The Seven Chinese Brothers

  • Title: The Seven Chinese Brothers
  • Author: Margaret Mahy
  • Illustrator: Jean and Mou-sien Tseng
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
  • Publication year: 1990
  • Brief Summary: From Scholastic-“This ALA Notable Book tells the magical story of seven Chinese brothers who use their supernatural talents to overcome a powerful emperor, who exploits the hard work of the peasants at the Great Wall of China.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I did find this activity sheet in PDF from Carnegie Mellon University that could be used for a teacher or librarian. I think, once again, this another folktale from a different culture that can be used in conjunction with popular fairy tales like Cinderella or American tall tales like Paul Bunyan.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – The Tsengs illustrations are done in colorful watercolors and vivid pattern. Even though the author of this book, Mahy, is a white-woman, the text is only an accompaniment to the Tsengs illustrations. My favorite set of illustrations is the paneled illustrations showing the Fifth Brother and his legs growing in each body of water the Emperor forces him in. I think this version of The Seven Chinese Brothers is remarkably less stereotypical than the version by Claire Huchet Bishop done in 1964.

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters

  • Title: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale
  • Author: John Steptoe
  • Illustrator: John Steptoe
  • Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books
  • Publication year: 1987
  • Brief Summary: From Scholastic-“Mufaro has two beautiful daughters. Nyasha is kind and considerate, but Manyara is selfish and spoiled. When the king decides to choose a bride from among “The Most Worthy and Beautiful Daughters in the Land,” both Mufaro’s girls travel to the capital city. But only one can be chosen to marry the king.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library –This book’s folktale is very similar to Cinderella and as such could be used in conjunction with that “traditional” fairy tale. I did find another discussion lesson from The Prindle Institute of Ethics that could used for a teacher.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – The colorful illustrations look as real as photographs. There is much in the illustrations that the text reveals or supports.

Golem

  • Title: Golem
  • Author: David Wisneiwski
  • Illustrator: David Wisneiwski
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
  • Publication year: 1996
  • Brief Summary: From Amazon: “Retold from traditional sources and accompanied by David Wisniewski’s unique cut-paper illustrations, Golem is a dramatic tale of supernatural forces invoked to save an oppressed people. It also offers a thought-provoking look at the consequences of unleashing power beyond human control. The afterword discusses the legend of the golem and its roots in the history of the Jews.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I think this book could be used within and during discussions of the Holocaust, as one could compare the situations the Jews faced in this time period (circa 1500s) to the prejudices and horrors the Jews experienced before and during the Holocaust. I would use this book for much older children, say 10 to 12 years of age, grades 5-6.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it. –The artwork in this book is rather harrowing. Most of the color scheme in this book is dark, with black, brown, red and orange throughout. I think younger children might find this book to be terrifying and I think the subject matter would better translate to an older audience.

A Story, A Story

  • Title: A Story, A Story: An African Tale
  • Author: Gail E. Haley
  • Illustrator: Gail E. Haley
  • Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
  • Publication year: 1970
  • Brief Summary: From Amazon: “Long, long ago there were no stories on earth for children to hear. All stories belonged to Nyame, the Sky God. Ananse, the Spider man, wanted to buy some of these stories, so he spun a web up to the sky to bargain with the Sky God. The price the Sky God asked was Osebo, the leopard-of-the-terrible-teeth, Mmboro the hornet-who-stings-like-fire, and Mmoatia the fairy-whom-men-never-see. Can Ananse capture these sly creatures and give the children of earth stories to tell?”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – Much like I said in my last post on Snow White, a folktale/fairy tale from another culture is instructional to teach to children. In this African folktale, the story is being told by Kwaku Ananse to African children in his village, and the story is about him and how he gained the stories from the Sky God. This is a diverse story, not one rooted in Western ideology or culture. However, as this book was published in 1970, I do not know if it could still be used in the library today. The foremost reason being that now there are being published more books by diverse authors and for a diverse audience. And that a book published this long ago might now be necessary to weed (this brings up a good question on weeding, such as for the Dr. Seuss books).
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it. – I will say, I did enjoy the illustrations in this box. The illustrations are rendered in bright colors, bright pinks, greens, yellows, blues and purples abound. There is a lot of interesting texture, shapes and patterns within the illustrations as well. The style makes me wonder if Haley took time to study African illustrations and art and if she (as a white woman) spent time with African peoples to learn the stories from them specifically.