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

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

Friday, January 10, 2014

Lani and the Secret of the Mountain

Lani and the Secret of the Mountain by Jewell Reinhart Coburn, Illus. by Mikki Senkarik, 1996.

This book is part of the Common Values series and, unlike most of the folktales that I have mentioned, was created specifically for teaching. It is intended for discussing values such as: "Responsibility, Loyalty, Compassion, Courage, Self-sacrifice and Thinking Consequentially." It is also a multilingual edition and contains a long version of the tale in English, plus shortened tellings in English, Chinese: Traditional & Hanyu Pinyin, Hmong, Cambodian (Khmer), Lao, Vietnamese and Spanish. Following the story is a teaching section, with background about China and this folktale, reading suggestions, story-related activities and discussion questions.

The story, also known as "The Long Haired Girl", it is about a brave young girl named Lani who saves her village from a terrible drought. The people and animals are suffering in the heat. Known to her neighbors as laughing and attractive, with long black hair that reaches the ground, Lani suddenly returns from the mountain with downcast eyes and lifeless, snow-white locks. She has learned that the mountain spirit is hording a special plant that can return water to the village, but she has been threatened with death if  she tells of it. Even so, she is willing to sacrifice herself and bring life back to her people. They rejoice in the water's return and the spirit of the mountain sentences her to die in payment. Fortunately, the newly releases water spirits have a plan to save Lani from her execution that also brings back her health and beauty.

Senkarik's illustrations are a mix of black and white and color pictures. Lani is first shown with a little face surrounded by her waves of dark hair, intentionally springing out around her like a halo. This contrasts with a saddened Lani with cascades of white tresses. From there, the illustrations are done in color, each with fancy border frames. Lani is shown with her animal friends, both her pet piglets and wild creatures.

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