Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Currently reading...

Who knew summers could be so busy? Not me, lol. I read four books over the past few days and hope to get reviews up soon. Until then, here's a peak at what I am reading now. And by reading I mean this is what I attempt to read between meetings, at the dentist office, while in the pick up line at my son's school, etc.

Drum roll, please!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Frog Prince

The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm

Genre: Traditional Literature, Folklore, Fairy Tale (Children's)
I read this classic fairy tale in the Classics of Children’s Literature (6th Edition) by John W. Griffith and Charles H. Frey. Published by Pearson in Upper Saddle River, NJ in 2005.

My initial response to the Grimms’ The Frog Prince is that it clearly follows the mythos, or master plot, that structures many fairy tales. For instance, the Prince was victimized by a “wicked witch” and altered into a frog (p. 45). The Prince’s loyal servant was so distraught by the alteration that his heart had to be protected with iron belts—this information not only promotes a message of loyalty but also offers evidence to reinforce the wickedness of the witch. Her act was so ghastly it had dire repercussions beyond the Prince. The Prince, now a frog, spent his time in the woods, assumingly encountering adventures until the King’s daughter comes along to offer a resolution. The King also contents to the Prince marrying his daughter, which consequently results in the familiar fairy tale ending of a restructured family. In contrast, The Frog Prince is different from other fairy tales because the King had to order his daughter to hold true to her word and free the Prince from his altered state. 

The Grimms’ must have had some purpose or alternative function in mind when writing the story in this way. To better understand this, I asked myself, how would the story have been different if the King did not influence his daughter? What if we deleted the lines: “that which thou hast promised must thou perform,” “so go now and let him in,” and “That which thou hast promised in thy time of necessity, must thou perform.” (p. 45)? I have a sneaky suspicion that the daughter would have left the Prince (the frog) sitting on the doorstep and she would have been punished in some monstrous way for her deception. The King’s influence was critical in the movement of the plot and ultimately led to the resolution being possible.

Knowing the Grimms’ lost their father early in life[1], it could be they sought to make the King (a father) a hero. Especially due to the fact of the daughter being the youngest. In fairy tales, the youngest is typically disadvantaged and despite her grand beauty, she lacked understanding and wisdom and her struggle with this ethical dilemma might not have been overcome without intervention from the father. She needed a hero and the King served that function. It could also be that the King serves as a divine force or hero for the Prince, in addition to his influence over his daughter. The Prince overcomes his frog state because of the daughter learning about integrity and setting aside her own discomfort to repay a good deed. 

The King’s influence corresponds to the influence the Cat held in Perrault’s The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots. The youngest son would not have been able to overcome his misfortune without the cleverness of the Cat to manipulate others and help the youngest son achieve a higher status in society. However, there is an obvious difference here. In The Frog Prince, the King was intervening to prevent deception and in The Master Cat, the Cat was intervening to assert deception. The Brothers Grimm seem to be more meticulous in ensuring that their tales taught values, while Perrault’s emphasis might have been more directed on the art of storytelling. However, I do prefer the Grimms’ stories and the language is very much a cause of that. 

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*2nd Picture Citation:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


McCafferty, M. (2011). Bumped. New York, NY: Balzer & Bray. 

Genre: Science Fiction (YA)

In the world in which Melody and Harmony live, teen pregnancy is nothing to frown upon, in fact it is ENCOURAGED! Teens are paid ridiculous amounts of money to be surrogates or sell their babies to couples because a virus has caused an infertility crisis among older generations. 

Melody and Harmony are identical twins that were adopted by different families as sickly infants. Melody was raised by scientists who devoted their lives to giving her the best of everything so that she would be the most sought after girl for a rich family needing a baby. Harmony was raised in a town with a completely different set of values. She has God and her religion marries off teen girls so that they can have babies within their family. The sisters didn’t know each other growing up but Harmony runs away to save Melody from her sinful life…nor does she have another motive? Melody’s perfect life quickly becomes a whirlwind of trouble.

Reaction: It took me a while to get into this one. Honestly, only the last 100 pages demanded my attention. Harmony’s religiosity is annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish to bash religion but Harmony hides behind her religion…maybe because she has not formed her own identity or she is confused. Either way, it is overkill. There seems to be some discrepancies in how Melody perceives “bumping”. Zen’s humor and bluntness on the topic is refreshing and his character is the shining star of the novel. While, this was not the most enticing sci-fi YA novel, it was interesting and I look forward to seeing how Melody and Harmony deal with the issues that arose in the ending, in the second book, Thumped.

The Boy Who Cried NINJA

Latimer, A. (2011). The boy who cried ninja. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree.

Genre: Children’s Picture Storybook

Tim is constantly being blamed for things and his parents accuse him of lying when he says the ninja, pirate, and monkey did it. Frustrated, he decides that if he is going to be accused of lying, he should lie. So he lies and confesses to the mishaps around his house. When this gets him nowhere, he comes up with a plan to prove that he is being honest.

Reaction: HILARIOUS! Lying is a behavior that both children and parents can identify with and Latimer’s story captures the frustration that takes place when one actually lies and when one is wrongly accused of lying. While the story is quite unrealistic, it is still a great conversation starter for families or others dealing with issues surrounding lying and honesty. And who doesn’t love a time-traveling monkey…that was icing on the cake for me. Great book!

The Little Bit SCARY People

Jenkins, E. (2008). The little bit scary people. Boiger, A. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children. 

Genre: Children’s Picture Storybook (Multicultural) 

A young girl comes across some “scary” people throughout her day. A cranky bus driver, a teen kicking a trash can, and other “scary” people are displayed expressing some kind of emotion but then the young girl shares that if we knew what they played with their children, or loved music, or other things about them, we would know that MOST people are not scary. The young girl knows this because some might say her dad and sister are scary but she knows they are not.

Reaction: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this story. Not only does this incredible story offer a message that challenges prejudice and encourages understanding of others, it also promotes diversity and confronts stereotypes. For example, a male nurse, an African-American female principal, a female bus driver, a teenage girl playing football, and more. The illustrations are lovely and capture emotion through facial expressions, body language, and color.

A Deeper Look at Cinderella

Cinderella, or the little glass slipper by Charles Perrault
& Aschenputtel by the Brothers Grimm

*I read these classic fairy tales in the Classics of Children’s Literature (6th Edition) by John W. Griffith and Charles H. Frey. Published by Pearson in Upper Saddle River, NJ in 2005.

Perrault’s version: Cinderella’s mother is not given much thought but her father takes a second wife and soon Cinderella falls victim to the nasty behavior of a stepmother and two stepsisters. They take her belongings and leave her with nothing but the cinders near the chimney. The King holds a ball and while she is forbidden to go, Cinderella must help her stepsister get ready for the grand event. Cinderella is incredibly kind to her stepsisters despite their mocking and teasing. Once, the stepsisters have left for the ball, Cinderella begins to cry but soon after her fairy godmother appears and turns ordinary objects and creatures into a grand coach and horses and provides her with a beautiful gown, so that she may go to the ball. Cinderella is the most beautiful lady at the ball and wins the attention of the Prince but she must rush off before midnight. Similar events take place on the second night of the ball, only Cinderella leaves behind one glass slipper. The Prince sets out to find the lady whose feet fit into this elegant glass slipper. The two stepsisters try and fail and everyone is quite shocked when Cinderella fits the slipper. She marries the Prince and forgives her stepsisters for their unkind behavior.

Reaction: Perrault focuses heavily on the fashion and external beauty in his version. Cinderella seems to overcome her had life because she is made beautiful not necessarily from her good nature. I prefer the Grimms’ version.

The Grimms’ version: Aschenputtel’s mother dies and Aschenputtel is heartbroken but does her best to be pious and good so that her mother and God will always be watching over her. Her father remarries shortly after the death and the stepmother and two stepsisters are relentlessly evil, abusive, and nasty to Aschenputtel…the father fails to notice any of the ill behavior. The father goes to a fair and brings back requested items for his daughters. The stepsisters wanted fine clothes and jewels and Aschenputtel requested the first twig that struck her father’s hat. The hazel twig the father brings for Aschenputtel is planted at her mother’s grave and as she weeps for her mother, the twig grows into a magical tree that produces wish-granting birds. Aschenputtel calls on the birds’ help when her evil stepmother and stepsisters throw lentils into the fire so that Aschenputtel will not have time to go to the ball. However, she does complete the task and has time to go but her stepmother lies and forbids her to go. The birds bring Aschenputtel a beautiful dress of gold and silver and she attends the ball for three nights…each time escaping at midnight and hiding from the Prince to keep her identity hidden. The father cuts down Aschenputtel’s hiding places in an attempt to find the girl the Prince seeks but she always manages to flee and the father cannot believe his dirty daughter would be the one. On the third night, the Prince leaves pitch on the steps and one her golden shoes is left behind. The Prince seeks to marry the lady whose foot fits in the shoe, so the evil stepsisters cut their foot to cram it inside. The birds give away their dishonesty and eventually Ashenputtel tries on the gold shoe and produces the matching shoe and marries the Prince. The evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out at Aschenputtel’s wedding as a punishment for the ill behavior.

Reaction: While some might say that this version is too harsh or graphic for children, I believe otherwise. Children are very well aware of the injustices and cruel nature of the world and the Brothers Grimm should be admired for not sugar coating life in their tales. The stepsisters were relentlessly cruel and there are consequences for committing evil behavior. I am also appalled that the father did not stick up for his daughter but I do think this is an accurate depiction of how life was lived in the time the tale was written.

In addition to my reaction, I will share my written response to my History of Children’s Literature Professor’s discussion question: As thematic motifs, do you think “recognizing the loved one” and/or “going down to get up” function in a different way in Grimms' than in Perrault’s tale?

Fairy tales typically highlight major themes or motifs as a means of emulating familiar rites of personal development. Perrault’s Cinderella and the Brothers Grimms’ Aschenputtel are no different—motifs are in great abundance in both versions of this classic tale.

The “recognizing the loved one” motif is more easily identified in the Brothers Grimms’ Aschenputtel. It seems logical that the loved one would be Aschenputtel but she receives no love or care from her living “family” members. Instead, Aschenputtel’s deceased mother plays the role of the loved one. Aschenputtel “went every day to her mother’s grave and wept” (p. 56). Her mother was not only caring, good but also religious. The Brothers Grimms’, like many other classical children’s authors sought to teach children and adult about personal development and this religious aspect sends a message that God looks after those who are good.

Aschenputtel’s love for her deceased mother and obedience in keeping her promise to be “pious and good” (p. 56) was rewarded with the magic of the hazel twig. The hazel twig not only brings a fantastical element to the tale but also provides an object or symbol for the mother to be recognized. Aschenputtel’s fallen tears for her mother causes the twig to blossom into a magical tree that produces wish granting birds. More specifically, doves, which have religious significance to further hone in on that message of being “pious”. In Perrault’s version, religion is not intertwined in the function of this motif.

“Going down to get up” is without a doubt my favorite of the fairy tale motifs. As much as I enjoy Disney movies, their versions of classic fairy tales give an impression that success is granted through beauty and love. Perrault and the Brothers Grimms clearly establish the theme that one must first struggle before achieving success. This message/motif not only more accurately reflects the rites of personal development but also emphasizes a pattern of resiliency, which many children can connect with or at least be empathic to. For example, in Perrault’s version, Cinderella sleeps in the “garret” (p. 17) on top of all her other duties and chores. According to The Free Dictionary [Online], a garret is a cramped, possibly unfinished attic with a pitched roof. Clearly, this is a poor location for a girl to sleep and a symbol of Cinderella’s lowly position in her family. “Going down” is again emphasized, as she must help her stepsisters prepare for the ball she cannot attend. However, because Cinderella stayed true to her “rare goodness and sweetness of temper” (p.17) throughout the downs, she was able to go “up” with the help of her fairy godmother. The Brothers Grimms’ version reiterates the same functionality of the “going down to get up” motif as Perrault. Case in point, Aschenputtel is held “down” by her grief, the relentless demands and abuse from her stepmother and stepsisters, and the cluelessness of her father before she is able to “get up” and win the love of the Prince.

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