I can get on a committee first? Surely I can write in the meantime — just not try to find a publisher. Well, I decided that, and then got more and more lazy about my 30 minutes per day goal. When I saw how behind I was on books to be reviewed, I decided to let myself spend that time on review writing. And I’ve caught up!

Or, I’ve sort of caught up. There’s a problem. If I write one review per day but don’t post one review per day, I will never catch up. The fact is, I need to be much, much more choosy about which books I review. Right now I’ve got four books sitting here that I liked very much and want to recommend, but I think I will discipline myself and not review them.

Or, how about this: I’ll give a mini-review here and now, but won’t make a full-on page with links on my main site.

Here are four excellent books. First two picture books.

Rabbit’s Snow Dance, as told by James and Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Jeff Newman, tells a folk tale about how rabbit got his short tail. The book would make a wonderful read-aloud, with chants like “I will make it snow, AZIKANAPO!” and a longer chant in a circle that begs for the listeners to act out. Rabbit has a nice comeuppance at the end, or, well, comedownance, and that’s how he loses his long tail. Joseph and James Bruchac are storytellers, and this story definitely wants to be told.

Sleep Like a Tiger, by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, is one I got fresh appreciation for when I heard people talk about it at Capitol Choices. This is a deceptively simple bedtime story. A little girl is not sleepy at bedtime, and her parents tell her she doesn’t have to go to sleep, but she does have to put on her pajamas… and so on. Along the way, they talk about how different animals sleep. The pictures show the animals, like a tiger, in their habitat, while in alternate spreads the little girl settles into her bed with her stuffed animals and toys. In the end, she settles down like the animals do. This is a cozy and lovely bedtime book.

Then, two books of children’s nonfiction, both about birds:

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird, by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Meilo So, is another picture book, but tells a true story. It includes short chapters, but there is no table of contents and this is definitely suitable for younger kids. The story is about an African Grey Parrot and his owner, Irene Pepperberg. She used Alex to show that parrots possess true intelligence. The book talks about Alex’s progress and how he was tested and matched three-year-old children.

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95, by Phillip Hoose, is much longer. It covers science, nature, the environment and what you can do to help. Moonbird tells the story of a rufa red knot banded with the number B95 in the year 1995 who has been spotted since. These birds are some of the greatest distance travelers on earth, and B95 is the oldest known such bird. The book goes into detail about what physiological changes and athletic feats go into his journey. The author interviewed many scientists all interested in helping the red knots and other shorebirds continue to survive.

So there you have it — Four more excellent books. Some day, I will catch up…. Meanwhile, keep reading!

Review of Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Women Who Run With the Wolves

Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD

Ballantine Books, New York, 1997. First published in 1992. 582 pages.
Starred Review
2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs: #2 Other Nonfiction

This wonderful book is full of riches. I read it very slowly, and will definitely want to read it many more times to better grasp the wisdom it contains.

For some time, I’ve loved books by Allan B. Chinen, such as Once Upon a Midlife, that take fairy tales from around the world and reveal the psychology behind them and what it means about the passages in a person’s life. Women Who Run With the Wolves is similar, taking fairy tales and stories from all over the world that shine light on women’s lives. Only Clarissa Pinkola Estes is much more poetical and symbolic in applying the fairy tales, so that her own skills as a storyteller shine out even in the explanations.

Here are some thoughts the author shares in the Introduction:

“Healthy wolves and healthy women share certain psychic characteristics: keen sensing, playful spirit, and a heightened capacity for devotion. Wolves and women are reolational by nature, inquiring, possessed of great endurance and strength. They are deeply intuitive, intensely concerned with their young, their mates, and their pack. They are experienced in adapting to constantly changing circumstances; they are fiercely stalwart and very brave.

“Yet both have been hounded, harassed, and falsely imputed to be devouring and devious, overly aggressive, of less value than those who are their detractors. They have been the targets of those who would clean up the wilds as well as the wildish environs of the psyche, extincting the instinctual, and leaving no trace of it behind. The predation of wolves and women by those who misunderstand them is strikingly similar….

“Like a trail through a forest which becomes more and more faint and finally seems to diminish to a nothing, traditional psychological theory too soon runs out for the creative, the gifted, the deep woman. Traditional psychology is often spare or entirely silent about deeper issues important to women: the archetypal, the intuitive, the sexual and cyclical, the ages of women, a woman’s way, a woman’s knowing, her creative fire. This is what has driven my work on the Wild Woman archetype for over two decades.

“A woman’s issues of soul cannot be treated by carving her into a more acceptable form as defined by an unconscious culture, nor can she be bent into a more intellectually acceptable shape by those who claim to be the sole bearers of consciousness. No, that is what has already caused millions of women who began as strong and natural powers to become outsiders in their own cultures. Instead, the goal must be the retrieval and succor of women’s beauteous and natural psychic forms.

“Fairy tales, myths, and stories provide understandings which sharpen our sight so that we can pick out and pick up the path left by the wildish nature. The instruction found in story reassures us that the path has not run out, but still leads women deeper, and more deeply still, into their own knowing. The tracks we all are following are those of the wild and innate instinctual Self….

“Stories are medicine. I have been taken with stories since I heard my first. They have such power; they do not require that we do, be, act anything — we need only listen. The remedies for repair or reclamation of any lost psychic drive are contained in stories. Stories engender the excitement, sadness, questions, longings, and understandings that spontaneously bring the archetype, in this case Wild Woman, back to the surface.

“Stories are embedded with instructions which guide us about the complexities of life. Stories enable us to understand the need for and the ways to raise a submerged archetype. The stories on the following pages are the ones, out of hundreds that I’ve worked with and pored over for decades, and that I believe most clearly express the bounty of the Wild Woman archetype….

“This is a book of women’s stories, held out as markers along the path. They are for you to read and contemplate in order to assist you toward your own natural-won freedom, your caring for self, animals, earth, children, sisters, lovers, and men. I’ll tell you right now, the doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.

“The material in this book was chosen to embolden you. The work is offered as a fortification for those on their way, including those who toil in difficult inner landscapes, as well as those who toil in and for the world. We must strive to allow our souls to grow in their natural ways and to their natural depths.”

This book was a perfect choice for me as I was going through divorce and trying to figure out who I am as a single woman, looking at my life and wanting to create something beautiful. This book was exactly the sort of encouragement and wisdom I needed.

As she says, these stories are to read and contemplate. I highly recommend them, and I am sure I am going to come back to this book many times.

I’ll close with some bits of wisdom from its pages:

“Though fairy tales end after ten pages, our lives do not. We are multi-volume sets. In our lives, even though one episode amounts to a crash and burn, there is always another episode awaiting us and then another. There are always more opportunities to get it right, to fashion our lives in the ways we deserve to have them. Don’t waste your time hating a failure. Failure is a greater teacher than success. Listen, learn, go on. That is what we are doing with this tale. We are listening to its ancient message. We are learning about deteriorative patterns so we can go on with the strength of one who can sense the traps and cages and baits before we are upon them or caught in them.”

“A woman must be careful not to allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

“There is a time in our lives, usually in mid-life, when a woman has to make a decision — possibly the most important decision of her future life — and that is, whether to be bitter or not. Women often come to this in their late thirties or early forties. They are at the point where they are full up to their ears with everything and they’ve “had it” and “the last straw has broken the camel’s back” and they’re “pissed off and pooped out.” Their dreams of their twenties may be lying in a crumple. There may be broken hearts, broken marriages, broken promises.

“A body who has lived a long time accumulates debris. It cannot be avoided. But if a woman will return to the instinctual nature instead of sinking into bitterness, she will be revivified, reborn. Wolf pups are born each year. Usually they are these little mewling, sleepy-eyed, dark-furred creatures covered in dirt and straw, but they are immediately awake, playful, and loving, wanting to be close and comforted. They want to play, want to grow. The woman who returns to the instinctual and creative nature will come back to life. She will want to play. She will still want to grow, both wide and deep. But first, there has to be a cleansing.”

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/women_who_run_with_the_wolves.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own personal copy.

Review of The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney

Friday, January 1st, 2010

The Lion and the Mouse

by Jerry Pinkney

Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers, New York, 2009. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2010 Caldecott Medal Winner
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #6 Picture Books

This stunning picture book is my pick for the 2010 Caldecott Medal. The amazingly detailed paintings tell the story of the well-known fable without words, the only text being animal sounds as part of the pictures.

Without words, I was surprised at what a success this book was at Storytime. The big, beautiful pictures captured the children’s attention, and there was lots for them to talk about on each page. The expressions on the faces of the characters show emotion beautifully. There’s lots of variety in the format, from close-ups to wide angle shots. It would take many readings before you had noticed all the detail in the backgrounds.

I got to hear Jerry Pinkney talk about writing this book at the National Book Festival. He clearly loves animals, and that comes across in this magnificent book.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/lion_and_the_mouse.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Review of In the Ever After, by Allan B. Chinen

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

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In the Ever After

Fairy Tales and the Second Half of Life

by Allan B. Chinen

Chiron Publications, Wilmette, Illinois, 1994.  203 pages.

I love Allan Chinen’s collections of fairy tales.  This volume deals with tales from all over the world that involve “elders” rather than the youthful protagonist going off to seek his fortune.

After presenting each fairy tale, he speaks as a psychiatrist about the insights the fairy tale gives us and the light it sheds on living the second half of life.

Fairy tales are full of wisdom.  Allan Chinen helps you see how that wisdom can apply to your life.  This is perfect for people like me who love symbols and images.  It’s fascinating how the same concepts come up in fairy tales from completely different parts of the world.

“In most familiar fairy tales, the Prince and Princess battle against terrible enemies and survive overwhelming ordeals.  Then they meet each other, marry, and live happily ever after.  And surely true love and finding one’s own kingdom represent symbolic goals for all individuals.  But much more remains of life in the “ever after,” and perhaps the most important:  restoring innocence and wonder to a world that has forgotten them.  That is the ultimate promise of elder tales, and their challenge — infusing the magic of myth and childhood into real life.”

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on the main site at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/in_the_ever_after.html

Review of Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal

Monday, April 21st, 2008

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Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal:  A Worldwide Cinderella, by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2007.  32 pages.

We all realize that there are versions of the story of Cinderella from all over the world.  In this delightful book, Paul Fleischman takes bits from many different versions and weaves them into one tale.  Illustrator Julie Paschkis uses folk art motifs from the different countries to decorate the story perfectly.

For example, here’s a two-page spread with bits of the tale from Russia, Iran, India, and Ireland:

But when the girl was out tending the cattle, the beasts heard her crying for hunger.  “Don’t weep,” said one of the cows.  And the animal poured honey for her from its horn . . .

. . . and a fairy gave her figs and apricots . . .

. . . and Godfather Snake gave her rice.

Once she was eating well and proper, the girl bloomed into a right rare beauty.  The stepmother couldn’t fathom it.  And meanwhile her own sour-faced daughters would curdle the milk if they looked at it twice.

This book is perfect for introducing children to the concept of different versions of familiar tales.  But it’s also simply fun to read and enjoy.  And enlightening to see how the different versions reflect the different cultures.

A beautiful book.

This review is posted on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/glass_slipper_gold_sandal.html