Underworld

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Title: Underworld Author: Meg Cabot Illustrator: N/a Publisher: London; Macmillian Children’s Books

Genre: Fantasy  Level: Upper Number of pages: 309 Pub. Date: 2012

Summary:

A continuation of the Abandon series by Meg Cabot, this book follows Pierce as she struggles to deal with her budding relationship with the Lord of the Underworld. In a modern day twist on the classic Greek myth about Persephone and Hades. Pierce has been taken to the Underworld so John can protect her from the Furies. Then piece gets a video of her cousin Alex trapped in a coffin. It’s up to Pierce to save him, but to do that she must convince her captor to let her back into the land of the living.

Critique:

I love how this book mixes a Modern Fantasy with the ideas from an ancient Greek myth. This story has many elements of a Fantasy book but the most prominent is the ability to make the reader feel like the events could happen. Also although part of the book takes place on a real island, it also takes place in the author’s interpretation of the Underworld.  These things work to help blur the line between the realistic and unrealistic book. This book is definitely a high fantasy with major undertones of good versus evil.

Response:

I should start of by saying that I am biased, my favorite author is Meg Cabot and I have been reading her books for almost half my life.  I thought this book was super creative. I love how Cabot made a modern interpretation of the Persephone myth. It integrates ancient myths, which I believe most students find fascinating with fantasy, which students also tend to love. I think this book is definitely more geared toward girls because of the underlying romance but that the slight violence would also attract some male students, which is important. Overall, this is one of my favorite books by Cabot yet.

Assignments:

            Before: Students will read the Persephone/Hades myth

During: Students will keep a chart of parallels between the two stories. (Ex: Pierce sounds similar to Persephone)

After: Students will right modern day versions of Greek Myths they’ve chosen.

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The Story of Aladdin or the Wonderful Lamp

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Title: The Story of Aladdin or the Wonderful Lamp Author: Barbara de Wilde, Carol Devine Carson and Peter B Willberg Illustrator: W. Heath Robinson
Publisher: New York; Alfred A. Knopf

Genre: Traditional Literature Level: Upper  Number of pages: 98 Pub. Date: 1993

Summary:

Aladdin is a young man who has grown up in a poor family. An African magician tricks him into going into a cave to get a magic lamp. But he traps Aladdin in the cave with the lamp and assumes him dead. Aladdin escapes with the help of a genie.  Eventually, Aladdin decides he wants to marry the princess, he uses the genie’s magical powers to get the money and gifts necessary to win over her father and eventually the two are married.  The African magician hears about this and is furious and plots to get the lamp and the princess for himself. At first successful, Aladdin eventually tricks the magician and gets back his wife and land. The magicians’ brother hears about this and plans to revenge his brother. Luckily the genie is able to warn Aladdin and he discovers the man before any harm is done.

Critique:

This story tells the tale of Aladdin’s struggle to overcome poverty and win his love. Although there is no one mentor both Aladdin’s mother and the genie from the lamp serve as mentors to help Aladdin over come his problems. Finally through out the whole story Aladdin is very brave and never gives up on his goals.

Response:

This story is nothing like the Disney version of Aladdin. I don’t know why I’m surprised, I know Disney takes liberties with their movies but I other than a genie in a lamp there are almost no similarities. First of all, this story takes place in China while the Disney version takes place in the Middle East. Next many of the characters are different between the two stories with only Aladdin, the sultan, the princess and the genie even coming close. Oh and there is no flying carpet. Finally this story covers a significantly larger period of time that the Disney movie. Sometimes you wonder how they could even be called the same thing.

Assignments:

After: Students will watch Aladdin and compare it to the book.

Johnny Appleseed

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Title: Johnny Appleseed Author:  Reeve Lindbergh Illustrator: Kathy Jakobsen  Publisher: Boston; Little, Brown and Company

Genre:  Traditional Literature Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 29 Pub. Date: 1990

Summary:

This is the classic story of Johnny Appleseed told through poems. It is told in the point of view of a woman whose family was visited by Johnny Appleseed during her youth. She tells of Johnny’s journey across the US to plant apple seeds.

Critique:

The story of Johnny Appleseed is a tall tale. Although he was a real man, his deeds are often stretched way beyond what he actually did. The interesting thing about Johnny Appleseed is that he was a real person and actually did plant apple seeds. In this version though, Johnny doesn’t break and walks constantly planting apple seeds. This would be impossible. This is what makes this story a tall tale.

Response:

I was interested about the real Johnny Appleseed so I did some research:

Johnny Appleseed, was born John Chapman in September of 1774. He really did plant seeds across America but what isn’t known is that he owned land in many of the states he planted seeds and made orchards. However, he did not plant all the apples like many people often claim.

Assignments:

Before: Have students each make their own apple tree and make an apple orchard in the classroom.

The Story of the Milky Way

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Title: The Story of The Milky Way Author: Joseph Bruchac and Gayle Ross Illustrator: Virginia A. Stroud
Publisher: New York; Dial Books for Young Readers

Genre: Traditional Literature Level: Beginner Number of pages: 29 Pub. Date: 1995

Summary:

The people in the old time lived off of cornmeal. One day an old woman went out to her cornmeal basket and saw that the lid was off and lots of cornmeal missing. The old woman’s grandson decided to catch the culprit and hid in the bushes till nightfall. That night he sees a spirit dog take the cornmeal. The next night the people all work together to scare away the dog, as he is running he drops corn meal which make the Milky Way in the sky.

Critique:

This story is a myth explaining the scientific phenomenon of the stars and the Milky Way. While the main character is a young boy, the cause of the Milky Way is a spirit. This story was passed down through the Cherokee people before it was written down in this book so it a perfect example of traditional literature.

Response:

I think it’s interesting that so many of the myths we hear now come from the Native Americans. I enjoy their stories and they help to make us realize what life would be like with out science. But this book illustrates the people very white and takes away some of the culture from the story. I think that the words would be better read aloud or with different pictures that better represented the native people.

Assignments:

After: Students will research other myths to the Milky Way from different cultures.

Stone Soup

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Title: Stone Soup Author: Jon J Muth Illustrator: Jon J Muth
Publisher: New York; Scholastic Press

Genre: Traditional Literature Level: Beginner Number of pages: 30 Pub. Date: 2003

Summary:

The classic tale of stone soup set in China. Three monks are traveling around China when they happen on a village that had experienced many hard times. When they get to the village none welcomes them and the monks decide that they should make stone soup. A young girl curious in the monks asks them what they are doing and borrows her mother’s big pot to help the monks. The idea behind the soup is that everybody adds something and by putting together resources everybody gets a wonderful meal.

Critique:

Many times this story is a fable because it teaches a wonderful lesson that through sharing everyone becomes richer and the main characters are animals. This version of the story is told using human monks but I would still consider it a fable because of the moral/universal that it teaches. Either way the story would be wonderful for a read aloud, a characteristic of a high quality literature.

Response:

One of my favorite parts of this adaptation are the author’s notes at the end of the book. They explain some of the decisions that Muth made. I particularly enjoyed his decision to paint the little girl in yellow, a color for royalty, to show her importance in this book. This would also be a good way to talk about the culture of China.

Assignments:

After: Students will each bring in one ingredient to make “stone” trail mix, teacher will provide the stone that has already been sanitized. Then class will discuss sharing.

Recipe for spicy chickpea trail mix (nut free) http://www.grouprecipes.com/84392/spicy-chickpea-trail-mix.html

The Talking Eggs

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Title: The Talking Eggs Author: Robert D. San Souci Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney
Publisher: New York; Dial Books for Young Readers

Genre: Traditional Literature Level: Beginner Number of pages: 29 Pub. Date: 1988

Summary:

An adaptation of Cinderella, this story tells the story of Blanche a young girl treated badly by her mother and elder sister. One day while getting water from the well, Blanche meets an old woman and gets her some water. When she gets back at her house her mother and sister are upset with. Scared Blanch runs away and the old woman she helps earlier finds her, who offers to let her come to her home if she promises not to laugh. Blanche promises and see all kinds of spectacles. As a reward for not laughing she is allowed to take any talking eggs that say take me and when she breaks them they will give her a surprise. She does this and treasures come out of the eggs. When she returns home, Blanche’s mother and sister are jealous and plan to steal her things and get more for themselves. Rose, the older sister, finds the old woman and tries to trick her into getting the riches. The old woman tells her to take only the eggs that say take me, but Rose doesn’t listen and takes the jeweled eggs that say don’t take me. When she breaks them horrible creatures come out and attack Rose and her mother. Blanche ends up leaving her home, living in the city happily ever after.

Critique:

This is definitely a fairy tale. This story tells of a normal little girl who is treated badly by her family. Instead of an outright fairy godmother, Blanche meets a witch who rewards her for her kindness and gives her many riches. Like most traditional literature, good wins over evil. Also, a theme I am finding in these books is that there is a moral to the story. In this book the moral is that kindness is rewarded and no good comes from greed.

Response:

I liked how the author adapted the classic Cinderella into a story with out a prince. Having the young girl rewarded for her good deeds by giving her independence instead of winning her prince is a nice take on this story. Also I liked the crazy animals that where at the witches house. My favorite was the two-headed cow with the corkscrew horns. They are cute and I like that their horns are turned. The author could have made a two-headed cow and it would have been outrageous enough but going that extra bit made the story that much more fun.

Assignments:

            During: Compare different versions of Cinderella stories.

The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks

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Title: The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks Author: Katherine Patterson Illustrator: Leo and Diane Dillon
Publisher: New York; Lodestar Books

Genre: Traditional Literature Level: Beginner Number of pages: 32 Pub. Date: 1990

Summary:

There are two mated Mandarin ducks, the male with glorious plumage and a female in subtle colors. One day a lord saw the beautiful male duck and stole him to make him his pet against the advice of the lord’s chief steward. The duck could not live in captivity and got sick and lost its beauty. A young servant girl of the house saw this and freed the duck. Unfortunately the steward was blamed and demoted to the lowest of tasks. The young girl told the steward what she had done and wanted to confess but he would not let her. The two fell in love, and when the lord found out they were sentenced to death. On the day of their sentence, two officials of the emperor came saying that capital punishment had been banned and the two prisoners were to come with them. After a long journey, they arrived at a cottage where the couple were fed and looked after before going to bed. The next day when they went to find their savior they only found two Mandarin Ducks waddling away. The couple lived there for the rest of their lives.

Critique:

This book has many characteristics of a traditional tale. The story is of simple structure, has the predictable theme of good winning in the end, and has a happy ending. This story is a folktale and tells of everyday people, who over come a problem. The Mandarin Duck the young girl saves ends up returning the favor showing that it is good to do things for others. Also the over come their challenge with the help of the Mandarin Ducks who transform into humans to save their lives.

Response:

Although this story took place in Japan, it could be easily adapted to take place in many other countries as well. Ducks, lords and servants are common to many areas. I enjoyed the idea that the ducks paid their debt to the humans by saving their lives. Also the love story woven into the book is cute and helps to create a lesson about taking on challenges together. The illustrators for this book were very talented and the style that they chose matched the setting of the story well.  I also like how the outfits of the “emperor’s workers” matched the feathers of the birds, I think that this would be a fun way to help students predict about the workers being the ducks in disguise.

Assignments:

            Before/After: Students will complete a KWL chart about Japanese culture.

K- know

W- what to know

L-learned

Japan is ruled by a emperor.

People wear Kimonos.

Samurai are warriors.

What is the hierarchy of power in Japan?

What else do the Japanese wear?

Japan is referred to as the land of the rising sun.

Samurai can be demoted to house servants.

Japanese wear straw sandals and some of the men wear pants.

The Enormous Potato

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Title: The Enormous Potato Author: Aubrey Davis Illustrator: Dusan Petricic Publisher: Canada; Kids Can Press LTD.

Genre: Traditional Literature Level: Beginner Number of pages: 29 Pub. Date: 1997

Summary:

A farmer plants a potato eye and grows huge potato out of it. He tries to pull the potato out but fails. He calls his wife to help him; she calls their daughter, who calls the dog who calls the cat who finally calls the mouse. The mouse is the final person who helps to get the potato out. They then feed the whole town potato till it is all gone.

Critique:

This book is the perfect example of a folktale. This book tells the story of an everyday farmer and very little setting is shown. This allows the book to fit into more than one specific culture. Also it tells the story of a magical potato eye that grows to an enormous sized potato. The end of the story with everyone sharing also fits into the Traditional Literature category. It shows a happy ending that resolves the problem of the enormous potato.

Response:

I really enjoyed the adding on aspect of this book that made it easy to read aloud. I also like how slowly each member of the family was added on to the line of helpers. I drew a picture of my family trying to pull an enormous potato out of the ground.

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This book would be useful in talking about families and how different families look because all families have different members and are different sizes. I also liked how the smallest animal, the mouse makes the difference in getting the potato out of the ground. I believe that this teaches that even the smallest person can make an enormous difference.

Assignments:

After: Students will draw their families trying to get the potato out of the ground.

And It Is Still that Way

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Title: And it is Still that Way Author: Arizona Indian Children Collected: Byrd Baylor Illustrator: n/a
Publisher: Arizona; Charles Scribner’s and Sons

Genre: Folk Literature Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 83 Pub. Date: 1976

Summary :

This book is a collection of Indian Legends told from the perspective of children. It is split up into six sections. My favorite section was “Why Animals Are the Way They Are”.  This section talks all about things that animals have done that cause them to be the way we know them. Of these stories, my favorite was “Why Dogs Sniff”; this talks about dogs loosing their tails when they take them off to swim. This why they have to sniff other dogs tail area so that they can find their own tails again. I think this is hilarious.

Critique: 

According to the cover of the book these collections of stories are legends. However, I believe that they are actually Folktales. Legends are based loosely historical event. However, many of these stories are more an explanation for why certain things are the way they are. This is one of the characteristics of a folk tale. These stories also talk about the lives of people and animals, another trait of folk tales. This book is a high quality traditional tale and integrates the traditional native culture into the stories. Overall, this book brought together many good aspects of folk literature.

Response:

This story reminded me a lot of my favorite teacher in junior high. She was Native American and use to teach a 9 week-long class about Native American’s. She would tell us legends of her people. I always enjoyed this more than most of my classes because the folk tales fascinate me. The reason

Assignments:

After: The students will create their own legends about something that animals do that is not easily explained. These legends should be about 1 page long.