Thursday, September 27, 2007

A is for Aesop (The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators)

We don't know that much about Aesop. He may or may not have been a slave. He might have been born in one of the following places: Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece...just to name a few. We know that most of his tales did not originate with him; like the Brothers Grimm, Aesop collected his tales, which were passed down in the oral tradition. Socrates may have been a fan of Aesop.

Aesopica has been translated and retold by many authors throughout history. The stories are short, making them ideal for picture books and easy readers. As part of my Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators series, I read the discussed titles in the Aesop entry.

La Fontaine is one of the well-known retellers of Aesopica. The Lion and the Rat is one of the fables I distinctly remembering reading in elementary school. Lion's paw gets stuck, and he has to depend on Rat to help him. As you can imagine, the underlying theme is that small doesn't mean helpless. This would be a great read aloud; the pictures are robust and larger than life. Each page includes a few lines of text, which is written in a simple but not yawn-inducing way. Think about this one for a lion storytime!

The North Wind and the Sun is also retold by La Fontaine. This is also perfect for a read aloud; bright and eye catching illustrations set against prose easily understood and appreciated by preschoolers. The North Wind and Sun believe they can both make a man's cloak "blow off" his shoulders. But does force always accomplish what you want to happen? This can lead to an interesting discussion, as can all of Aesop's fables.

Turning from books to read aloud to books written for (newly) independent readers, we have Eve Rice's Once in a Wood: Ten Tales From Aesop. However, this could definitely be used as a read aloud (some easy readers aren't great for read alouds). Rice includes the most familiar stories in her collection, from "The Fox and the Crow" to "The Lion and the Mouse" (the rat is a mouse in this story). Black and white illustrations are few, as to be expected, but they do add to the text.

Finally, we have Andy and the Lion by James Daugherty. This is a more unorthodox retelling of "Androcles and the Lion," but it is a sweet, if "sentimental," as Anita Silvey mentions in The Essential Guide, story of the adventures of reading and discovery. The illustrations look (delightfully) old-fashioned to modern eyes (the book was published in 1938). Very cute.

In my next post in the Essential Guide series, I'll post about books discussed in the entry on "African American Children's Books."

The Fast Sooner Hound

Golden Slippers

John Brown, A Cry for Freedom


M. C. Higgins the Great

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Let the Circle be Unbroken

The Road to Memphis

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters

I'm only familiar with M. C. Higgins the Great, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Let the Circle be Unbroken, and Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters. However, I haven't read the novels since I was in middle school, so I am looking forward to revisiting them again.

No comments: