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Folk & Fairy Tales for Everyone

Folk & Fairy Tales for Everyone

by
Kate Marley

One of the best things about these kinds of stories is that they really are for everyone. Oh, some folks who’ve grown up and calcified may think that they are just kids’ stories, and only for kids, but certainly their original purpose was to teach all people, not just children, about right and wrong ways of behavior as well as history of one's culture. And it's the neatest thing about folktales, that what is right and proper is so often the same from one culture to another. So take note! After all, that strange neighbor across the street just might be a lamed-vavnik. And perhaps the Lenape men now wish they had not driven away the twelve little women!


PICTURE BOOKS

Lake of the Big Snake by Isaac Olaleye. c 1998, Boyds Mills Press.
Inspired by stories he heard in his native Nigeria, this Maryland author wrote this adventure about a swampy lake and two boys. They’re best friends, and do everything together - even getting into trouble, by wandering where they should not. How they manage to rescue themselves makes for a neat little story, aided by colorful watercolors by Claudia Shepard.

You Never Know : A Legend of the Lamed-vavniks by Francine Prose. c 1998, Greenwillow.
Suffering from a drought, the rabbi and villagers of Plotchnik entreat God with prayers - but the rains come (and stop) only when Poor Schmuel joins in. Why does God listen to this illiterate, unworldly cobbler? The answer to this riddle is nearly as satisfying as what Schmuel leaves behind. It’s a wonderful story, with bright gouache illustrations by Mark Podwal.

Iktomi and the Coyote by Paul Goble. c 1998, Orchard Books.
While most folk tales beg to be read aloud, this latest adventure of the Plains Indian trickster Iktomi almost demands it. Humorous comments and questions (set in gray type) are the reader’s cue for audience participation. Putting two tricksters together guarantees a good yarn for everyone - well, except for the poor prairie dogs. Illustrations are by the author.

When Woman Became the Sea by Susan Strauss. c 1998, Beyond Words Publishing.
The stunning, glorious illustrations by Cristina Acosta are the first thing that grabs the reader’s attention. But this adaptation of a creation myth of the Cabecar and Bribri peoples of Costa Rica turns out to be a great story as well, for in the end, a woman’s curiosity and assertiveness becomes just what the world needed.




TRANSITIONAL BOOKS

Arabian Nights: Three Tales retold & illustrated by Deborah Nourse Lattimore. c 1995, HarperCollins.
Big and beautiful, this selection of some of the artist’s favorite tales from her childhood are a great introduction to Scheherazade’s Arabian Nights. The stories are The Queen of the Serpents, Lost City of Ubar, and of course, Aladdin.

Princess September and the Nightingale by W. Somerset Maugham. This edition, c 1998, Oxford University Press.
Originally published in 1930, this charming little story says, on the flyleaf, to be a 'classic tale of Siam'. Now whether this means that Maugham retold it from a story he heard while visiting Siam or that it’s an original that become a classic is unclear. But I liked the message; the little princess finds that her nightingale sings best when free.

Moaning Bones retold by Jim Haskins. c 1998, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
This collection of African-American ghost stories is great for kids this age, since they’re in an easy to read typeface and most are short. The ghosts range from the helpful, or mischievous to the vindictive. Black and white illustrations by Felicia Marshall contribute to the eerie atmosphere.



FOR OLDER READERS

Book of Fairies retold by Rose Williams. c 1997, Beyond Words Publishing.
A variety of stories about nature spirits from around the world, this book includes stories from India, Ireland, Japan and others. Detailed illustrations by Robin T. Barrett make a nice compliment to these intriguing stories of how fairies react with humans all over the world.

The Deetkatoo edited by John Bierhorst. c 1998, Morrow & Co.
This is an interesting collection of Native American stories about little people. As in Europe (but the stories pre-date European influence) they go by many names - tlaloque, surem, ch’at - and while they are mostly hidden, they have been known to help humans, when humans proved worthy. And as with many folk storis, the consequences of bad behavior could be, as the Lenape men learned too late, very severe.

A Glory of Unicorns compiled and edited by Bruce Coville. c 1998, Scholastic.
Nearly anyone who loves magic, horses, love and justice will enjoy this neat collection of twelve stories. These are not cutsey little pastel playthings, but creatures of power and wisdom, who walk back and forth between their own and humans’ reality.



FOR ADULTS

Jackie Tales by Jackie Torrence. c 1998, Avon.
I couldn’t decide which was more interesting, the stories she includes, or the instructions for telling them! Her long sub-title, 'the magic of creating stories and the art of telling them' is accurate, but seems dry for such a useful, and entertaining book. And her personal story is as absorbing as the folktales she loves so well. She talks about how a fat, pigeon-toed girl with a speech impediment grew up with the help of stories, and eventually became a master storyteller of national renown. She gives hints and helps for parents, librarians, and teachers to make their own storytelling more effective and riveting, and readers will have a great time, laughing and crying all the way - and just loving it.


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