Chief Lelooska

When I went to the thrift store the other day, I actually found a second treasure (not just the Little Golden Book treasury.) The second treasure was a book of Native American stories from the Pacific Northwest.

Chief Lelooska was an accomplished storyteller and artist, and his books are gorgeously illustrated in his tribe’s style.

The book caught my eye because I had just read Raven by Gerald McDermott to my second grade classes.

McDermott’s story is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the traditions of the Pacific Northwest. Chief Lelooska’s stories are not long, or complicated. They are perfect for children.

I do not yet have Lelooska’s other book but I think I can pick it up online.

Men and women like Lelooska are cultural treasures that are fading from our modern lives. I would love to find a storyteller from this area, Dakota or Lakota, to come and share this style of storytelling that is ancient and yet so different to the majority of Americans.

You can learn more about Lelooska at this site.


Hershel of Ostropol

One of my favorite types of stories is of the trickster. In the United States we have Brer Rabbit or even Bugs Bunny (kids give you a blank look when you expect them to know who that is.) The trickster is like to tell you about today is Hershel of Ostropol.

Hershel is a Jewish folk character that may have been a real person. We will talk about him again in December — I love his Hanukkah story. But I wanted to find more stories about him to share with my fourth grade students. I found some great ones right on the Wikipedia page as well as a wealth of other Jewish sites.

Here is the one that literally had me laughing out loud at my desk.

The Goose

When Hershele was a child, he had a number of brothers and sisters, of which he was the smallest. Thus, whenever they had a meal, he’d be the last to get anything. As a result, whenever they had goose, he never got to eat a foot, which was his favorite part. One evening, he snuck into the kitchen before dinner and cut a foot off of the goose, slipping it under his shirt to hide.

During dinner, his father noticed that Hershele’s shirt was grease-stained and that the goose’s left foot was missing.

– “Hershele,” he said. “Did you take the goose’s foot?”

– “No, father,” he said. “Maybe it was a one-footed goose.”

– “A one-footed goose? There’s no such thing!”

– “Sure there is. I’ll take you to see one after dinner.”

That evening, Hershele took his father out to a lake near their village. A flock of geese were sleeping on the banks, each tucking one foot into its body so that only the other was visible.

– “There’s one,” said Hershele, pointing. Thinking to outsmart his son, his father clapped, waking the goose and causing it to lower its other leg.

– “There. Now, Hershele, will you admit that you stole-”

– “Wow, father! You just clapped and the goose grew a foot! Why didn’t you do that to the one at the table?”

How can you not love this guy!

My favorite monsters

Last night my husband and I watched a movie that got me thinking about my favorite monsters.

While I am not a huge Tom Cruise fan, I did really enjoy this movie. I’m sure I’ve mentioned my love for classic movie monsters before. And the best part of those monsters is that they are often inspired by classic novels. I did some digging online and Universal Studios is going to be creating a multi-movie dark universe featuring some of these stories; The Mummy is just the first of more to come.

The big surprise in The Mummy was Russell Crowe playing a doctor. Dr. Jekyll to be more specific.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde isn’t long, but it’s horrifying. Crowe did a great job in the role, I can’t wait to see the movie about Dr. Jekyll.

One of my all time favorite actors is going to be playing the Invisible Man–Johnny Depp.

I liked The Invisible Man book by H.G. Wells. It isn’t as ominous as some monster stories but its implications are intriguing.

My all-time favorite novel is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The monster will be portrayed by Javier Bardem.

I’m giving Universal bonus points for using the title Frankenstein’s Monster. It helps with a common misconception about who is the monster in the story (which is a topic of debate for another post.) The article said that there would also be a Bride of Frankenstein but there are no named stars. I hope they follow in the footsteps of the original and cast a redhead like Elsa Lanchester–the actress who created our iconic image of the bride.

I really wanted to have a book for every one of these movies, but I’m struggling with The Mummy. I could have sworn that I once read a short story by either Jules Verne or Robert Louis Stevenson that was about a mummy. I can tell you for sure that Bran Stoker wrote The Jewel of Seven Stars and it’s about a mummy. My favorite mummy novel is actually The Mummy or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice.

Now I’d like to suggest that if these movies do well, that Universal add some great stories like Dracula

Or if Universal wants to surprise audiences, they could go with a female vampire like Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.

And maybe a wolf-man, though some people will know that Stephen King himself said The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is nothing if not a werewolf story. I’d also consider The Portrait of Dorian Grey and The Island of Dr. Moreau great additions. Could something by Edgar Allan Poe be adapted?!? Give me time, I could think of plenty!

Which books would you like to see adapted to this dark universe?? I’m dying to hear from other classic monster fans.

Oregon Trail

I am taking a fairytale break to tell you about a book I’ll be using at school in a few weeks. Fourth graders study the history of South Dakota in social studies, so I try to supplement their lessons. The book I’m excited to share with you today is You Wouldn’t Want To Be An American Pioneer!

This book is part of a huge series that covers all parts of history. Kids love them because they don’t gloss over the gross and gruesome truth of how people lived in days gone by.

The book reads quickly and has little sidebars with great illustrated facts.

I learned a lot reading this book! The sidebar on the illustration above is about what what to do when your oxen get infected feet.

Cut the infected tissue out and seal the would with hot tar. Make a waterproof cover with buffalo hide.

I think the kids will really like this lesson. We played the old game The Oregon Trail last year but it ate up too much class time. I do plan to give them the link to play it at home though. You know you’re dying to play it again too!

I will also be reading another book about the pioneers:

I haven’t read it yet so I can’t give you a summary.

I also like to teach about the Native Americans from this area. These books are great!

What’s New In Children’s Literature

Wow. I did it. I taught my first professional development class to educators! I was nervous, I mean I'm used to my audience being shorter than I am, after all.

What's New In Children's Literature

What's New In Children's Lit Resources

The link above is for my resource handouts. I talked about a lot of books today.

The session covered:

  • Nonfiction
  • Biography
  • Poetry
  • Fiction (Early and Middle Grade chapters)
  • Graphic Novels
  • Picture Books

For each book, I made slides to show the cover and the illustration style. The corresponding resource page included the author, illustrator (or photographer), Accelerated Reader information, notable titles by the author, further reading bibliographies on the topics and any useful links.

I worked so hard on this project and the feedback was fabulous! I'm so proud of myself. I styled my session after an amazing woman who travels the country teaching sessions like this, Judy Freedman. I was fortunate enough to attend one of her sessions a few years ago and I learned so much!

I am kind of drained so I won't write about a particular book today, but if you are interested, check out the links.

Author Spotlight: Gregory Maguire

Today my husband surprised me at Wal-Mart. My older daughter and I had stopped to look at something and when we caught up to him, he handed me this hardback book, marked down to $5.97!

Alice In Wonderland is one of my all-time favorite books, and it’s by Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked.

Wicked is followed by three other books, but I need to read the last in the series. Honestly, I didn’t need the other books to be written. Elphaba’s story was what I really wanted.

I have read and enjoyed some of his fractured fairytales though. I loved Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror, Mirror wasn’t bad.

I was completely shocked when the narrator’s identity was revealed at the end of Stepsister. Mirror references the Medici family in medieval Italy.

I have not yet read Hiddensee but I think it’s a retelling of The Nutcracker.

I did not enjoy Lost as much as I had hoped. The blurb on the book says it’s a ghost story with Jack the Ripper, but it just didn’t work for me.

Maguire also has numerous children’s titles. I’ve read Matchless, which is a take on Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Match Girl.

I would like to read What the Dickens which is about a tooth fairy gone rogue. There are other children’s titles, but I’m not familiar enough with them to share them.

I hope I’ve peaked your interest in this great author. He uses beloved stories and creates amazing alternative storylines for them. I have not read his works in a few years, since I don’t have any of his titles at school and my favorites by him are adult titles. I need to make more time for adult works.

The Tinderbox

I’ve read a few of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories before and they are not sweet, flowery books. The Little Match Girl its the saddest Christmas story ever, The Ice Queen is one dark lady (kids never want to hear that she is who Elsa from Frozen is based on), and The Little Mermaid dies at the end of her story.

I picked up The Tinderbox because of those freaky dogs on the cover. The children’s librarian I am assisting this summer had not read it either. I think I may have read a version of it by an amateur author, but it wasn’t kid friendly.

In the story,a soldier coming home from war meets a witch who offers him all the riches he can carry if he will go into an underground hall and bring her back a tinderbox that her grandmother left down there the last time she went below ground.

This illustrator its amazing! Look at the detail!

The Witch tells him that he will meet three dogs with giant eyes but gives him a means to get around them.

He looks really constipated or like he’s getting his temperature taken at the vet!

The soldier does as she asks and fills his pockets with all the gold he can carry. She demands the tinderbox, but the soldier isn’t stupid and realizes it must be special. He kills the Witch and takes the tinderbox along with the gold. 

He isn’t overly intelligent though, and manages to spend all of his gold. Down to nothing, he decides to light the candle in the tinderbox. He is amazed to discover that when he strikes the flint, the first of the giant-eyed dogs magically appears. Two strikes brings the second dog , three the third, four strikes brings all three and best of all, they can grant wishes!

The story gets weird here. There is a beautiful princess secreted away in the city and he longs to see her. He had the dog  abduct her while she sleeps so that he may kiss her. This continues and the king and queen try frantically to stop it. Finally, the soldier is discovered and arrested.

On the day he is to be hanged, the soldier’s last request is to smoke a pipe one last time. He strikes the tinderbox four times to summon all three dogs and sics them on the royalty in the crowd and kills them! He is then (Good knows why) declared the new king and marries the princess.

Don’t get me wrong, many old fairy tales seem unbelievable to modern people, but this one was out there. I think it’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure about the whole kidnapping/murder thing–I have reservations about a lot of old stories in their original form in fact. 

Keep in mind it may be necessary to pre-read stories to make sure they don’t have details in them you aren’t willing to share with kids–like Rapunzel getting pregnant with twins, or Cinderella’s stepsisters curling off parts of their feet to make the glass slipper fit. Fairytales can be brutal.