"For most of human history, 'literature,' both fiction and poetry, has been narrated, not written — heard, not read. So fairy tales, folk tales, stories from the oral tradition, are all of them the most vital connection we have with the imaginations of the ordinary men and women whose labor created our world." — Angela Carter
The illustration is from Norway.
The Iliad and the Odyssey... Centuries of Oral Tradition
"Our version of the 'Iliad' was composed toward the end of what we assume were centuries of oral tradition — the 'Iliad', like the 'Odyssey' and other oral poems, had a genetic ability to reproduce itself, changing with each recital, picking up new details even as old ones were discarded, but always remaining recognizable. Almost nothing material in the poem can be traced with certainty to the Mycenaean Greeks."
From William Logan's NY Times review of Memorial, Alice Oswald’s version of the Iliad
There Is Always Hope
Fear, wars and famine dominated the days of people for centuries. Evil spirits, mysteries, and the unknown were part of daily life.
Stories, entertaining and often fantastic, were told where people gathered -- in the spinning rooms, the taverns, the market square, in the fields.
In the oral tales that have been preserved, no matter how dark, there is always hope
Fables...a Lesson in the Arts Of Literary Imagination
"No author has been so intimately and extensively associated with children's literature as Aesop. His fables have been accepted as the core of childhood reading and instruction since Plato, and they have found their place in political and social satire and moral teaching throughout medieval, Renaissance, and modern cultures...Their readerships have included parents as well as children, masters as well as slaves. rulers as well as subjects...
Fables are, quite simply, literature at its most simple and direct, and instruction in the fable is a lesson in the arts of literary imagination."
Seth Lerer writing on Aesop's Fables and Their Afterlives in his book, Children's Literature, A Reader's History From Aesop to Harry Potter.
The illustration of the Lion and the Mouse is by John Vernon Lord
I remember early reading days when Aesop's Fables were a source of fun and opened the doors to understanding connections between actions and outcomes... a source of aha moments in childhood. What could be clearer to a child than the story of the Lion and the Mouse? Here's a link to a delightful version of this story and many more of Aesop's fables: Aesop
“It has generally been assumed that fairy tales were first created for children and are largely the domain of children. But nothing could be further from the truth.
From the very beginning, thousands of years ago, when tales were told to create communal bonds in the face of the inexplicable forces of nature, to the present, when fairy tales are written and told to provide hope in a world seemingly on the brink of catastrophe, mature men and women have been the creators and cultivators of the fairy tale tradition...."
The quotation is by Jack Zipes, author of many books on children's literature including The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of The Brothers Grimm,
The illustration of the Grimm's Maid Maleen is by Arthur Rackham. I was motivated by the illustration to read this exceptional tale...
Maid Maleen endures imprisonment for true love. After her escape, she finds the world she once knew has been devastated by war. Accompanied only by a loyal handmaiden, she must travel great distances and survive starvation; but just when there seems to be no hope, events turn her way, and she has a new life with her first love. Here is an excerpt from the Maid Maleen's final speech to the Prince...it contains a multitude of the classic elements found in Grimm's fairy tales.
“I am Maid Maleen, who for thy sake was imprisoned seven years in the darkness, who suffered hunger and thirst, and has lived so long in want and poverty. Today, however, the sun is shining on me once more. I was married to thee in the church, and I am thy lawful wife.” Then they kissed each other, and were happy all the days of their lives. The false bride was rewarded for what she had done by having her head cut off."
The illustration of the wedding procession from the story of Maid Maleen is by Paul Hey
Planet Of The Dogs...an excerpt
"He was loading his wagon with animal hides in the Stone City market place, when three warriors, dressed in black and green and leading a riderless horse, rode up. The leader of the group looked down at him and said, “You will follow us now to the fortress. Our chief wishes to speak with you...They rode outside the wooden walls and stone towers of the city, past the great meadow where three huge standing stones had been erected, and over the bridge that crossed the Dark River. Gable saw a black cloud of men on horseback racing across the far edge of a meadow. When he asked who they were and where they were going, he received no answer, only a hard look. Ahead lay the great stone fortress, with the Dark Mountains rising behind it. The sight of the place gave Gable cold chills."
Here is a link to read more excerpts from the Planet Of The Dogs Series
The illustration from Planet Of The Dogs is by Stella Mustanoja-McCarty
Sleeping Beauty Retold
Sleeping Beauty has been retold since at least the 14th century. The culture and events that people lived through have impacted the telling, whether orally or in writing and there have been many iterations. In the past, Sleeping Beauty has had a nasty cannibalistic mother-in-law; a prince has had sex and impregnated her while she slept, unaware; and, in a recent movie version, she is rescued by an angel deprived of her wings. And the story goes on.
Vera Ferra- Mikura (1923-97) was a very popular writer of children's books. She lived in Vienna through the great depression, World War 2, and the hard years of recovery. Here is the closing excerpt of her incredible poem of Sleeping Beauty:
Come back in a hundred years my prince
In a hundred years the cannon will have rusted.
In a hundred years peace will be here.
Come softly like the wind
Blast open the hedge, but not with hand grenades,
Don't drive tanks up to the gates.
In a hundred years the hedge will part itself,
Then I'll be able to love you.
The translation is by Jack Zipes from his book, Breaking The Magic Spell
The photo of this Yazidi refugee family stays with me. It was taken as they rested after fleeing the murders, rapes, and violent destruction of their home in Sinjar by Isis in 2014. Survivors fled to the mountains.
The young girl in the photo was five years old. Are she and her family still alive? Do they have food, shelter, and access to medicine?
Does the young girl attend a school, perhaps in a refugee camp? Does she have books? Does she have hope?
"Most of the trapped people are members of the Yazidi religion, one of Iraq’s oldest minorities. They were forced to flee to Mount Sinjar in the Iraqi north-west region, or face slaughter by an encircling group of Islamic State (Isis) jihadists. The UN has said that roughly 40,000 people – many women and children – have taken refuge in nine locations on the mountain..." excerpted from The Guardian
The Pesh Merga drove Isis from Sinjar. Much of the city was in ruins and booby-trapped. Many survivors went in to refugee camps. The news headlines now focus on Mosul, where many Yazidi men are fighting against ISIS. Where is this young girl now?
The photos are by Reuters
Disney -- Profit First and Wonderland Second
The conflict between the profit motive and creating the best films for children and young adults exists throughout the film marketplace and especially at Disney.
I experienced this conflict when I saw Rogue One, Disney's highly profitable prelude to the Star Wars series. I sat and enjoyed the first two thirds of an imaginative Lucas-like sci-fi fantasy tale. The lead actress, Felicity Jones, was excellent and several new characters -- a blind warrior monk; a clever and articulate robot with attitude, a hybrid general -- added to the entertaining non-stop story.
And then, Rogue One became lost in unrelenting explosions, violence, and bloody mayhem that continued to the end of the film. This, to me, is an example of Disney pandering to their marketing department in the quest for profit with no thought as to (or perhaps not caring) the influence that this overwrought carnage has on the young.
Rogue One opened in December, and has grossed over two billion dollars. I believe the film would have made even more money, especially over time, if Disney had kept the imaginative story alive that I witnessed in the first two thirds, and extended it well into the denouement. This would have made a better, more entertaining film, and reduced the need for such extensive explosive, violent, carnage in resolving the story. For all the misgivings one can have about some of the late Walt Disney's own films, I think Walt would not have indulged in so much carnage.
Beauty and the Beast
On March 17, Disney will bring us their 3D musical version of Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. I hope Disney was able to create a captivating fairy tale film. I posted about Beauty and the Beast -- the story, the movie, and related matters -- in the Feb 2016 Barking Planet blog.
Maria Tatar's new book about Beauty and the Beast will be published this month.
How To Change the World in Thirty Seconds, by C.A. Wulff, is empowering...it's the internet made easy, the internet as a tool, the internet as a dog's best friend... a book and a way to make a difference... for dog lovers, animal advocates and anyone who wants to make the world a better place..."This is probably the best 'how-to' book I have ever seen" (from the Amazon review by Johanna)..
Therapy Dogs Continue to Help Heal Children in Amazing Ways
The world of medicine is embracing the healing ability of therapy dogs with children. Children with disabilities, children with autism, children with type one diabetes, children in hospitals...the list keeps growing as the tangible and intangible benefits continue. The human canine bond is extraordinary and the outcomes are often amazing.
Here is a link to a very touching video of a boy with Down's Syndrome bonding with a dog
This link to a CNN video report (3 minutes) will take you into the Pet Prints therapy dog program at Boston Children's Hospital where the healing benefits are are taking place.
The photo is from Boston Children's Hospital
Talk to Me and Mommy Talk
Doug Yeager has written and published two delightful books, free for mothers and children, that support early childhood development.
He was motivated by the work of his wife, the late Nancy M.Yeager, a dedicated educator. They are illustrated with sweet illustrations by Susannah Franklin. And they are free to mothers of pre-school children and organizations that support them. These include pediatric hospitals and clinics in Texas; a number of pediatric hospitals and clinics in the New York Metropolitan Area; Read to Me in Albuquerque; TWYB in South Bend; Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Nassau University Medical Center and many more.
Perhaps, you know of an organization or pre-school that would put these in the hands of mothers. Here is a link to the Foundation that supports this wonderful endeavor:Yeager Foundation. As you will see on their website, you can obtain free copies of these books by sending an email to Doug Yeager at: email@example.com
Lewis Carrol Society of North America
The next meeting of the Lewis Carrol Society of North America will be March 31 – April 2, 2017, in the San Francisco Bay Area...speakers include Amanda Lastoria, editor of the Lewis Carroll Review, Howard Chang, creator of the Chinese annotated version, Stuart Moskowitz, math professor at Humboldt State, Joseph W. Svec, on Sherlock Holmes/Lewis Carroll Crossovers, Peter Hanff, deputy director of the Bancroft Library, on “Baum’s American Wonderland,” and Amanda Kennell, on Japanese translations. There will be a reception afterwards at the San Francisco Center for the Book. On Sunday, April 2, members and guests are invited to visit the Brustein collection where there will also be food and socializing. Here is a link to the website: Alice
Children's Books of Boston
I went to a book swap/get- together held by Children's Books of Boston and I left with two totally different, charming books. Kirsti Call's The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, follows the journey of a raindrop in an imaginative story where the raindrop loses her fear and becomes part of the great water cycle. There is an educational component built into the book and sweet illustrations by Lisa M. Griffin.
Lauren Scheuer has written and illustrated Once Upon a Flock, Life With My Soulful Chickens, a unique book about chickens. Based on her true life family adventures, all the chickens become personalities, and the readers is pulled into Lauren's often funny and rather poignant book. I found this a book for both kids and adults and was surprised at how I was pulled into the story...Here's a link to Lauren's Chicken Book. And Here's a link to Kirsti Call's Raindrop book.
We believe that Why Am I, C.A. Wulff's wonderful new Yelodoggie book should have a big marketing push and wide distribution. Kids 4-8 love it and we are hoping it will be the beginning of a series. Accordingly, this month begins our search for a publisher who will also love the book, embrace its potential, and launch it into the world.
Why Am I is a joyous Yelodoggie book that helps children recognize and appreciate differences and to embrace that which is unique in each of us.
The Planet Of The Dogs series (including Castle In The Mist and Snow Valley Heroes, A Christmas Tale) is available on the Internet through independent bookstores, Barnes&Noble, Amazon, Powell's, Walmart, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd, and Tolino.
To read sample chapters of any book in the series, visit PlanetOfTheDogs
"I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult." Rita Rudner