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Book Reviews of Literature for Children and Young Adults
Genre 2 Traditional Literature
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This page contains the following book reviews:
Rapunzel
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs
The Persian Cinderella

Bell, Anthea.  1997.  Rapunzel/A Fairy Tale by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm.

      Illustrated by Maja Dusikova.  New York:  North-South Books. 

      ISBN:1558586849.

 

     Rapunzel is a traditional folktale retold by Anthea Bell.  There was a poor woman and a man who wanted a child.  While she was pregnant, she craved the rampion or rapunzel growing in the garden next door so much that she was dying for it.  A witch owned the garden.  One night the woman's husband stole into the garden and picked some for her.  The witch catches him and makes him promise to give his child. The witch is the archetypical evil character while the woman and man are just stock characters to tell the story.

     The witch takes the baby and when the baby is twelve years old she shuts her in a tower that has no stairs or door.  When the witch wants to see Rapunzel she would call, Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair and she would climb the braid of hair. There is repetition in the story when the witch asks Rapunzel to let down her hair in this part of the story.

     This went on for many years until one day a prince was riding near the tower and heard Rapunzel singing. He came back every day.  One day he heard and saw the witch so he decided to try it.  They fall in love and he proposes. The witch finds out about the prince and takes Rapunzel to live alone in the deserted part of the forest.  The witch waits for the prince and then tells him he will not see Rapunzel ever again.  He jumps from the tower and falls into some thorn bushes and the thorns damage his eyes.  He wanders around for years until one day he hears Rapunzel's voice.  He hurries in the direction of her voice.  She sees him, hugs him, and cries.  Her tears fall upon his eyes and his sight is restored.  They live happily ever after.

     The beautiful watercolor illustration provides details to the text, the setting, and the characters. The tower is not described in the story but the illustrations fulfill the details that the text omits. This story has many of the elements of traditional fantasy.  The characters are the good sweet girl, the evil witch, and the noble prince.  Time passes quickly.  Events that happened in the years from baby to the age of twelve are not mentioned.  The years the prince walked around blind is condensed. There is magic with Rapunzel's tears fixing the eyes of the prince. The story gives satisfaction that good will triumph.

    

Schwartz, Alvin.  1981.  Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark / Collected from 

     American Folklore.  Illustrated by Stephen Gammell.  New York:  Harper

     Collins Publishers. ISBN: 0064401707.

 

     Remember telling or hearing scary stories at sleepovers or camp.  Reading the stories in this book gives a person the feeling that they have heard some of these stories before.  This book is a collection of short stories that have been passed on orally by children.

     This book is divided up into five different types of stories with four to eight stories in each section.  The first stories are AAAAAAAAH.  The purpose of these stories is to make a person jump at the end. The first story is "The Big Toe" where a boy finds a big toe, takes it home, and eats it.  During the night the owner of the toe looks for him, steadily coming closer until YOUVE GOT IT!

     The next chapter is He Heard Footsteps Coming Up the Cellar Stairs which contains ghost stories. In the story, "The Thing" two friends see a skeleton.  One year later one of the friends got sick and died.  In the end, he looked like a skeleton.

     They Eat Your Eyes, They Eat Your Nose chapter has a story of a girl who took a bet to stand on a grave.  To prove she had been there she was to stick a knife in it.  She did that and then started to leave but was unable.  The next day her friends found her lying on the grave with the knife blade struck through the end of her skirt pining it to the ground.

     This chapter, Other Dangers is primarily stories told in recent times. "The Hook" is a familiar story of a couple that is parked and they hear on the radio about an escaped murderer who had a hook.  They decide to leave.  When they get home, they discover a hook handing from the handle.

     "High Beams" is another familiar story of current times.  Someone in a pickup who keeps flashing his high beams at her is following a girl home. When she jumps out of her car at home, she finds out he did it because of a man in her back seat who had a knife.

     The last chapter has funny stories that involve scary types of things.  "The Bloody Finger" tends to be a common tale that children enjoy retelling.

     This book has been highly popular with students in elementary school but also it is among the top ten of the most challenged books because of its content and gruesome pictures done in black and white by Stephen Gammell. 

 

Scieszka, Jon.  1989. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!  Illustrated by

     Lane Smith.  New York:  Scholastic Inc.  ISBN:  0590454951

 

     A hilarious version of The Three Little Pigs told by the wolf.  He attempts to explain where the idea of the Big Bad Wolf was started and how he was framed. In the story the wolf he tells why he was looking for the three little pigs.  He needed a cup of sugar for my dear old granny's birthday cake.  He had a bad cold is his reason the huffing and snuffing.  He uses reasonable excuses to explain why he ate the pigs. "Hey, it's not my fault wolves eat cute little animals like bunnies and sheep and pigs.  Thats just the way we are.  If cheeseburgers were cute, folks would probably think you were Big and Bad, too."

     The story and the text work together to produce a story and characters that is enjoyable over and over.  The wolf is portrayed as a mild mannered character that wears glasses and a sweater with a bow tie. He loves his granny as evidenced by her portrait on the wall and him going through that much trouble to make a birthday cake for her. He is illustrated walking down the road whistling while tossing into the air the cup for sugar.

     The pigs are depicted as being mean, coarse, and rude.  The third little pig yells out, "And your old granny can sit on a pin!" The pigs are never completely shown in the illustrations.  After the wolf blows the house down all that is shown of each pig is his back end with a curly tail.  Even when a pig's face is shown, it is only partially, as when he is shaving. Mean looking eyes of the third pig stare out of a peephole in the door at the wolf outside.

     Lane Smith's dark and shadowy illustrations are framed unevenly in black.  On the first page, the letter E on everybody is constructed out of straw, sticks, and bricks.  Readers will delight in examining details in the illustrations as in the sandwich with little animals, the newspaper headlines, and the last page.

 

Climo, Shirley.  1999.  The Persian Cinderella.  Illustrated by Robert

     Florczak.  New York:  Harper Collins Publishers.  ISBN:  0060267631

 

     A Cinderella type story, this retelling of a traditional folktale from Persia captures beauty and an essence of the time period with its illustrations and text.

     In the story the archetype character is Settareh who like Cinderella lost her mother and is mistreated by her stepsisters but Settareh grew lovelier with the years. The female members of the family are given a large gold coin to buy cloth in the bazaar to make new clothes for the New Years party given by Prince Mehredad. The other women buy cloth but Settareh spends her money on almonds, charity to an old woman, and a small blue jug. 

     One day while holding the small blue jug she discovers that a pari, a fairy, is inside that would grant her wishes.  As with Cinderella, Settareh wishes for a gown to wear to the New Year Party. At the palace, Prince Mehrdad sees her.  She does not recognize the prince and her stepsisters do not recognize her.  She flees the palace and loses one of her diamond bangles from her ankle.  It is found and brought to the prince who wants to find the one who wore it.

     As in the Cinderella tale with the shoe, the women try on the bangle in the kingdom.  Finally the queen comes to Settareh's house.  Her sisters try on the bangle to no avail.  Settareh tries it on and it fits before she leaves the house with the queen she gets the jug and tells one of her sisters that a pari is in the jug.

     A marriage is arranged between Settareh and the Prince.  It is celebrated for thirty-nine days.  Before the actual ceremony the two stepsisters get the jug and order the pari to give them a way to get rid of Settareh.  The sister drops the jug that breaks and in with the shards is six jeweled hairpins.  They stick these into Settareh and she changes into a turtledove and flies away.

     The prince looks for Settareh but unable to find her he goes into deep despair.  His only visitor is a turtledove.  One day he discovers the hairpins in the bird and pulls them out.  Settareh returns to her normal form. They get married and live happily ever after.  This quick resolution and the punishment of the evil stepsister provide a typical but satisfying end to the story.

     This folktale uses stock characters of the Cinderella story, the sweet young girl, the noble prince, and the evil stepsisters. The story gives an insight to the culture of that time and the behavior of people with the following statements: "Settareh seldom saw her father, for he was busy in the world of men"; "Each girl and every woman, no matter her age, covered her head with a cloak so that no stranger might look on her face"; or when Mehrdad's mother says, "How can a man look for a maiden? What do you know of women and their ways";  "Settareh's father honored the women's quarters with a visit"; "The queen gave Settareh a mirror so that she might gaze at the prince's reflection without the embarrassment of facing him"; and "Settareh knelt and touched her head to the ground. Then she looked up at him and said, You honor me." These words and actions of the characters give the reader a view into another culture. The names of the characters also imply something about them. Settareh means star and Mehrdad means one who shows compassion.

     The culture is also shown in the wonderful illustrations.  School Library Journal tells of the illustrations, "Florczak's sumptuous illustrations have jewel-like tones that glow against the brownline-paper background, and traditional designs decorate the text. The illustrations are realistic and appealing, although in one scene, Settareh is wearing a blue veil with her face exposed when the text specifies that she and the other women draped themselves in black to conceal their faces." There are other slight problems with the text and illustrations.  Settareh was supposed to be wearing cast-off clothing and eating leftovers but her clothing looks richly made of silk while she does not look underfed. These minor glitches do not take away from the story.

 

 

 

This page was created as a requirement for LS 5603 Literature for Children and Young Adults from Texas Woman's University.
Created June 2004
by
J. Ketola