Category Archives: folklore

The Little Match Girl

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When looking for folklore for this past learning experience, I came across this edition of The Little Match Girl with original words by Hans Christian Anderson and illustrated by Kveta Pacovska. The story is about a little girl who is poor and freezing, walking around in the middle of the winter with no shoes on her feet attempting to sell matches. As she sits in the cold she lights each match one by one to keep her warm, with each burst of light she sees beautiful and wonderful images. A goose running off of a New Years Eve dinner table, a beautiful Christmas tree filled with candles, her grandmother standing before. However, when each match extinguished the image was lost. Therefore, when she saw her grandmother she was desperate to stay with her and therefore lit all of her matches. She then describes how her grandmother had come to save her from the cold and sadness and take her to be with God. The next morning the little girl is found dead of cold though only she knows that it was not the cold but her grandmother who had taken her from this world to a much better and brighter one.

I believe the story may not be appropriate for young children but instead would be a picture book that is more likely to be enjoyed by older children and young adults. The images themselves are incredibly individual and interesting. The images consist of bright colors and a geometric design that connected shapes to create images. Each illustration contains a majority of very abstract elements and it takes a few minutes of examining each image to see what is portrayed. Another interesting part about the illustrations is that while some images are on the same page as the text they describe or follows the text immediately, some of the images prelude the text they describe. Therefore, readers get a sneak peek of what is coming next. Additionally, of the 24 pages, only 5 contain text with the other 19 a mix containing images that cross the gutter and create a large landscape image. Much of the story can be understood more deeply through the illustrations themselves. It almost seems as if instead of the illustrations being an addition to the text as most picture books are created, the text seemed to be an the addition to the fully complete story created by the illustrations. I recommend taking a look at The Little Match Girl and seeing what you can make of the abstract illustrations!

Carly Hess

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Trendy Tuesdays: The Cat from Hunger Mountain

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The Cat from Hunger Mountain by Ed Young is a book about the greedy Lord Cat who has everything he could need. From the fanciest meals to the finest silk and gold clothing, Lord Cat’s life revolves around his possessions. He lives in a village that profits from rice paddies, and when a long drought strikes, everyone must move away. Lord Cat is able to stay with all of his riches up in his pagoda while everyone else flees the famine. “What would life be without all of his possessions?”

Eventually, Lord Cat runs out of food and is forced to leave his lavish home. His journey as a beggar teaches him the lesson that his possessions are not what is most important in life. 

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Ed Young grew up in Shanghai, China, and incorporates Chinese characters and patterns into his collages. He has an original style combining photographs, paper, and other textures to create his scenery and characters. On some pages, the collage is a mere suggestion of the figures and scenery. Although some illustrations are very abstract, the meaning is still clear. 

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Some collages are extremely detailed. Lord Cat’s face is composed of many different types of paper and photographs that work together to create one cohesive image. img_7491

 

The Cat from Hunger Mountain tells a unique legend from another culture. While the story communicates clear morals, it is not didactic. While the writing style is sophisticated, it is not too challenging for younger elementary schoolers. I would also recommend this book to teachers exploring fantasy and legends with their classes. The Cat from Hunger Mountain could be both a captivating teaching tool and a wonderful bedtime story. 

The Cat from Hunger Mountain was published by Penguin Random House in 2016. img_7492

Review by Charlotte Jeanne

Winner Wednesdays: Arrow to the Sun

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CM_arrow_sunArrow to the Sun: a Pueblo Indian Tale is the 1974 Caldecott winner by Gerald McDermott. Focusing on a folktale belonging to the Pueblo Indians, fans of mythology will be very familiar with the story. It has a similar structure to Hercules, following a son who endures trials to prove himself worthy to take his rightful place as the son of a god.

The narration style is reminiscent of old storytelling, but most striking about the story are the illustrations. Brilliant golds and oranges nod to the red-gold glow of adobe, which is the main ingredient in the houses of the Pueblo people. The angular lines also mimic the style of the buildings of Pueblo villages and give direction and action to the story, giving the eyes lines to follow and previewing the direction of the protagonist to come.

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The story tells of the powarrowsunelderer of self-direction. Driven to find his father by bullies who tease him, the protagonist (called The Boy) asks for help, but is given very little to go on. The only elder to pay him an attention makes him into an arrow to send him to the sun where he can meet his father. After that, he is left to his own devices to confront the trials put to him by his father, the Lord. When he completes all that is asked of him, the whole town celebrates.

The story is an easy read, good for anyone studying other cultures or mythology, and dynamic to look at. It was simultaneously developed by the author as a short film, so here is the story professionally narrated, directed, and animated, with music:

-Julia McCorvey

 

 

 

 

Trendy Tuesdays: Searching for the Spirit of Spring

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Trendy Tuesdays: Searching for the Spirit of Spring

The need for multicultural books and books with female protagonists is rising exponentially as more minority and female children enter the educational system around the world. The book Searching for the Spirit of Spring, written by Mosa Mahlaba, illustrated by Selina Morulane, and designed by Sibusiso Mkhwanazi, is a story of a brave young girl named Nkanyezi who journeys to bring the spirit of spring back to her village in Swaziland. Nkanyezi’s favorite day of the year is the day that her entire village gathers together to celebrate the spring festival. The festival, which is meant to welcome in the spring season and to unite the community is filled with joy, laughter, music, and dance. When Nkanyezi overhears some of the village elders gossiping about how the villagers are not excited for the spring festival this year, she decides that she must act. “The people of Ndlovu have lost their spirit of celebration. How can we have a Spring festival in a village that has forgotten how to celebrate?” With the well wishes of her elders, she adventures off to search for items that can help replenish the spirit of celebration for her village and family. Nkanyezi crosses rivers, climbs mountains, and treks through forests as she journeys across Swaziland in search of this spirit.

 

While on her quest, Nkanyezi encounters people from other villages who offer her special items that will help her find the missing spirit. Through these encounters, she learns about happiness, generosity, and community, and how the three intertwine. Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.03.21 PM.png

One of the most fascinating elements of this book is how it was created. It was written and illustrated in June of 2015 in only twelve hours! The creators of this book are part of an organization called Book Dash (an organization that creates and gifts books to children). In June, Book Dash hosted an event with another organization called African Storybook (an organization that promotes multilingual literacy expansion) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Together, they arranged teams of forty volunteer writers, illustrators, and designers, to create African story books that are then printed and distributed to children in need for free! This book is also unique in that it is posted for free public use and print . The wonderful people in this organization host book dashes every few months, with their ultimate goal being that “every child should own a hundred books by the age of five.”

This is a fabulous book about a courageous, motivated, and strong young girl who goes on an adventure to bring happiness to people that she loves. It’s a great story for children ages three to six, although children older can still benefit from its beautiful portrayal of selflessness and generosity. The illustrations are beautiful and accurately depict the village of Ndlovu (which is a real village in Swaziland).

If you’re interested in more African story books written by South African authors to introduce in your classroom or to read to your children, they are periodically posted here as they are written. Some of my personal favorites are: Londi: The Dreaming Girl (a girl with a huge imagination), Why is Nita Upside Down? (a girl learning to love herself), and Sizwe’s Smile (the tale of a contagious smile).

-Devyn O’Malley

Traditional Thursdays: Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears

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1976_Why_Mosquitoes_BuzzWhy Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears  written by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon is a traditional African folklore that has been adapted to a marvelous picture book.  The story follows a train of misguided actions that lead to the death of one of Mother Owls kids, which then leads to Mother Owl refusal to the wake the sun. King Lion attempts to right this wrong and punish the killer of the Owl’s child so that balance may be restored. The story begins with Mosquito who tells an outrageous lie to Iguana, who then decides he would rather have sticks in his ears than listen to Mosquito’s lies. As Iguana trudges off, Python greets his fellow reptilian but Iguana does not hear. At Iguana’s silence, Python worries that Iguana is plotting against him and sneaks into the burrow of the rabbit to spy on Iguana. The Rabbit rushes out after seeing the python entering and runs away in fear. The Crow sees the Rabbit scurrying during the day and assumes the worst. He then screeches to warn the other animals. Monkey hears the Crows screeching and jumps from branch to branch to escape the danger, but as he is jumping off of one of the branches it falls and kills one of Mother Owls kids. Mother Owl falls into a pit of depression after her child’s death and refuses to wake the sun. She accuses Monkey of killing her child and King Lion confronts Monkey. However, Monkey explains he only jumped on that branch because of the crows screeching. The crow then blames the rabbit, who then blames the python, who then blames the iguana. Iguana explains that it was the mosquito’s fault and everyone unanimously decides the mosquito will be punished. However, the mosquito had been hiding the whole time and knew what would happen to him so he flies off. But the guilt and fear leads him to every so often whisper in people’s ears to ask if he as been forgiven and he’s answered with a clap.

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This book won a Caldecott Award in 1976 for its beautiful illustrations. The illustrations are very unique and have a very interesting texture that adds to the story wonderfully. The artwork was made with the usage of watercolors, pastels, and cutout shapes. The different methods combined give this story an African quality to it and that support the story’s origin.

My uncle bought this book for my brother and I when I was 5 and I absolutely loved it. My brother was older and would read it to me, but now after reading this as an adult I wonder if this was maybe too inappropriate for me at the time. The killing of the baby owl is not something I remembered and re-reading I was quite shocked when that happened.  I probably enjoyed it so much as child, because my mother use to tell us folktales similar to this before we went to bed. Aside from that, the overall story is wonderful.

Muniro Dini

James Earl Jones reading Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears