Well, I'm still loving this series, which is GREAT for a YA dystopian series (though this series combines so many genres--fantasy, sci-fi, fractured fWell, I'm still loving this series, which is GREAT for a YA dystopian series (though this series combines so many genres--fantasy, sci-fi, fractured fairy tale, dystopian--that I'm not sure WHAT it is). There are so many twist and turns that it almost makes your head spin, but it's very easy to follow (PERFECT for teens), and even though another character/storyline was introduced, it's not too confusing, and the new characters are really interesting. It's one of the few books I've read that had multiple ongoing storylines where you aren't just itching to get to the storyline that you REALLY want to hear about.
This review contains spoilers to the first book in The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder. There are no spoilers to this book, Scarlet. If you wish to read the entire series, you should Cinderskip this review.
This book begins where Cinder left off, with Cinder a fugitive from Queen Levana as well as the Eastern Commonwealth, who is desperate to find her to restore peace between Earth and the Lunars. There are also intermittent sections told from Prince Kai's perspective, but for the most part, he is a very minor character in the book. Cinder escapes with "Captain" Carswell Thorne, a handsome (of course!) rogue cadet of the American Republic. The other storyline introduces completely new characters, the titular Scarlet and the mysterious street fighter Wolf, which, as you've undoubtedly guessed, are very loosely based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, just as Cinder was loosely based on Cinderella. Ok, when you say the phrase "a street fighter named Wolf" aloud, it all sounds completely ridiculous. But trust me when I say that this is a very worthy sequel, and one that makes you forget about the ridiculousness inherent within. Also, it's not all life and death with these people. There are some really funny moments, and the romantic cheesiness isn't *too* bad. In fact, when the characters start to get really gushy, another character comments on how gushy they're being. I'm excited to read the third book, Cress, which is based on Rapunzel. Also, I continue to enjoy the audiobooks of this series, but as I commented in my review of Cinder, the accents are kind of overdone. Still, one of my favorite YA series so far.
Strega Nona was one of my favorite picture books as a kid, and I thought of it at the last minute for my food-themed storytime. I like to have littleStrega Nona was one of my favorite picture books as a kid, and I thought of it at the last minute for my food-themed storytime. I like to have little kid options (in this case, Growing Vegetable Soup and Eating the Alphabet) and big kid options to go with the books that have more of a universal appeal. Unlike other works from the 1970s, I really feel like Tomie dePaola's illustrations have stood the test of time. When I read a popular or classic children's book (The Very Hungry Caterpillar, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie), I like to ask if the kids are familiar with the story. One of the kids had read it before, but none of the others knew it.
To write a quick summary, Strega Nona is a witch who hires Big Anthony, a young man in her Italian village, to keep house for her (gardening, milking the goat), in exchange for room and board and a small salary. She warns him not ever to touch her magic pasta pot, which of course makes him long to touch it (something I think all kids can relate to). When Strega Nona leaves to visit a friend, Big Anthony performs the magic chant that he has overheard Strega Nona do to make pasta in the pot. However, he doesn't know that she blows three kisses to the pot to make it stop, and the pasta takes over the town.
This is a great readaloud for a mid-to-late elementary set, as it was a little long for the youngest 4 and 5 year olds in the group. However, everyone did enjoy the story.
The kids enjoyed last month's "fairy tales and fractured tales" storytime so much that I decided to do another one. I did more fractured fairy tales tThe kids enjoyed last month's "fairy tales and fractured tales" storytime so much that I decided to do another one. I did more fractured fairy tales than the regular sort, but falling into the regular category was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I've liked James Marshall's art for a long time, ever since I read the George and Martha books as a young child. His characters give such a good side-eye. Anyway, in this Caldecott Honor-winning retelling of Goldilocks, the story is embellished a bit by adding some details about Goldilocks being a bit of a spoiled (not to mention chubby) brat. Her narrowed eyes and cartoonish ringlets only add to the impression. What really sets this (and other Marshall versions of fairy tales, such as The Three Little Pigs) is the level of detail included in the illustrations. The bears are all dressed like they're going to the Kentucky Derby. Mama bear even has a hat with flowers on it. The parlor has a little slug and a postcard of Santa Cruz, perhaps a nod to the banana slugs that populate the town. And when Goldilocks finds some brown fur and concludes, hilarious, "They must have kitties," you can see a photo frame with family pictures of bears....more
I was a little worried that the storytime kids would find this a little dated, because I immediately look at the cover and know that it wasn't publishI was a little worried that the storytime kids would find this a little dated, because I immediately look at the cover and know that it wasn't published in the last twenty years. Luckily, kids don't have the same kind of hang-ups that I do, and they quite enjoyed this tale, which surprisingly(?), none of them had ever heard before. ...more
Lately, I've been loving books that encourage the children to interact with it, rather than just a passive story. Of course, you can make any storytimLately, I've been loving books that encourage the children to interact with it, rather than just a passive story. Of course, you can make any storytime experience interactive, asking questions like "What do you guys think is going to happen next?" but books that actually ask the questions are surefire wins (example: Look! Look! Look!, Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles, etc). I did a fairy tale-themed storytime, and The Foggy, Foggy Forest was a great opener. I started out by talking about fairy tales that the kids had heard of before, and asking them what a fairy tale was. It does help if you have some knowledge of fairy tales going into it, but it's not necessary. Basically, each page has a layer of vellum with black outlines of trees in a forest and a fairy tale character or creature doing something. The refrain is: "What can this be in the foggy, foggy forest?" and when you turn the page, you see a character or characters from fairy tales doing something modern. Like: "a unicorn playing a horn." Or "Cinderella and Snow White, having a water pistol fight." Or "Three bears sitting in chairs." As you can probably already see, it rhymes, which normally can be a little annoying, but wasn't bad in this case. The same thing happened that always does when I read a rhyming book: a kid commented, "Hey, it kind of rhymes!" (Actually, it does rhyme.) I was pretty surprised that they got most of them right, even "an ogre doing yoga." I'm pretty sure I didn't know what yoga was when I was 8. I asked the kids after the storytime which book was their favorite, and they all said this one. And when I asked them if they'd like to check any of them out after the storytime, this one was the only one that was grabbed from the actual storytime (the other books kids picked up were extra fairy tale books that we hadn't actually read that day). It's definitely unexpected ("a fairy queen jumping on a trampoline") but that didn't end up being a bad thing at all.
Ages 4-8 but can go younger or older, depending on the situation...more
I wasn't quite as taken with Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as some people, although I did still like it in a "folk-tale-side-of-an-AmyI wasn't quite as taken with Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as some people, although I did still like it in a "folk-tale-side-of-an-Amy Tan-novel-for-kids" kind of way. Admittedly, a lot of that had to do with the audiobook narrator that I didn't love, but another piece of it was that, while I really enjoyed the writing style, I didn't feel that the stories really went together very well. (In case you're not familiar with Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, it's a story told like a folktale with lots of folktales within it.). While all the stories were good, and most were relevant, sometimes it kind of felt like they were inserted in there, like "Hey! Let's tell a story!" Here, each story that a character told was about them, and their life, so it really was more of a character development piece.
Starry River of the Sky, Lin's follow-up to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, is the story of Rendi, a boy running away. He stows away in a wine merchant's cart, only to be unceremoniously dumped at an inn in the Village of Clear Sky, so named because long ago, the innkeeper's ancestors moved the moon. Though the innkeeper takes great pride in his work, hardly anyone ever visits the inn, since everyone is so poor. You see, the moon has been missing from the sky for some time, and with it water, and with that, crop growth. Rendi is bitter at having to become a chore boy, but he becomes intrigued by Madame Chang, a strange and beautiful guest at the inn, and her stories, so that he eventually starts to tell his own. All the stories are woven together so well, and so intricately. This is a really interesting story, full of magic toads, forbidden love, the moon, and the moon lady. And oh yeah, lots of Chinese folktales.
Like Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, The Tale of Despereaux is a recent Newbery Award winner that I listened to on audioboLike Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, The Tale of Despereaux is a recent Newbery Award winner that I listened to on audiobook. I've never read it as a physical book, but it was an enjoyable audiobook. The narrator has a great theatrical style that works well for this pseudo-fairytale. Actually, it's as close to a fairytale as you could get in this day and age... it has a sweetness and optimism that's missing from most modern day fairytales, which are usually satires in the tradition of Shrek & Co. It's the tale of three primary characters: a mouse named Despereaux, a servant girl named Miggory Sow, and a rat named Chiaroscuro (I'm going by the goodreads spelling on that, since I didn't actually see the spellings of any names or places--something I really don't like about listening to audiobooks!). Despereaux is a very small mouse who can read and falls in love with fairytales--and with the princess, Pea. Miggory Sow is a girl sold by her father for a red tablecloth, abused by her master, but who dreams of becoming a princess. And Chiaroscuro is a rat, who lives in the dungeons, but who, unlike other rats, dreams of the light, and of beauty. All are seeking to be something they're not, and all will interact with each other, using one another, and coming up in opposition to each other, in their quests.
It all sounds like a rather simplistic fairytale, and that's the beauty of this book--it can be a simple, straightforward story, or you can read more into it. For example, there's a lot of contrasting the darkness and the light, and as an English Lit major, I loved the complexities explored therein. The characters, with the exception of Despereaux, were all complex, and each had faults and strengths. Smart kids and good readers who like learning new words from their books (ie The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, Lemony Snicket books, or the Mysterious Benedict Society series) will like this, and it actually encourages you to look up words like "perfidy" in the dictionary (which, by the way, I hated doing when I was a kid). All in all, it's a great book that just manages to add a touch of realism to an unabashed fairytale.
Ages 8-11 Newbery Award winner, 2004 Great for bedtime stories, classroom reading, booktalks...more
I always like reading new genres, and meta-folktale is a new one for me. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the story of Minli, a poor girl with livI always like reading new genres, and meta-folktale is a new one for me. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the story of Minli, a poor girl with lives with her Ma and Ba by Fruitless Mountain in China. As the name would imply, the land they live on is barren, and they are very poor. Minli is still happy, and loves to sit at her father's feet and hear the Chinese folktales he is so skilled at telling, but Minli's mother's sighs grow great over how poor they are. One day, Minli goes to the market with only a few coins, and decides to buy a goldfish instead of food. Minli's mother grows angry with her, complaining that their fortune will never change. Remembering Ba's stories about the old man on the moon, who will answer any question, Minli decides to leave Fruitless Mountain to ask the old man on the moon the question of how to change her fortune. Along the way, she meets many characters, like a poor orphan boy with a buffalo, a dragon who was born from a painting and can't fly, and even the king.
So how is this "meta-folktale?" Well, the main story (about Minli) is told in the style of a Chinese folktale, with traditional Chinese folktales woven throughout. It actually took me a while to figure out that these were real Chinese folktales retold by Grace Lin, because they fit really well into the story.
I listened to this on audiobook, thinking that since it's a folktale (and thus, part of an oral tradition), it would translate well to audiobook, but I didn't like it at all, and will not be listening to Lin's follow-up, Starry River of the Sky on audiobook (but I do plan to read it). The narrator and the format of the book are the type where you need to be hanging on every single word, which doesn't lend itself to changing lanes and the like. I had to listen to each disc a couple of times at least to make sure I got everything, so I didn't feel as much like I enjoyed the story. Plus, I just read that Lin has full-color illustrations in the book, so I guess I missed out on that.
There's a lot to like about The Princess and the Pig. It's just princess-y enough to please any Tangled-obsessed young girl, while subverting the prinThere's a lot to like about The Princess and the Pig. It's just princess-y enough to please any Tangled-obsessed young girl, while subverting the princess fairy tale. I like how the book references classic fairy tales like The Prince and the Pauper, Thumbelina, and Puss in Boots. In the story, a poor farmer's piglet and the baby princess accidentally get swapped. The farmer and his wife think that a good fairy has turned their piglet into a baby, and the king and queen think that a bad fairy has turned their baby into a pig. So "Pigmella" is raised by the farmer and his wife and turns out to be a kind, smart, and beautiful girl, while "Priscilla" ends up acting, well, very piggish, while stuffed into the trappings of princess life. When the farmer and his wife realize the mistake that has been made, they try to right the wrong, only to discover that the the king and queen refuse to admit that Priscilla is a pig. As you can imagine, this is a book that parents and teachers trying to steer little girls away from wanting to be princesses (focused on looks and boys) will like, but I also really love the illustrations. They're not earthshattering or beautiful, but they're colorful and really detailed. I especially like the spread that shows various activities that Priscilla the pig eschewed in favor of acting like a pig. Except for some really small pictures, could be a good storytime book for a mixed-age group.
Inspired by the Danish folktale The Talking Pot, The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale is a new folktale about a boy named Ming growing up in BeijiInspired by the Danish folktale The Talking Pot, The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale is a new folktale about a boy named Ming growing up in Beijing. It is Chinese New Year, and although his parents work for the richest man in Beijing, Mr. Li, they have no money to have a Chinese New Year feast of their own. Ming brings his family's last two eggs to the market to trade for some rice, but is sidetracked by a large, handle-less wok. He brings the wok home instead, where it magically reverses their (mis)fortunes for Mr. Li's.
The illustrations are cute but also have a lot of detail to them (village scenes with lots of people, all doing different things), and there are a few paragraphs of text per page, so this book unfortunately isn't suited for a storytime. However, it could be a great bedtime storybook or book for children learning to read by themselves (and being up close gives more opportunities to see the pictures close-up)--especially around Chinese New Year time.