Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Week of Tales:
Folk and Fairy, Writing and Telling

-->  Junior high readers: the links are at the bottom of this post

Hello Friday!

This post has been dual-purpose.  The first version, which was live on Thursday, was written quickly to get links available to John & Sydney's class.  This, more verbose version, is to let you know what's been going on in the library that needed fairy tale links.

Three times since school started, I've raided the elementary library's 398.2 section (that's folk and fairytales in regular people talk) to select picture books and collections for high school and junior high classes.

Last week Thrower's high school lit class, "American Male Voice," came in to find inspiration for a storytelling assignment.  From classic tall tales to Paul Feig's hilarious memoir, the guys browsed and chose stories to learn and tell in front of the class.  I also introduced Margaret Read MacDonald's method for learning a story in one hour, found in The Story-Teller's Start-Up Book.  For students who wanted to create their own stories to tell, I showed  some of  Donald Davis' prompts from Telling Your Own Stories, such as #7, "Can you remember a night your parents never found out about?"  Teenaged guys were intrigued by that one.  Thrower and I both remember Davis' best storytelling advice from his visit to Paideia -- "where there's trouble, you've got a story."  Everyone's got trouble, and everyone's got a story to tell.

This week, Oman & Tom's class came on Monday afternoon, and John & Sydney's class came on Thursday afternoon to get started on a creative writing assignment tied into the summer all-read book, Far Far Away by Tom McNeal.  Each student browsed picture books and fairy tale collections to find a tale for revision -- fracture it (á la Scieszka's The Stinky Cheese Man), radically change the setting,  write from the point of view of a minor character -- so many possibilities!  Alas, even Natalie's awesome collection wasn't big enough for 60 kids.  The links below supplemented the print collection, so everyone could find a favorite fairytale to rewrite.

To end the week, this morning the whole junior high participated in a fantastic Skyped conversation with author Tom McNeal, who turns out to be a thoughtful, gracious, and pretty darn cool guy.  I won't give away the surprises of Far Far Away, but the nucleus of the story is a rewoven
"Hansel and Gretel." In the idyllic Midwestern hamlet of Never Better, two young people with sub-optimal parents find themselves in the clutches of a child-eating villain.  Throw in a few funny bits, teenage rivalries, plot twists and the ghost of Jacob Grimm, and you get much much more than just a fairytale.  Props to my colleague Greg Changnon, homebase teacher, for the commitment and energy he gives to promoting reading in the junior high.

Fairy Tales to Read Online

 Brothers Grimm -- Links to  many tales - just text, not too pretty

European Fairy Tales (includes Andersen, Grimm, Perrault and others)

Classic Fairy Tales -  most of the most well-known, reteller unknown - fairytales from around the world, reteller unknown

"The Story of the Three Little Pigs" - retold by Joseph Jacobs

"The Three Little Pigs" - retold by Andrew Lang

"The Gin-ger-bread Boy" - as first published in St. Nicholas magazine in 1875

Ebooks - original collections to read online or download to iPad (all at

Grimm's Fairy Tales -

Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm -

The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault -

The Tales of Mother Goose, as first collected by Charles Perrault in 1696  -

Andersen's Fairy Tales by H.C. Andersen -

Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, First Series -

Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, Second Series -

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Paideia School and the Chamber of Seniors

School has begun, and hooray!  A literary senior prank!

We may never know where they got the GIGANTIC albino Burmese python that highlighted their Tuesday Morning Meeting show of 'seniority,' but for sure the Class of 2015 knows its children's literature.  I suppose there's a natural affinity between Paideia Pythons and Harry Potter's Basilisk (oh dear, does that mean we're all relegated to Slytherin?), and yesterday snakes slithered throughout.

During the traditional opening 'first eraser' pitch, seniors tossed little rubber snakes like confetti out into the darkened theatre.  Later on during the meeting, they dropped a banner from the catwalk while the curtains opened to reveal 4 seniors holding the full display of the afore-mentioned python (12 feet? longer?).  Notice the cleverly inserted '15' in the 'Rise Up'?

Then, yesterday at lunch, I noticed this warning posted on the student announcements board in the High School commons.

The 2014-2015 is open, and off to a smooooooth start.

Friday, August 15, 2014

You Can Learn a Lot from a Book (Soldier Dog Edition)

Did you know that 5% of deployed military dogs develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome)?  I didn't know the percentage, but after reading Robert Crais' detective novel Suspect last year, I did learn that war dogs can suffer from "shell shock," as WWI veterans termed it.

Do you get a thrill when things you've learned start to pop up all around you, adding to and confirming your new pocket of knowledge?  Call me a librarian :-), but I just love it.  And I was inspired to write this post over the summer when National Geographic's June cover article was "Hero Dogs: A Soldier's Best Friend," and featured Layka, a German Shepherd soldier dog just like Maggie, the canine heroine of Suspect.

The accomplishments of canine soldiers are also explored in a non-fiction book published last year (more literary synchronicity) titled Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America's Canine Heroes.  There's even a recent graphic novel that tells the based-on-true-stories accomplishments of combat dogs in three different wars: Dogs of War.

If you love dogs, are interested in details of military life, or just get a thrill from learning about new things from a bunch of different sources, you can learn a lot from a book.  I hope you read (and learned) this summer.

School's about to start.  See you next week!