Tag: folktales

3 Picture Books Filled with Wild Animals

Where, Oh Where, Is Baby Bear By Ashley Wolff

Where, Oh Where, Is Baby Bear? By Ashley Wolff (9781481499163)

This picture book continues Wolff’s series on Baby Bear and his explorations of his habitat. Here, Baby Bear and his mother head out to look for food. But every time his mother looks for him, Baby Bear has disappeared. Again and again she has to call out “Where, oh where, is Baby Bear” and then her little bear responds. Readers will enjoy spotting where Baby Bear is heading and then where he is hiding as the pages turn. The repetition is handled nicely, giving the book a lovely rhythm when being read aloud. The illustrations are crisp and filled with details of their forest home. A great read aloud pick. Appropriate for ages 1-4. (Review copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)

Where_s Halmoni By Julie Kim

Where’s Halmoni? By Julie Kim (9781632170774)

This picture book is done in a full-color graphic-novel style that will be appealing to children even beyond picture book age. It is the story of Korean-American siblings who head to their grandmother’s home to find her missing. They discover a magical passage in her home that leads to a world filled with creatures from Korean folklore. There is Tokki (the rabbit), Dokkebi (the goblins), and Horanghee (the tiger). As the children figure out how to get past each of the creatures using snacks and games, they come close to learning their grandmother’s secret. Sharp-eyed children will realize what happens to the fox at the end of this Korean adventure. The appeal of folklore combined with a modern graphic-novel style makes this book a winner. Appropriate for ages 5-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett

The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

When a mouse is gobbled up by a wolf, he discovers there is life after being eaten. Inside the wolf’s stomach, a duck is already living. The duck has a bed, a table, tablecloth, chairs and much more. The duck likes being inside the wolf, because he no longer has to worry about being eaten, since it’s already happened. Soon the mouse has decided to stay and the two have a dance party to celebrate. Unfortunately, this makes the wolf’s stomach hurt. He is spotted by a hunter and soon all three animals are in danger as the hunter takes aim. What can be done to save them all? It will take all three to save the day. Barnett has the perfect rather dark humor to work with Klassen’s illustrations. The story has a mix of fun and fate that will have readers guessing right up until the end. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Three Tall Tales in Picture Book Form

Humpty Dumpty, a southern twist on a classic, and a fresh new adventure await:

After the Fall by Dad Santat

After the Fall by Dad Santat (9781626726826)

After Humpty Dumpty has fallen from the wall and gotten as repaired as he can be, he continues living his life but with a fear of heights. He can’t sleep in his bunk bed or even reach for the cereal at the grocery store that is on the top shelf. He thinks often of the wall and finds himself watching birds flying. Then one day, he decides to start making paper airplanes. He practices and practices until he makes a perfect one shaped like a bird. But what will he do when it flies over the wall? Santat has a gorgeous way with pacing a story, allowing it to naturally grow and build towards the climax. Here there is a delight of a twist at the end, just enough to transform the story of Humpty Dumpty to another tale entirely. It is handled with care and precision, making the reveal very special. The Caldecott Award winner’s art is lovely here, done with subtlety and style with interesting perspectives. A traditional tale retold into something very special. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Review copy provided by Roaring Brook Press.)

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Marco, a young fox, had lots of questions about the way the world works. The other foxes weren’t interested in his questions, so Marco headed to the harbor where he found a ship that was lost. The deer in charge of the vessel admitted they weren’t good sailors and were looking for crew members. Marco offered to sail with them and so did a group of pigeons looking for adventure. The journey was harder than expected with storms, windless stretches and pirates! Their new crew weathered all of the challenges by working together and eventually found the island they were searching for. Were their adventures done? Not yet!

This picture book is so visually beautiful. The illustrations are detailed and lush. There are small touches throughout, a sense of vast sea and sky, and a wonderful playfulness that enhances the adventures. The text is restrained and allows the images to really shine. This picture book is perfect for young pirates looking for a new beautiful adventure. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by Beach Lane Books.)

Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes

Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes (9781580897181)

A southern take on the classic Princess and the Pea story, this version of the story is set in South Carolina. Ma Sally is one of the best cooks in town, known for her black-eyed peas. Her son John is interested in getting married and several girls are interested in him, but Ma Sally worries about their skills in cooking. So she sets up a test for them. It’s not until a girl from out of town, named Princess, enters the contest that John realizes he’s finally found his match in personality and cooking. Himes takes care at the end of this book to ensure that Princess is not just looking for a husband. Instead there is a focus on the power of women and her right to choose after getting to know John a bit more. The illustrations have folksy simplicity to them that suit the story. A great African-American version of the classic story that puts the choice back into the hands of the couple rather than the mother. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

 

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney (9780316341578, Amazon)

Pinkney continues his foray into classic folktales with this new book. With its focus on fooling a bully, this is a timely tale to tackle. Pinkney uses great skill to whittle the text down to exactly what is needed to carry the story forward. The book is not a reinvention of the original tale, but instead a focused version of the original that will have children cheering the brave goats. Pinkney does add a nice touch to the end with the troll getting harried himself and then rejected in a clever mirror of what he did to the goats.

The illustrations from this Caldecott winning artist are exceptional as always. Pinkney uses pencil and watercolor to create his rich illustrations that have small details, large landscapes and animals. The goats are winsome and courageous while the troll is a vile green with long toenails, tusk-like teeth, and rotting fish and fish skeletons around him.

Another must-have for every library by a master author/illustrator. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman

Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman

Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Divya Srinivasan (9780062399618, Amazon)

A princess who is blind also doesn’t speak. Her parents, the Rajah and the Rani, offer a place in the palace and other rewards to anyone who can get Cinnamon to talk. Though the kingdom is remote, people journey there to try but no one was successful. The one day a talking tiger came to the palace and offered to help. Though everyone was frightened, Cinnamon’s parents allowed the tiger to try. Using a series of experiences like pain, fear and love, the tiger proceeded to tell Cinnamon stories. The next morning, the princess was able to talk but things don’t quite go according to plan.

Gaiman excels at writing books with a deep ambiguity and no pressure to have a moral or lesson at the end. This book has exactly that and it is why the book works to very well. He embraces the questions, allows the wonder to simply be there, and twists the story away from where traditional tales would end and towards a more shifting place that allows more dreaming.

The illustrations firmly place this book of a mythical India. Filled with rich colors, they have a distinct flatness to them that works well with a folktale subject like this. They are also filled with small details that adds a delicacy and luxuriance to the images.

Great illustrations bring this book previously only available on audio into the world of children and stories. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr

Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr

Deep in the Woods by Christopher Corr (9781847807267, Amazon)

This picture book is a retelling of a classic Russian folktale. In the woods, there stands a little wooden house with nine windows and a red front door. When a little mouse discovers that it would make a perfect home, he is soon joined by several other animals until all of the windows and rooms are filled with happy animals living together. When a bear discovers the house though, he is far too large to even get in the red door. He keeps trying to enter the house and climbs onto the roof which collapses the house and smashes it. What can be done to fix everything?

Corr keeps the text nice and simple throughout the story, creating almost a cumulative tale as one animal after the other joins in the group living in the house. For each animal, there are repeated phrases used and they approach, ask to live there and are accepted one after the other. This repetition is nicely done, not overworked and will make the story work well for very small children. The bear’s approach cleverly breaks the pattern established and signals how different he is from the others immediately. The writing is smart and effective.

The cover of the book does not fully show the brightness of the illustrations inside. They are neon bright and almost light the page with their neon pinks, oranges and reds. The red door of the house is wildly bright as are the animals themselves. The illustrations have stylized elements like the sun in the sky and the different trees in the woods. Toadstools and mushrooms carpet the ground that can be yellow, green, purple or blue.

Wild colors add a modern touch to this traditional tale. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley

the-crane-girl-by-curtis-manley

The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Lin Wang (9781885008572)

Released March 15, 2017.

Yasuhiro discovered an injured crane caught in a trap and freed it, the crane pressing its red crest to his cheek before flying away. The next night a girl came to his home where he lived with his father. She asked to stay with them and work for them. His father, Ryota, agreed to let her stay though they aren’t rich and have little to share. The girl, Hiroko, noticed the loom in one of the rooms and was told that it belonged to Yasuhiro’s mother who had died. Hiroko offered to weave silk for them to sell as long as they never opened the door while she was working. They agreed. She soon returned with fine silk that Ryota was able to sell for a nice sum, enough to stop him from having to look for work for awhile. Soon though, he needed more silk and then still more, faster and faster each time. As the demands grew, Hiroko was unable to recover between weavings, making each time take longer and longer. When Ryota finally opened the door, there was Hiroko as a crane, weaving on the loom and using her own feathers. Hiroko finished the weaving and then flew off, but it was up to Yasuhiro to decide what life he was going to choose going forward.

This picture book version is based on several versions of the traditional Japanese crane folktales. One theme in these stories is the concept of a debt that needs to be repaid. This version has a father who plays the impatient villain in the story, allowing real love to blossom and grow between the human boy and the crane girl. The writing here is superb. It is simple enough to be shared aloud well and yet rich enough that the story really comes to life. Manley uses haiku inserted throughout to speak the characters’ deepest feelings that they don’t share aloud in the story. This use of brief poetry embraces the Japanese setting of the tales in another way, enriching them further.

The illustrations are enchanting. They have a light to them, one that shines from the silk the girl creates and emanates from her body and feathers. Done in watercolor, they are filled with fine details, small touches of steam rising from a teapot and snow on shoulders draw readers further in.

A rich retelling of the Japanese crane folktale, this version offers great writing combined with wonderful illustrations. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Shen’s Books.

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

vassa-in-the-night-by-sarah-porter

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter (InfoSoup)

When the nights in Brooklyn seem to be getting longer and longer, lasting almost entire days, Vassa finds herself looking forward to school just not to be home any longer. Part of it is her stepmother and stepsisters and part is pure boredom. It doesn’t help that Erg, the wooden doll that Vassa’s mother gave her before she died, is stealing things from her stepsisters which are then blamed on Vassa. So when one of her stepsisters basically dares Vassa to head to the dangerous local convenience store, Vassa accepts the challenge. She heads to Babs Yagg’s store, the one that dances on chicken legs and that you have to sing down. She makes sure that Erg is with her, as always, and knows that she is in for an unusual experience. What Vassa doesn’t realize is that she is headed straight into her dangerous destiny and will discover an entire magical world that she never knew existed: one with bleeding swans, a dark motorcyclist, severed hands, and beheaded teens.

Inspired by the Russian folktale, Vassilissa the Beautiful, this novel for teens embraces all of the strange and bizarre in that story and takes it even further. Baba Yaga’s home on chicken feet becomes an amazing convenience store filled with some treats that are tempting and others that seem odd and still others that nauseate. The modern Babs Yagg is still very much a witch, and one that toys with her prey in haunting and excruciating ways. There are impossible tasks, the need for plenty of bravery, and real loss and death threatened at every turn.

This is a mesmerizing book, one that is filled with gorgeous writing that stays out of its own way and then rises beautifully to create new moods. Throughout the book the story turns briefly away and into other perspectives like those of the swans themselves or of the attorneys who are after Babs. The language changes and weaves new patterns, creating completely different worlds and experiences and then gently carrying the reader back to the main story. It’s a powerful magic all its own.

Beautifully written, this twist on a folktale is bizarre, wild and extraordinary. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Tor Teen.