Tag: folktales

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.

 

 

Review: The Turnip by Jan Brett

The Turnip by Jan Brett

The Turnip by Jan Brett (InfoSoup)

Badger girl was weeding the garden when she noticed something odd. It was a huge turnip! She tried to pull it out, but it would not budge. Soon their whole family of badgers were trying to pull the turnip out with no success. Hedgie tried to use his prickles to get it out, Mr. Ram tried using his horns, and Vanya the horse hitched up and pulled too. Nothing worked. Then Rooster strutted up and insisted that he try all by himself. Meanwhile, down in the cave below a family of bears had also discovered the turnip and pushed hard to get it out of their bedroom. The turnip sailed into the air with a triumphant Rooster flying along too. Then it was turnip pancakes for everyone!

Brett excels at retelling folktales, enlivening them with her animal characters. This is a traditional cumulative tale that sticks very close to the original. The family of bears living under the turnip is a great addition that allows strutting Rooster to claim victory over the stubborn turnip. The pacing of the tale works well, each new attempt has a longer and longer line of animals trying to help and also dreaming of what delicious things could be made out of the turnip.

As always, Brett’s illustrations are filled with fine details. She again uses her framing on each double-page spread, showing the next animal to arrive before they come in. Readers will notice the bear family on these panels too, a subtle introduction prior to them taking center stage. The illustrations show that this is Russia where the badgers and bears live. They wear traditional Russian clothing and the frames on the illustrations show a similar influence.

Another winner from Brett, this picture book will make a crowd pleaser of a read aloud, but with Brett’s detailed illustrations it’s also a winner of a lap read. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Review: On the Shoulder of a Giant by Neil Christopher

On the Shoulder of a Giant by Neil Christopher

On the Shoulder of a Giant by Neil Christopher, illustrated by James Nelson (InfoSoup)

Based on a traditional Inuit folktale, this picture book shows what happens when a massive giant takes an interest in a small human. Inukpak was big even for a giant. When he walked across the land, he could easily step over rivers and wade the deepest lakes. He could cross the Arctic on foot in only a few days, fishing for whales along the coasts. Then one day he met a hunter, whom he mistook for a little child. Before the hunter knew what has happening, Inukpak had adoped him as a son and placed him on his shoulder. In just a few steps, they were so far from the hunter’s home that he didn’t know how to return. As Inukpak got them dinner in the form of a huge whale, he almost drowned the hunter just from the huge waves that splashed as he walked in the water. When a polar bear attacks the hunter, Inukpak just laughs and tosses it away. In time, the two became good friends, the giant and the hunter.

The stage is set very nicely for this story with an introduction that explains what stories the book is based on and how the author came to know so much about Arctic folklore. The pages after the story expand the topic of Arctic giants even further with explanations of different kinds of giants. The storyline is not as linear as European tales, allowing readers to get a sense of the giant and a different rhythm of storytelling at the same time. The huge and kind giant is full of appeal thanks to his huge sense of humor and the merry way he approaches life in the Arctic.

Nelson’s illustrations are playful and jolly as well. They show the various areas of the Arctic from the seashore to the more inland areas. The size difference between the giant and the human is kept fairly consistent throughout the book, This giant is much larger than most and that adds to the appeal as well. The natural landscapes of the book are thoughtfully done as are the various animals. The lifelike depictions of these elements make the giant all the more believable.

One huge giant and one little man create a great story together and one that can nicely be shared aloud. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.