Centaurs and Mermaids and Zombies, Oh My

Camped out at the very end of the Dewey 300s range, past the more sober sections on politics (320s), economics (330s) and education (370s), you will find an unexpected land of mythical creatures and tall tales. When you hit the Dewey number 398 you have entered the shadowy realm of folklore and fairy tales. While you might think that books about folktales and folklore are exclusively collected by our intrepid Youth Services librarians, you would be mistaken. There are actually a good number of them tucked away in the adult nonfiction collection as well. Despite what some mega corporations would like to you to think, I’m looking at you Disney, folktales and folklore are actually serious stuff. Take a look for yourself with a few of these new additions to the collection.

The Book of Greek & Roman Folktales Legends & Myths edited & translated by William Hansen

Gird yourself for tales not only of gods, goddesses and monsters but also urban legends, ghost stories and jokes in this anthology of ancient Greek and Roman tales. Divided up into topics such as ‘tricksters and lovers’, ‘artists and athletes’ and ‘numskulls and sybarites’ each tale is skillfully translated and given context by the author who is a professor of classical studies and folklore at Indiana University. You gotta love a culture that produced stories concerning ‘The Third Cup of Wine.’

Celtic Tales: Fairy Tales and Stories of Enchantment from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, and Wales illus. by Kate Forrester

This volume contains 16 stories transcribed by folklorists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and divided into the tantalizing categories of ‘Tricksters,’ ‘The Sea,’ ‘Quests,’ and ‘Romance.’ The tales themselves have a definite sense of humor as well as similarities to more familiar folktales that came later. The real standouts of this volume are the illustrations including great examples of silhouette art and the Celtic borders framing the tales themselves.

The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar

This collection of 26 newly translated tales is the perfect mix of fiction and scholarship. Each tale is comprehensively annotated by Harvard professor Tatar bringing out the historical and cultural context of each story as well as the psychological impact on children and adults throughout the ages. Most impressive is the comparison of the various illustrations that have been made for different versions of each tale including works by the likes of Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane and Gustave Dore.

A Treasury of American Folklore edited by B.A. Botkin

This book is a reissue of a 1944 edition put together by B.A. Botkin who was the national folklore editor for the Federal Writers Project in the late 1930s. It is an invaluable and entertaining collection of American folktales and songs that could easily have been lost to history. Classics tales concerning the likes of Paul Bunyan and John Henry rub shoulders with the more obscure tales such as ‘The Talking Mule’ and ‘The Phantom Train of Marshal Pass.’

Gnomes (Deluxe Collector’s Edition)
by Will Huygen

First published in 1976, this is a ‘scientific observation’ of the local gnome population in Holland. This illustrated work is now considered a classic, hence this anniversary edition, and its detailed breakdown of gnome culture (including medicine, industry and, gulp, mating habits) is beloved by many. To me, however, it has always been nightmare fuel. This could be due to my encountering it during my youth but I think it also has a lot to do with the huge amount of, heavily illustrated, TMI in this book.

Living with the Living Dead by Greg Garrett

Zombies shuffle into the folklore collection with this examination of tales of the living dead and their meanings from Baylor University English professor Garett. Drawing from the many current cultural examples of the zombie apocalypse, including the films of George Romero and the TV series The Walking Dead, the author wrestles with meaty (har, har) questions such as: Who are the Living Dead? Do zombie stories actually encourage community? and What are the ethics of the zombie apocalypse?

So take a stroll down the aisle of the 300s and check out the folklore section. Just make sure to leave a trail of breadcrumbs or you will be sorry.

If You Want Your Children to be Intelligent

4e2f002ab3c2184c626737239cf21249Albert Einstein was asked once how we could make our children intelligent. His reply was both simple and wise. “If you want your children to be intelligent,” he said, “read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. The creative imagination is the essential element of a true scientist, and fairy tales are the childhood stimulus to this quality.”  He understood the value of reading, and of imagining. If you want to give your children a world in which they will read, imagine, and understand, try some of these, my favorite fairy tales. I try to include one in each of my storytimes.

index (1)I love the wording of Paul Galdone’s translations and you’ll find four tales in The Nursery Classics. Paul Galdone created hundreds of books in his lifetime and many of his picture books quickly became accepted as the definitive version of traditional stories. Collected here are four of his most popular picture books: The Three Pigs, The Three Bears, The Little Red Hen, and Cat Goes Fiddle-i-fee.

index (2)Galdone also illustrated The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Three clever billy goats outwit a big ugly troll that lives under the bridge they must cross on their way up the mountain to a grassy meadow. The troll meets his match and you’ll have everyone at your house trip tramping all about and reenacting this classic tale. It’s a favorite at our house and in storytime.

 

index (3)Try Chicken Little by Rebecca and Ed Emberley and you’ll not regret it!  “Chicken Little was not the brightest chicken in the coop. He was very excitable and prone to foolishness. One day he was doing nothing, his usual pastime, when an acorn fell from the sky and hit him on the head. Bonk! EEP!” Chicken Little runs in a panic to his friends Henny Penny, Lucky Ducky, and Loosey Goosey, to tell them the sky is falling. Panic and adventure ensues.

indexAbiyoyo by Pete Seeger is a children’s classic which is now in a book and CD edition. This African folktale  has it all: a monster, a hero, and music. “Abiyoyo” is an ancient lullaby of the Xhosa people of South Africa. Listen to Pete tell (and sing) this story, then read it yourself, and then let your child tell the story to you. That way, you tell the story you want to tell and make it your own. The result is a whole mess of fun!

index (1)Here’s a contemporary folktale from a marvelous writer: The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. Just what is the gruffalo? “He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.” But do all those things make him the scariest creature in the deep dark wood? One brave little mouse with a big imagination doesn’t think so! You’ll cheer for this clever little mouse as he fends off all of the animals who want to eat him. I read this one during my ‘I’m Not Scared!’ storytime.

index (2)I must include the books of local (Kirkland, Washington) librarian/storyteller Margaret Read MacDonald. She retells folktales from all over the world. The Boy From the Dragon Palace is a Japanese fable about a poor flower seller who gets a gift. Read this to children to reinforce the idea that it’s always good to say thank you.

index (3)I love reading Conejito, MacDonald’s folktale from Panama. Conjejito runs into a few obstacles when he goes to visit his Tia Monica on the high mountain. They all say “Oh Conejito! I think I have found my lunch!” but he and his Auntie outfox them all. You’ll be humming: I have a sweet old Auntie, my Tia Moncia. And when she goes out dancing, they all say ‘Ooo la la!’

indexMabela the Clever is MacDonald’s retelling of an African story that will entertain you and your child. Mabela may be the smallest mouse in the village, but that doesn’t matter because her father has taught her to be clever. When the cat comes to invite everyone to join the secret cat society, the mice line up with Mabela in the lead. In the end, she leads them all to safety.

index (1)And, finally, please check out The Squeaky Door as retold by MacDonald. Grandma tucks little boy in tight. She turns out the light. And he’s not scared. No, not him! But when Grandma shuts the door, SQUUEEEEAK! Who helps little boy? This story is based on a Puerto Rican folk song ‘La Cama’ and is pure joy!

Check out these and many other fantastic folktales from your library so you and your children will be intelligent — just like Einstein.  Also, look for the folktale edition of Everett Public Library’s Book Bites which is broadcast on television between shows, on Everett TV Channel 21.  It It is also on the City of Everett You Tube Channel.