"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Seven Chinese Siblings

The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy, Illus. by Jean & Mu-sien Tseng, 1990.

According to the Editor's Note, this Han tale features an emperor who really lived from 259-210 B.C. Ch'in Shih Huang was known to be cruel, but he brought about the unification of China and planned the construction of the Great Wall. In this story, seven remarkable brothers live during Huang's rule. Each has a very special talent, from incredible hearing to amazing strength to fantastic instantly growing legs. One day First Brother hears some men struggling to repair a hole in the Great Wall, so the brothers send mighty Third Brother to help. When the emperor learns about this fellow, he is threatened and orders that he be captured and executed. Luckily, each brother in turn trade places, using their unique qualities to evade death. But finally, the emperor crosses the youngest brother, whose ability is crying very large tears, big enough that only a few can drown a whole city, which proves to be very unfortunate for the ruthless ruler.

The Tsengs provide watercolor paintings of the strongly similar brothers and their world.

The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker, Illus. by Grace Lin, 2003.

Seven Chinese Sisters is described as an update on the old folktale, and so reader's can enjoy six gifted girls as they rescue their baby sister from a  hungry dragon. Their talents range from riding a scooter as fast as the wind to counting to five hundred plus to making the most delicious noodle soup in the world. Lured by this tasty food, the dragon spots the youngest child and takes her instead. Fortunately, baby sister speaks her first word, "help!" and the sisters prove to be more than a match for him, even kindly promising to bring the starving creature soup on the next day. Readers will be delighted when they discover Seventh Sister's hidden talent when she "grows tall."

Grace Lin has created fun and sweetly detailed illustrations for the story. The sisters bear a strong family resemblance, but each one's personality comes through. They all have their own hairstyles. They share an affinity for the color blue, but each girl's clothing sports a different pattern. When moving about the house and the lawn, every girl is absorbed by her own interest, from karate to communing with a stray dog. Even the dedication page has a nice detail: the sisters' identical black shoes, lined up from the largest to smallest pair ease along the page.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Magic Horse of Han Gan

The Magic Horse of Han Gan by Chen Jiang Hong, Trans. by Claudia Zoe Bedrick, 2006.

Young Han Gan loves to draw, but doesn't get much opportunity because he is from a poor family. One day, he delivers a meal to the painter Wang Wei and stops to sketch some horses in the sand. Impressed, the artist provides Han Gan with supplies and thereby launches his artistic career. The young man continues to paint horses, always showing them tethered because they are so lifelike that he fears they may run away. Like The Boy Who Drew Cats, Han Gan has a very special talent. Eventually, a great warrior comes to him, asking that he create a steed beyond any other, one the man can take into battle. Han Gan is willing to try, and makes a magical horse with no need for physical nourishment or sleep. The horse is wonderful indeed, but can such a special creature be made for a life of combat?

Although Han Gan's horse is a legend, the masterful painter lived 1,200 years ago in China. He painted his horses on silk, and an example of his work is included in the back of the book. Chiang Jiang Hong has illustrated the story using the same technique as Han Gan, painting directly on silk. Also as the fabled artist, Hong's horses look as though they might gallop off the page.

Friday, December 20, 2013

King Pom and the Fox

King Pom and the Fox by Jessica Souhami, 2007.

This Chinese story eventually became what we know as "Puss in Boots." Poor Li Ming owns nothing but a pomegranate tree, and is jokingly known as "King Pom." One day he catches a fox stealing his fruit and the animal promises to make him rich if he lets it go. He agrees and as in "Puss...", the clever creature contrives to win him a kingship, a beautiful queen and a palace. And they all, including the fox, live happily ever after!

Author Jessica Souhami also created the book's hand painted paper collage illustrations. Set against a creamy background, the bold colors pop, particularly the reds and oranges of the pomegranates and the fox's fur. The self-satisfied expression on the fox's face at Li Ming's wedding alone is worth a look at this merry retelling.

Why Rat Comes First: a Story of the Chinese Zodiac

Why Rat Comes First: a Story of the Chinese Zodiac retold by Clara Yen, Illus. by Hideo C. Yoshida, 1991.

This story has a different explanation for Rat's first place in the Chinese zodiac than his/her tricky behaviour with Cat. Author Clara Yen's father made it up to entertain her when she was a child. The Jade King in the clouds has heard tales about earth's animals, but he has never yet met any. So, he sends out invitations to a great feast. He is initially saddened when only twelve animals show up, but he decides to reward them by naming the years of the zodiac cycle after each of them. Rat feels that he should be first because he is smart, but Ox disagrees and thinks that he should be the leader due to his strength. When the animals argue over who should be the winner, the Jade King declares that earth's children should be the ones to choose. Information following the story describes the animal's characteristics and their ruling years.

Hideo C. Yoshida made the book's cheerful colored pencil and ink illustrations. The stylized animals are expressive and agreeable.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Another Chinese Cinderella Story: Wishbones

Wishbones: a folk tale from China. Retold by Barbara Ker Wilson, Illus. by Meilo So, 1993.

This is  basically the same story described in the post about Yeh-Shen, retold by Ai-Ling Louie, minus the punishment of the heroine's cruel step family, and plus a helpless but still living father and an overly greedy king for a husband. Meilo So, who also illustrated The Cat's Tale and Tasty Baby Belly Buttons provides the playful art. Cinderella type Yeh Hsien is shown feeding her pet fish rice with chopsticks, the stepsister mirrors her mother in every way from dress to snotty posture, and flipping fishtails cover the endpapers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Rooster's Antlers: a Story of the Chinese Zodiac

The Rooster's Antler's: a Story of the Chinese Zodiac retold by Eric Kimmel, Illus. by YongSheng Xuan, 1999.

This story also occurs during the creation of the Chinese Zodiac, but it has a completely different plot than the tales of Cat and Rat (See: Why There is No Cat in the Chinese Zodiac ). Instead of having the creatures compete in a race, the Jade Emperor will choose the animals and their order for his own reasons. Rooster is sure that he will be chosen first, because of his beauty. He is colorful, feathery, and he has a fabulous pair of coral antlers. Dragon is also wonderful to see, but he doubts himself because he is bald headed. His conniving friend Centipede is sure that he can get Rooster's antlers for Dragon, but he has a price. Centipede is worm like and helpless and needs fierce jaws and many legs to run with. Rooster may be vain, but he is a generous creature. What will happen when he lends his crowning glories?

YongSheng Xuan has illustrated this tale of Dragon, Centipede and Rooster in vibrant colors against a sky blue background. The pleasing pictures look like (are?) bold but detailed papercuts.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lon Po Po and Auntie Tiger: Chinese Red Riding Hood Tales

Lon Po Po: a Red-Riding Hood Story From China by Ed Young, 1989.

This Red Riding Hood tale is about three little sisters, Shang, Tao and Paotze, who are left alone for the day when their mother goes to visit their grandmother. Of course, it is then that the wolf comes to call. Although the girls are gullible enough to let him in when he claims to be their grandmother, Shang, the oldest, is clever enough to lure him out of the house and the three have what it takes to defeat him.

Ed Young won the 1990 Caldecott Medal for Lon Po Po's art. This wolf is a scary one, with flashing eyes and gaping jaws.

Auntie Tiger by Laurence Yep, Illus. by Insu Yee, 2009.

The Big, Bad Wolf is a Huge, Horrible Tiger in this version of the tale. Mother has to go into town to get food, so she must leave quarreling Big Sister and Little Sister alone. When their "darling Auntie" shows up, the elder sister is sceptical, but the young one is most interested in the treats that "she" brings, and opens the door. The tricky cat has disguised his most tigerish parts, and he eventually swallows Little Sister whole. Fortunately, he has met his match in Big Sister, who dispatches him and rescues her sibling. Mother returns home to find her daughters working together happily, having learned a lesson from the fiendish feline.

Insu Lee's tiger is more comical than frightening, although his claws and teeth cannot be overlooked. Decked out in a purple tunic and flowered headscarf he is hardly convincing, yet he certainly looks optimistic about his plan. Lee plays with form and texture as he brings the girls' home setting to life as a bulbous tree trunk houses an alarmed chipmunk, jagged and wavy foliage conceals the eager tiger and Big Sister takes shelter in a tree bursting with heart shaped leaves and trumpet flowers.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Monkey King by Ed Young

Monkey King by Ed Young, 2001.

Ed Young has provided readers with a lively introduction to the Chinese Monkey King. In his Author's Note, we learn that Monkey's story is told in the epic Journey to the West, set during the T'ang dynasty (A.D. 618-907). It describes the travels of monk Tang Tsen and his companions Monkey, Pig and Water Demon as they seek to bring Buddhist scriptures from India to China.

Young's story includes Monk Tang, the Jade Emperor, Guan Ying, the Goddess Mercy, and the Buddha himself. It begins with the "birth" of  Monkey from a rock on Flower Fruit Mountain and his fast rise to monkey royalty. An ambitious trickster, he studies with a master to learn magical tricks such as changing shape, turning cloud somersaults and dividing himself into 100 little monkey soldiers. He can defeat bandits, steal weapons and the immortal peaches of heaven and evade punishment, but he is unable to best Buddha. Hundreds of years later, he regains his freedom when he agrees to become holy monk Tang's disciple, but Monkey is not done with trouble!

Young's collage illustrations of handmade and bought paper impart pleasing color and texture. The dynamic art shows the mischievous Monkey vaulting and somersaulting through his adventures and also interestingly depicts his allies and foes. The Red Beard Bandit has appropriately fiery facial hair, along with blue skin, pink tufts of hair and some serious fangs. The Dragon King is first shown as a menacing shadow. Guan Ying is serene, clad in white and a veil of light.

This book is a great choice to expand your knowledge of tricksters and legend and may send you in search of the full epic, Journey to the West.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Yeh-Shen: a Cinderella Story from China

Yeh-Shen: a Cinderella Story from China retold by Ai-Ling Louie, Illus. by Ed Young, 1982.

This Cinderella story dates from the T'ang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and precedes European versions of the tale. It contains the kind, ill-treated orphan girl, her cruel stepmother and favored stepsister. There is the equivalent of a ball (spring festival) and royalty to marry. Yet, there are different and interesting details as well. Yeh-Shen does not receive help from a fairy godmother or a tree on her mother's grave. Instead, her aid comes from the bones of her only friend, a fish that she raised and loved, who was murdered by her vicious stepmother. The spirit of the bones answers Yeh-Shen's daily requests for food, keeping her alive until the festival, when it provides her with a cloak of kingfisher feathers, an azure blue gown and magic golden slippers for her miraculously tiny feet. And you know the rest.

Ed Young's magical illustration's are done in pastels and watercolor and each somehow incorporates the fish as part of the design (See Yeh-Shen's festival clothes, above). He uses glowing jewel colors, as in the picture of the stepmother comforting her daughter while Yeh-Shen works. The background is the magenta scales of the fish, and the woman's robes are patterned with purple, turquoise, green and garnet. Her golden bangles seem to shine.

Fairy tale devotees should be sure to add this lovely Cinderella story to their book list!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen

The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen, Illus. by Ed Young, 1967,1988.

Set in ancient China, this is the the story of the emperor's tiny youngest daughter, who is generally overlooked. Although Djeow Seow is usually alone and spends much of her time playing with her kite, she is able to put her toy to good use and save her father when evil men lock him up in a tower. Her older and seemingly more important brothers and sisters mourn the emperor, but the observant child, with the advice of a kind monk, knows how to feed and eventually rescue her powerful dad. Through her loyalty, Djeow Seow wins the love and recognition that she deserves.

Ed Young won a Caldecott honor for his illustrations, which are based on a traditional Asian papercut method. They are full of detail and color. In Djeow Seow's dragon-head kite, the color gradually shifts from purple to red to hot pink. The emperor's ornate dragon embellished robes also change color, in the garment itself and from page to page, now green and gold, then pink, then red and orange. The art is beautifully balanced and the action often occurs over an entire double page spread, as when the kite soars at the top of the left side, the little girl and the monk bow to each other on the bottom right, and both images are connected by the kite's angled string.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why there is no cat in the Chinese zodiac!


Turning now to Chinese folktales and legends, I begin with the story of the Chinese zodiac. There are many picture book and illustrated versions of this story for children. The basic tale goes like this: an important person/deity decides to create the first calendar and summons all the animals of China to help. He will name the first year in the twelve year cycle after the first animal that reaches him.  Rat, cat, dog, pig, rooster, ox (water buffalo), tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, monkey and sheep are all invited. Although cat and rat are best friends, rat schemes to be first with a trick that shuts  the unfortunate cat out of the race and destroys friendship between them and all of their descendants. Rat also takes advantage of the strength and speed of Ox (Water Buffalo) to grab a lift. Rat is triumphant, and Cat is furious.

I will be adding to this post as I find additional versions of the story.

The Great Race: the Story of the Chinese Zodiac by Dawn Casey, Illus. by Anne Wilson. 2006.

The Jade Emperor, King of Heaven, decides to create a calendar and name each year after a different animal. He holds a swimming race across the river to determine the order that the beasts should appear in the new cycle. Here, the dirty Rat actively eliminates Cat from the competition by pushing him into the river while he is asleep. He also takes advantage of Ox by riding his back across the river, but then scuttling ahead of him into first place once they arrive on dry land.

Once all the animals but cat arrive, the Jade Emperor declares that every child born in an animal's year will share the talents of that creature.

After the story, information on the Chinese calendar, its important days, and the years and characters of the twelve animals are included.

The illustrations are done in bright collage. Wilson uses repeating circles, ovals and squares, and the Jade Emperor and the animals are done with intentional simplicity, like a child's drawing.

The Cat's Tale: Why the Years Are Named for Animals by Doris Orgel, Illus. by Meilo So, 2008.

This is the same basic tale, but told in a frame story. Mao the cat and Willow the girl belong to each other. When Nai Nai, Willow's grandma, comes to watch her, the child isn't happy about it because it means that her mother has gone out. Nai Nai begins to tell the story of the Zodiac's origin, but Mao is enraged when she forgets to mention Cat, and gives her a scratch. Nai Nai is angry with Mao and Willow is mad at her Grandma, so the girl and kitty head to another room by themselves. As Willow strokes Mao, the cat tells her the real story of the Zodiac race and Rat's betrayal. The story unfolds, and Willow realizes that she has lost her stuffed pig.  Fortunately, at the tale's end, Grandma appears and has the perfect way to make up with her granddaughter and Willow's feline friend.

Meilo So, who also illustrated Tasty Baby Belly Buttons, provides cheerful illustrations. Round Mao has wide amber eyes, a dear little heart shaped pink nose, and a very large indignant mouth when Nai Nai leaves Cat out of her story.

Cat and Rat: The Legend of the Chinese Zodiac. by Ed Young, 1995.

This is the same storyline, but it also follows cat's unsuccessful struggle to reach the Emperor. The animal's years and characteristics precede the tale. In the Author's Note, Young explains that the zodiac was established 5000 years ago by Emperor Huang Di. Young's illustrations are done in charcoal and pastels on Japanese rice paper.

What the Rat Told Me: a Legend of the Chinese Zodiac by Marie Sellier, Catherine Louis and Wang Fei. 2008.

It is stated on the endpapers that this story is adapted from a Chinese Buddhist legend from the Han Dynasty (206 BCE- 220 CE). It takes place on the morning of the dawn of the world. The animals must climb the Jade Mountain to reach the Great Emperor of Heaven. Although the rat has promised to wake the cat for the journey, he fails to do so. As each creature arrives, the Emperor praises their finest qualities. The sun rises for the first time, and the beasts take their places in the wheel of time. But, not the poor cat. The dates for each sign are given following the story.

The graphics are big and bold, all done in black, white and red. The Chinese characters for each animal, plus the emperor and the mountain, are used.

The Animals of the Chinese Zodiac by Susan Whitfield and Phillipa-Alys Browne. 1998.

Buddha wants to make a calendar and the name the years, but he becomes ill and sends his Apsaras ("flying women with magical powers") to invite the animals for a visit. So, the ladies journey to a farm, the mountains, the rivers and the plains to spread the news. This story gives more detail on the animal's behavior and travel habits. Rat is given the benefit of the doubt. Is he a trickster or just forgetful?

The animals are colored fancifully: a blue horse with a red, yellow and orange mane, a tiger with green stripes and a orchid shaded monkey.

No Year of the Cat by Mary Dodson Wade, Illus. by Nicole Wong, 2013.

In this picture book version, the human emperor looks for a way for all to remember the year that the prince and heir was born.

This is my favorite telling of the story, largely because of the art. Wong brings a very playful touch to the tale. On the title page, best friends Cat and Rat are shown with Rat sitting on Cat's head and dangling some string and a bell for her to play with. Ox smiles broadly at the twosome's flattery before they cross the river. Each creature is fussed over once they arrive, and a delighted Tiger is shown getting a tummy rub from one of the emperor's advisers. The art is also full of movement, from the various beasts travels through the river to the ruler's pacing with his line of advisers following him like ducklings, to the Dog shaking water off himself as he meets the emperor.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Animal Dreaming: an Aboriginal Dreamtime Story by Paul Mori, 1998.

This is the story of the Kip-a-ara (initiation into manhood) of Mirri, who is told of the earth's origin by his friend and elder Gadurra. As they set off on walkabout, Mirri learns that the Great Ancestor War-ra-mur-run-gun-di created the animals, birds and fish and they all lived together in a watery place. Everything was fine until the birds decided they should have all of the land for themselves. A giant battle commenced, but three, Garn-dag-itj, the Ancestral Kangaroo, Bal-an-ga, the Ancestral Long-Necked Turtle and Din-e-wan, the Ancestral Emu would not fight. Instead, they looked for ways to bring peace. Each had a powerful dream and afterward, the land began to change. All the animals made their homes on earth and were at peace. From that time, when the animals dreamt, they lived their dreams. When the story ended, Mirri looked at rock paintings of the Dreamtime and knew that a time would come for him too to leave his mark.

Mori's paintings of Mirri and Gadurra are done in alkyds on canvas, while his Dreamtime images are based on traditional Dreamtime motifs and are painted in acrylics on wood. The questing boy and his surroundings are painted realistically, using deep dark colors to show a mysterious sacred space. Some of the striking Dreamtime pictures look almost like mosaics, with spirals, wavy lines and dots of earthen colors creating a night sky giving way to a dream. The backgrounds of the pictures of the emu, kangaroo and turtle are highly textured and look to be painted with natural pigments, suggesting the cave drawings that Mirri sees. Readers will enjoy the surrealistic pictures, such as the great snake coiling itself  and changing into a twisting, rock hillside.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gidja the Moon

Gidja the Moon by Percy Trezise & Dick Roughsey, 1984, North American edition 1988.

In this legend, Gidja the Moon brings mortality to the humans of the Dreamtime and becomes a celestial body, along with his wife, the Evening Star and his daughter the Morning Star. The story describes how the (super)human Gidja courts and wins his wife, then has and loses their little daughter Lilga to death. Death has been unknown to the first people, who blame Gidja and violently chase him away when he is trying to bury Lilga's body. They go so far as to try to kill him, but he does not die. When they fling him into the air, he becomes the moon that we know, waxing and waning as the days pass. At this time, he curses the people to be mortal.

In the book's introduction, we are told that the moon symbolized death to Australian Aboriginal people, but also Nature's seasonal rebirth and the afterlife. "They believed that Gidja attends the good gate at the portal of the new horizon, the Aboriginal concept of life after death. No one passes through the good gate without Gidja's approval."

Gidja the Moon includes a map of Australia with a detail of Cape York and a glossary with pronunciation of names.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Rainbow Serpent

The Rainbow Serpent by Dick Roughsey, 1975. This North American edition 1988.
This edition of The Rainbow Serpent includes an introduction and a glossary, making the story easier for American readers  to understand. From the introduction, we learn that according to Aborginal mythology, the earth was originally flat and featureless and was populated only by humans. In the story, during the Dreamtime, the Rainbow Serpent Goorialla woke up and began to search for his people, crawling over Australia from south to north and creating mountains, gorges, creeks and rivers with his body as he moved. When he found his people, he was welcomed, and he taught them how to dance and what to wear. Trouble began, however, when a storm gathered and the Bil-bil brothers came looking for shelter. This legend goes on to explain how some of the original people changed themselves into animals, birds, insects and plants and how Goorialla's eye became Halley's Comet. It emphasises that we must now look after those who changed into animals, etc. because they were once people too, during the Dreamtime.
Dick Roughsey's illustrative style is very  much like his work in The Giant Devil- Dingo, with a similiar color palette and character depiction. The Rainbow Serpent is gigantic, striped with blue, green, gold and red, with horns, a protruding tongue and a inexpressive face. 

The Giant Devil-Dingo

The Giant Devil-Dingo by Dick Roughsey, 1973.

In the Dreamtime, Eelgin the grasshopper woman has Gaiya, a giant devil dingo in her thrall, and when the butcher-bird brothers, or Chooku-chooku, run into Eelgin while they are out hunting, they know that soon they will be the hunted. They are on the run, armed only with spears. Gaiya is huge, hungry and willing to chase them for days. This legend explains the origins of regular dingos and describes them as friends and helpers of people.

Dick Roughsey (1920-1985) was an Australian Aborginal author and artist of the Lardil people of Mornington Island. (To learn more about their history and culture click here .)  In information after the story, he says that this tale comes from several tribes in the lower Cape York peninsula. He  also says that unlike other creatures in the Dreamtime, the dingo was always a dog, not a human.

Roughsey's art shows the Dreamtime animal/people as dark, thin. long and featureless, making them seem at once alien and from the earth. Everything is painted in brown, terra cotta and shades of green. The Devil-Dingo is larger than an elephant and has ruddy eyes, a lolling tongue and vicious looking teeth and claws and is a fearsome foe indeed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September fifty.fiftyme Challenge


Working on the fifty.fifty me blog challenge.  Reviews for this post forthcoming!
Majoring in: Japanese Fairy and Folktales
Minoring in: Steinbeck

September  Books Read:
  • Wither by Lauren DeStefano:
 In this Dystopia, due to  tragic scientific tampering and error, people have greatly shortened lifespans. Girls can expect to die at age twenty and guys at twenty five. Sixteen year old Rhine and her twin brother are living alone in Manhattan, taking care of themselves and keeping other desperate orphans out of their home until Rhine is kidnapped to become the potential bride of a rich and sheltered young man in Florida. Polygamy is now standard, and three brides are chosen out of a van load of terrified girls. The unlucky rejected don't make it back to their families and former lives."Fortunate" Rhine is kept with her sister wives in luxurious captivity, expected to spend her last four years being making babies and prettily hanging on her husband's arm at public functions. But, she is courageous and resourceful. Rhine does not plan to meekly accept the life that others have chosen for her, even if it means tangling with her dangerous father-in-law, who is one of the last generation of elders. I enjoyed this story, with its elements of The Handmaid's Tale and "Beauty and the Beast" and rooted for Rhine and her escape. I'll be reading the sequel Fever.
  • Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia by Eric Madden, Illus. by Adrienne Kennaway (Please see blog post)
  • Sun Mother Wakes the World: an Australian Creation Story adapted by Diane Wolkstein, Illus. by Bronwyn Bancroft (Please see blog post)
  • After the Snow by S.D. Crockett
  • P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirsten Cronn-Mills
September Films watched:
  • The Kings of Summer, 2013:
  • The Way, Way Back, 2013: I really enjoyed this. A teenage guy, Duncan, (Liam James) has to spend part of his summer at his mom's (Toni Colette) new boyfriend's (Steve Carell) cottage, but the boyfriend is a horrible jerk. Duncan is pretty miserable, but fortunately he meets a guy (Sam Rockwell) who gives him a job at a water park and helps with his self esteem. I thought that this was sweet and fun.
  •  Party Girl, 1995:  I wanted to watch this because I'm a librarian, and I heard that the character works in a library. Also because I enjoy Parker Posey. However, it was even sillier than I expected and unfortunately, I found it boring.
Books total: 90
Minus folktales: 53
Movies 28
Major 37/7
Minor 2/3

Monday, September 30, 2013

Rainbow Bird

Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia by Eric Madden, Illus. by Adrienne Kennaway, 1993.

This pourquoi story tells of Rainbow Bird, who, during the Dreamtime, took fire from the selfish Crocodile Man and shared it with the people. Crocodile Man kept the all fire to himself, until watchful Bird Woman changed things and banned him from the land, telling him to make his home in the water. Then Bird Woman put some firesticks into her tail and became the beautiful Rainbow Bird.

Adrienne Kennaway has provided bright watercolor illustrations for the story. Orange is the predominant color, from the sand and rocks of Crocodile Man's original home to the flames he can shoot from his mouth to the fur of fleeing kangaroos. Humble grey Bird Woman transforms into tropical colored Rainbow Bird, flipping rainbow stripes from her tail as she flies. Crocodile Man is  large and toothy, making an impressive villain for brave Bird Woman/Rainbow Bird to defeat.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Moving on to Australian myths and folktales: Sun Mother Wakes the World

As you know, I am interested in learning about folktales and myths from all over the world, and for the purposes of this blog, especially illustrated ones for children. I am quite familiar with many English, French and German tales and have looked here at picture books about folktales from Russia, Africa and Japan. I would now like to look into the mythology and folk tales of Australia, particularly the Aboriginal stories of the Dreamtime. I am eagerly looking forward to reading up on them to assuage my ignorance.

Sun Mother Wakes the World: an Australian Creation Story adapted by Diane Wolkstein, Illus. by Bronwyn Bancroft, 2004.

From the information preceding this story, we learn that The Dreamtime is a continual process of  the creation of the world. Indigenous Australian people believe that each person's birthplace is sacred and their own Dreaming, and they go on walkabouts to look after their birthplaces and keep the earth alive.

Author Ramsay Smith attributed the original tale of the Sun Mother to a Karraru woman of the West Coast of South Australia. His collection, Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals, was published in the early 1930s. Diane Wolkstein considered this, and also visited Australia three times to research the story of Sun Mother while she was creating this book.

In this story, the Sun Mother is awakened by a quiet voice, and then she wakes the sleeping earth, bringing to life vegetation and animals. After time passes, the animals begin to quarrel, so Sun Mother allows them to choose the shape that they desire. She then births her children Moon and Morning Star, so that the creatures will be comforted by their light. Together, they birth the first woman and man. Sun Mother instructs them to always return to their birthplace to look after it, and to walk the land as she does, to keep it alive.

 Indigenous Australian artist Bronwyn Bancroft provides bold visual accompaniment suitable to this tale. She uses vivid colors that provide strong contrast on each page such as yellow and orange that pop against deep blue and purple. Her abstract Sun Mother variously suggests a fetus, golden  Madonna in a stained glass window, snake woman, tree woman and pregnant bellied, radiant sun.The bright goddess contrasts the black silhouetted animals and people around and inside her. The borders that Bancroft uses on some pages teem with fish, snakes, lizards and butterflies. The lively art matches this story of the creation of all life.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Touch a Truck Family Storytime

Truck Storytime Books:
  • Dinotrux by Chris Gall
  • Revenge of the Dinotrux by Chris Gall
  • Hansel and Diesel by David Gordon
  • I'm a Truck Driver by Johnathan London, Illus. by David Parkins
  • I Stink! by Kate McMullen
  • The Construction Crew by Lynn Meltzer, Illus. by Carrie Eko-Burgess
  • Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell, Illus. by Melissa Iwai
  • Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle, Illus. by Jill McElmurry
  • Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Schertle, Illus. by Jill McElmurry
  • Jon Scieszka's Trucktown: The Great Truck Rescue (previously published as Melvin Might?) by David Shannon, Loren Long & David Gordon
  • Jon Scieszka's Trucktown: Welcome to Trucktown (previously published as Smash!Crash!)by David Shannon, Loren Long & David Gordon
  • Monkey Truck by Michael Slack
  • Tonka: I'm a Great Big Tow Truck! by Michael Anthony Steele, Illus. by Tom La Padula Studio
  • I Love Trucks! by Philemon Sturges, Illus. by Shari Halpern
  • Roadwork by Sally Sutton, Illus. by Brian Lovelock

Old MacDonald Had a Truck:

Old MacDonald Had a Truck, E-I-E-I-O!
And on his truck there were some wheels, E-I-E-I-O!
With a spin, spin here and a spin, spin there,
Here a spin, there a spin,
Everywhere a spin, spin,
Old MacDonald Had a Truck, E-I-E-I-O!

Old MacDonald Had a Truck, E-I-E-I-O!
And on his truck there were some wipers, E-I-E-I-O!
With a swish, swish here and a swish, swish  there,
Here a swish, there a swish,
Everywhere a swish, swish
Old MacDonald Had a Truck, E-I-E-I-O!

Old MacDonald Had a Truck, E-I-E-I-O!
And on his truck there was a horn, E-I-E-I-O!
With a honk, honk here and a honk, honk there,
Here a honk, there a honk,
Everywhere a honk, honk
Old MacDonald Had a Truck, E-I-E-I-O!

Fingerplay: “Where Are Trucks?” (Thumbkin)

Where is pick-up truck? Where is pick-up truck?
Here I am. Here I am.
How are you today, sir? Very well, I thank you.
Drive away. Drive away.

(Tow truck, dump truck, ice cream truck, fire truck)

Five Big Trucks:

Five big trucks went out one day, over the road and far away.
The dispatcher said, "Come on back!"
But only four big trucks came rolling back.

No big trucks went out one day over the road and far away.
The dispatcher said, "Let's go to the races!"
And the trucks came back from so many places!"

Saturday, September 14, 2013

August fifty.fiftyme Challenge

Working on the fifty.fifty me blog challenge. This was not a super productive month. Reviews for this post forthcoming!
Majoring in: Japanese Fairy and Folktales
Minoring in: Steinbeck

August Books Read:
  • Twisted Fairy Tales: 20 Classic Stories with a Dark & Dangerous Heart by Maura McHugh, Illus. by Jane Laurie.
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia This is lively historical fiction set during my lifetime. It's 1968 and eleven year old Delphine and her two younger sisters Vonetta and Fern are leaving New York and headed to Oakland, CA to meet the mother who abandoned them after Fern was born. Although they have a frosty reception from Cecile, a poet and friend of  Black Panther activists who has no desire to raise children, they soon find themselves at home in the neighborhood. The girls learn about revolution at a Black Panther run day camp, and are soon saying "Right on!"  and "Power to the People!" as they go about their daily business. Delphine leads her sisters, cautiously gets to know her mother better and finds a sort of boyfriend in Hirohito, a mixed race boy with a Flying T go cart and a complicated home life. Vonetta gets to shine in performance and Fern finds her own poetic voice. This book was showered with awards, including the Coretta Scott King author award and a Newbery Honor recognition, and it's easy to see why. I will be checking out the sequel, P.S. Be Eleven!
  • Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
  • Same Sun Here by Silas House & Neela Vaswani, 2012. (Please see blog post)
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, 2012. (Please see blog post)

August Films watched:

  • 50 First Dates (2004) This was cute. I like Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler together and really enjoy The Wedding Singer. As per my prissy usual, I could have done without the more crass moments, but the romantic relationship was sweet.
  • Valentine's Day (2010) Also pleasant, but fairly unmemorable. Many characters, not much character development. I did laught pretty hard at a scene where Jennifer Garner showed up at a restaurant to serve dinner to her lying boyfriend and his (newly-discovered by Jennifer) wife.

Books total: 84
Minus folktales: 49
Movies 25
Major 37-7
Minor 2/3

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Just trying to catch up: Fifty.fiftyme July Challenge Stats

Working on the fifty.fifty me blog challenge. Reviews for this post forthcoming!
Majoring in: Japanese Fairy and Folktales
Minoring in: Steinbeck 
July Books Read:

  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  • The Caged Graves by Diane Salerni
  • Just Behave Pablo Picasso! by Jonah Winter. Illus. by Kevin Hawkes. 2012.
  • Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd, 2012.
  • "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket, Art by Seth, 2012.
  • Goblin Secrets by William Alexander, 2012.
  • A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long, 2012.
  • Island: a Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin, 2012.
  • Chuck Close Face Book by Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Folktale: A Tale of Two Tengu retold by Karen Kawamoto McCoy

July Films Watched:

Struck by Lightning
Hyde Park On Hudson

Books total: 79
Minus Folktales: 44
Movies: 24
Major 37/7
Minor 2/3

Pitifully behind: Fifty.fiftyme Challenge June Stats

Working on the fifty.fifty me blog challenge. Most reviews for this post forthcoming!

Majoring in: Japanese Fairy and Folktales

Minoring in: Steinbeck

June Books Read:

  • Bookspeak! : Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas. (Please see blog post)
  • Unspoken: a Story From the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole (Please see blog post)
  • A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson. Illus. by John Hendrix (Please see blog post)
  • Cameron & the Girls by Edward Averett, 2013. Cameron is a 14 year old boy with Schizoform disorder. It causes him to hallucinate, but this can be controlled by medication. Unfortunately, Cameron tries to experiment with going off his medicine, and begins to hear voices. One is familiar to him, the Professor, who helps remind him of the rules he should be following. Another is a nasty new voice who challenges him to take risks and is vaguely threatening. Most intriguing is "The Girl," who wants to be Cameron's girlfriend and speaks sweetly to him. While attending classes for special needs teens he meets and becomes friends with the new girl, who has a history of depression and also would like to be Cameron's girlfriend. This was not my favorite book, because as a reader, you can watch Cameron keep making bad decisions, and it's very frustrating. I had a hard time liking him.
  • The Case of the Deadly Desperado
  •  Teeth: I loved this one. It was odd but emotionally true. Boy and his family go to live on an island that has miracle fish to help rehabilitate their youngest son who is ill with, . Boy is the only teenager on the island, except for a girl with a mysterious mother, and a physically ugly merboy. The fish boy and boy bond.
  • The Ice Queen
  • On the Road to Mr. Mineo's by Barbara O'Connor (Please see blog post)
  • The Last Little Blue Envelope  by Maureen Johnson
  •  13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. Shortly after Ginny's artistic and well traveled aunt dies, Ginny receives an unexpected package from her. It challenges the 17 year old to go to Europe and and follow the directions
  •  Little White Duck (Please see blog post)
  •  Giants Beware! (Please see blog post)
  •  Doll Bones

Folktales: The Samurai's Daughter by Robert San Souci, Tanuki's Gift: a Japanese Tale by Tim Myers  (See my blog posts for extended summaries of these).

June Films watched:

  • Stoker  (2013): This movie made me feel like I wanted to take a bath after I was done watching it and I wished I hadn't seen it. Ick. That said, it had everything to do with the plot and nothing to do with the quality of the film or its actors. India's (Mia Wasikowska) father dies on her 18th birthday, leaving her mother ( Nicole Kidman) a hot widow. On the day of the funeral, her mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode), who she never knew existed, shows up. Unsavory actitivities follow.
  • Oz: the Great & Powerful: To be fair to this film, there is no way that it could compete with the wonder that I felt as a child  when I first saw The Wizard of Oz . There is also nothing as consistently menacing as those original flying monkeys. So, there was no competition. I generally enjoy Michelle Williams and James Franco. However, I disliked the wizard's character and his womanizing ways. I really didn't like the wizard kissing Glinda. Where is the pretty but powerful Glinda? She seemed passive  and I thought that that predictible kiss just rlegated her to the role of "the girl."Also, a certain witch's transformation seemed flimsily based. Is our terrifying Wicked Witch of the West really just the result of a spell and a romantic disappointment?  Well, what did I like? The China Girl. She really did seem magical. However, she wasn't enough to save this tedious movie for me.
  •  The Great Gatsby (2013)
  • Poirot: Taken at the Flood


Books total: 69/50
Books minus folktale minor: 35/50
Movies: 21/50
Major: 36/7

Minor: 2/3

Friday, August 30, 2013

My Teen Science Fiction Reading List

In October, I'm doing a one-time book group of general science fiction choices for teens and here is the reading list I've come up with. I thought that I'd share. For the meeting itself, I will highlight and talk about six of these titles. I hope this is useful for you!

Science Fiction


a)      The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (1950)

b)      The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895)

c)       Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818, originally published anonymously)

d)      The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells (1896)

e)      Journey To the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1871)


Government control:

a)      Giver series by Lois Lowry:

The Giver 1993

Gathering Blue 2000

Messenger 2004

Son 2012

b)      Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

Divergent (2011)

Insurgent (2012)

Allegiant (2013)

c)       Little Brother (2010) and Homeland  (2013) by Cory Doctorow

d)      Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver

Delirium (2011)

Pandemonium (2012)

Requiem (2013)

e)      Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie

Matched (2010)

Crossed (2011)

Reached (2012)


Post- Apocalyptic: through war or disease:

a)      The Program by Suzanne Young (2013) & The Treatment (2014)

b)      The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (2013)

c)       Fallen World Trilogy by Megan Crewe

The Way We Fall (2012)

The Lives We Lost (2013)

d)      Epitaph Road by David Patneaude (2010)

e)      For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (2012)

Natural disaster: changed or dying earth

a)      The Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It (2006)

The Dead and the Gone (2008)

This World We Live In (2010)

The Shade of the Moon (2013)

b)      Ashfall series by Mike Mullin

Ashfall (2011)

Ashen Winter (2012)

Sunrise (2014)

c)       After the Snow  series by S.D. Crockett

After the Snow  (2012)

One Crow Alone (2013) prequel

       d) Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony (2010)

       e) Rootless by Chris Howard (2012)This will be a series.


Alien encounters:

Life on other planets/We live on other planets:

a)      Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go (2008)

The Ask and the Answer (2009)

Monsters of Men (2010)

b)      The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (2013)There will be a sequel, at least.

c)       Adaptation (2012) & Inheritance (2013) by Malinda Lo

d)      Star Kingdom series by David Weber

A Beautiful Friendship (2011)

 Fire Season (2013)

e)      The Elana Books by Sylvia Engdahl

Enchantress From the Stars (1970)

The Far Side of Evil (1971)

Time Travel :

a)      Klaatu Diskos series by Pete Hautman

The Obsidian Blade (2012)

The Cydonian Pyramid (2013)

The Klaatu Terminus (2014)

b) Sign of the Raven by Julie Hearn (2005)

d)      Hourglass Series by Myra McEntire

Hourglass (2011)

Timepiece (2012)

Infinityglass (2013)

d) Tempest by Julie Cross (2012)

e) Out of Time by John Marsden (2005)



Clockwork & steam driven /Fabulous inventions

a)      Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld

 Leviathan (2009)

Behemoth (2010)

Goliath (2011)

b)      Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve

Mortal Engines (2003)

Predator’s Gold (2004)

Infernal Devices (2006)

A Darkling Plain (2007)

c)       Incarceron  series by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron  (2010)

Sapphique (2011)

d)      The Hunchback Assignments series by Arthur G. Slade

The Hunchback Assignments (2009)

The Dark Deeps (2010)

      e) Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells (2013)


Weird bodily adaptations:

Humans as Experiments:


a)      The Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary Pearson:

   The Adoration of Jenna Fox (2008)

The Fox Inheritance (2011)

Fox Forever (2013)

b)      Gripping series trilogy by Robin Wasserman


Crashed (2009)

Wired (2010)

       c) Six of Hearts series by Jack Heath

             The Lab 2008)

e)      Origin by Jessica Khoury (2013)

f)       Chemical Garden Trilogy by Lauren DeStefano

Wither (2011)

Fever (2012)

Sever (2013)


Bodily “Improvements”:

a)      The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies (2005)

Pretties (2005)

Specials (2006)

Extras (2007)

b)      Feed by  M.T. Anderson

c)       Unwind Dystology series by Neal Shusterman:


Unwholly (2012)

d) The Ear, the Eye and the Arm by Nancy Farmer (1989)

e) Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2012)



Mad Scientists:

A) The Rules by Stacey Kade  (series-to-be Project Paper Doll)

b) Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

c) Dr. Franklin’s Island by Ann Halam

d) The Death Collector by Justin Richards (2006)

d)      Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series by Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavor (2011)

Such Wicked Intent (2012)


We Made Them:

1)      Androids/Cyborgs/Robots

a)      Lunar Chronicles  by Marissa Meyer:

Cinder (2012)

Scarlet (2013)

Cress (2014)

b)      Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum (2013)

c)       Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza

d)      A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan (2011)

e)      Bzrk Trilogy by Michael Grant

Bzrk (2012)  

Bzrk Reloaded  (2013)

2)      Clones/Genetically Engineered

a) House of the Scorpion (2002) & The Lord of Opium (2013) by Nancy Farmer

b) The Originals by Cat Patrick (2013)

c) Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2005)

d) Tankborn novels by Karen Sandler

    Tankborn (2011)

    Awakening (2013)

   Rebellion (2014)

E) Double Helix by Nancy Werlin (2005)


3)      Zombies/Monsters

a)      The Benny Imura series by Jonathan Maberry:

 Rot and Ruin (2010)

Dust and Decay(2011)

Flesh and Bone (2012)

Fire and Ash (2014)

b)      The Enemy series by Charlie Higson:

The Enemy (2010)

The Dead (2011)

The Fear (2012)

The Sacrifice (2013)

c)       This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (2012)

d)      Ashes Trilogy by Ilsa Blick

Ashes (2011)

Shadows (2012)

Monsters (2013)

e)      Z by Michael Thomas Ford (2010)


Virtual reality/games

a)      Insignia series by S.J. Kincaid

Insignia (2012)

Vortex (2013)

b) Under the Never Sky Trilogy by Veronica Rossi

     Under the Never Sky (2012)

     Through the Ever Night (2013)

c)  For the Win by Cory Doctorow(2010)

d) Deadly Pink by Vivan Van Velde (2012)

e) Bubble World by Carol Snow (2013)



a)      Mazerunner series by James Dashner

The Mazerunner (2009)

The Scorch Trials (2010)

The Death Cure (2011)

The Kill Order (2012) prequel

b) In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker (1997)

       c) Memory Boy by Will Weaver (2003) & The Survivors (2013)

      d) Storm Thief by Chris Wooding (2006)

      e) Ship Breaker (2010) and Drowned Cities (2013) by Paulo Bacigalupi