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from diapers to deconstruction


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Wabi Sabi: A Japanese List

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My younger daughter says her favorite thing about our unit study of Japan was the rice, providing further confirmation that we’re in it for the food. We did go out for Japanese food during this study, practicing with chopsticks and sampling sushi. My older daughter says she loved learning about all the different festivals and holidays in Japan, and these books certainly cover those topics as well. They also fell in love with Totoro in their introduction to anime. As you can see, this list does what I strive to do with all of our place-based unit studies: get a sense of the culture through history, folklore, fairy tales, contemporary accounts, food, music, crafts, and geography. This list showed us loyal animals, origami, wise rulers, everyday families, and, yes, rice. It’s the next best thing to travel!

  1. All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and More by Willamarie Moore and Kazumi Wilds
  2. Chibi: A True Story from Japan by Barbara Brenner, Julia Takaya, and June Otani
  3. Cooking the Japanese Way by Reiko Weston
  4. Color Crayola’s Japanese Flag and Map
  5. The Culture and Crafts of Japan by Miriam Coleman
  6. Dodsworth in Tokyo by Tim Egan
  7. Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  8. The Emperor’s Plum Tree by Michelle Nikly and Elizabeth Shub
  9. Erika-San by Allen Say
  10. Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog by Pamela Turner and Yan Nascimbene
  11. I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi
  12. Watch Families of Japan
  13. The Funny Little Woman by Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent
  14. Japan by C.I.A.’s World Factbook
  15. Japan: Tradition, Culture, and Daily Life by Michael Centore
  16. Japanse Celebrations: Cherry Blossoms, Lanterns and Stars! by Betty Reynolds
  17. Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories by Florence Sakade and Yoshisuke Kurosaki
  18. Little Kunoichi: The Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida
  19. My First Book of Japanese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book by Michelle Haney Brown and Aya Padrón
  20. My Japan by Etsuko Watanabe
  21. Watch My Neighbor Totoro
  22. Night of the Ninjas by Mary Pope Osborne
  23. Ninjas and Samurai by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Bryce
  24. Make an Origami Crane
  25. Watch Ponyo
  26. The Real Princess Diaries by Grace Norwich
  27. Three Samurai Cats: A Story from Japan by Eric Kimmel and Mordicai Gerstein
  28. Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein and Ed Young
  29. The Way We Do It in Japan by Geneva Cobb IIjima and Paige Billin-Frye
  30. Tokyo Friends by Betty Reynolds


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Aloha, Hawaii!

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I started this list because of all the buzz about Moana; while I realize that film is not totally rooted in Hawaiian culture, I wanted my children to have a deeper understanding of the rich history of one of the Polynesian islands than a single film (however dominant in the marketplace) could provide. What follows is a list that delves into the historical, geological, and mythological stories of Hawaii. There are stories that focus on native peoples, colonialism, Pearl Harbor, and President Obama, as well as tales that tell of contemporary, everyday life on the islands. There are stories of the volcanoes and wildlife that make the islands unique. And there are, of course, stories from the mythological tradition (many about Maui that, my elder daughter noted, did not make it into the Disney movie). As always, I appreciate the interdisciplinary approach of this list and the way it illustrates a place with a rich history that is by no means confined to the past.

  1. A is for Aloha: A Hawai’i Alphabet by U’ilani Goldsberry and Tammy Yee
  2. The Adventures of Bella & Harry: Let’s Visit Maui! by Lisa Manzione and Kristine Lucco
  3. Aloha Is… by Tammy Paikai and Rosalie Prussing
  4. Children of Hawaii by Frank Staub
  5. Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan and Lillian Hsu-Flanders
  6. Goodnight Hawaiian Moon by Dr. Carolan and Joanna F. Carolan
  7. Grandma Calls Me Beautiful by Barbara Joosse and Barbara Lavallee
  8. Listen to Hawaiian Playground by Putumayo Kids Presents
  9. Hawai’i: The Aloha State by Jill Foran
  10. Hawaii: The Aloha State by Emily Oachs
  11. The Hawai’i Snowman by Christine Lê and Michel Lê
  12. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park by M.C. Hall
  13. How Māui Slowed the Sun by Suelyn Ching Tune and Robert Yoko Burningham
  14. Hula Lullaby by Erin Eitter Kono
  15. The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka’iulani of Hawai’i by Fay Stanley and Diane Stanley
  16. The Legend of the Kukui Nut by Robert Brandon Henderson and Mark McKenna
  17. Legends of Landforms: Native American Lore and the Geology of the Land by Carole G. Vogel
  18. Little Princess Ka’iulani in Her Garden in the Sea by Ellie Crowe and Mary Koski
  19. Māui and the Secret of Fire by Suelyn Ching Tune and Robert Yoko Burningham
  20. The Menehune of Naupaka Village: A Hawaiian Fairy Tale by Christopher Sur and Gary Kato
  21. The Musubi Man: Hawai’i’s Gingerbread Man by Sandi Takayama and Pat Hall
  22. Pearl Harbor by Stephen Krensky and Larry Day
  23. Pele and Poli’ahu: A Tale of Fire and Ice by Malia Collins and Kathleen Peterson
  24. Pele and the Rivers of Fire by Michael Nordenstrom
  25. Pig-Boy: A Trickster Tale from Hawai’i by Gerald McDermott
  26. A President from Hawai’i by Dr. Terry Carolan, Joanna Carolan, and Elizabeth Zunon
  27. Punia and the King of Sharks: A Hawaiian Folktale by Lee Wardlaw and Felipe Davalos
  28. South Pacific Mythology by Jim Ollhoff
  29. The Story of Hula by Carla Golembe
  30. The Surprising Things Maui Did by Jay Williams and Charles Mikolaycak
  31. Tales of Tutu Nene and Nele by Gale Bates and Carole Hinds McCarty
  32. Tsunami: The True Story of an April Fools’ Day Disaster by Gail Langer Karwoski and John MacDonald
  33. The Woman in the Moon: A Story from Hawai’i by Jama Kim Rattigan and Carla Golembe
  34. Young Princesses around the World: A Story Based on the Real Life of Princess Liliuokalani of Hawaii by Joan Holub and Nonna Aleshina
  35. Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards and John O’Brien


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Here Be Dragons

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Both of my children adore stories about mythical creatures; it’s part of their inheritance, right along with their dimples. Few such beasts are as impressive and breathtaking as dragons, and the list here showcases those creatures’ cunning as well as their sillier sides. These stories cross cultures to show different perspectives on dragons, who don’t always breathe fire and sometimes intertwine with saints’ tales. I will note that, despite my four-year-old’s love of dragons, I put few films on this list because of the intense images that so many of those movies contain. We stuck mostly to text, instead, where we relied on our imaginations, aided by timeless tales and exquisite illustrations, to bring these beasts to life.

  1. Day of the Dragon King by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  2. Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  3. The Dragons Are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky and Peter Sis
  4. Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri
  5. The Dragon Snatcher by M. P. Robertson
  6. The Egg by M. P. Robertson
  7. Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
  8. How Droofus the Dragon Lost His Head by Bill Peet
  9. Watch How to Train Your Dragon
  10. Hush, Little Dragon by Boni Ashburn and Kelly Murphy
  11. Jin Jin the Dragon by Grace Chang and Chong Chang
  12. King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley and Helen Oxenbury
  13. The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie dePaola
  14. Me and My Dragon by David Biedrzycki
  15. Merlin and the Dragons by Jane Yolen and Li Ming
  16. No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons) by Jean Pendziwol and Martine Gourbault
  17. Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el and Tim Bowers
  18. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko
  19. The Popcorn Dragon by Jane Thayer and Lisa McGue
  20. Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman
  21. The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash and Lynn Munsinger
  22. There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent
  23. Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen and Derek Anderson
  24. Where’s the Dragon? by Richard Hook and Jason Hook


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Keep Calm and Read On

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For our latest literary adventure, we traveled to London—home to some of the greatest children’s literature of all time. From Paddington to Queen Victoria, from The Globe to Big Ben, from The Beatles to Mary Poppins, we canvased England’s capital city. Our selections span time periods and genres, and includes well-known characters as well as lovable new friends. As always in our travels, we immersed ourselves in the history and culture of our subject, taking on new characters to add to our repertoires, and finding our worldviews transformed in the process.

  1. The Adventures of Bella & Harry: Let’s Visit London by Lisa Manzione and Kristine Lucco
  2. Listen to The Beatles
  3. The Beatles by Mick Manning and Brita Granström
  4. The Beatles by Mike Venezia
  5. The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, and Stacy Innerst
  6. Bed-knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton
  7. Watch Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  8. A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson and John Hendrix
  9. Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema
  10. Charlotte in London by Joan MacPhail Knight and Melissa Sweet
  11. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Brett Helquist
  12. Read the CIA’s World Factbook about the United Kingdom
  13. Color Crayola’s flag and map of England
  14. Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo by Cassandre Maxwell
  15. A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time by Mary Pope Osborne
  16. Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth I of England by Diane Stanley and Peter Vennema
  17. Katie in London by James Mayhew
  18. The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  19. Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers
  20. Watch Disney’s Mary Poppins
  21. Watch Disney’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol
  22. Paddington by Michael Bond
  23. Watch Paddington
  24. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  25. Watch Disney’s Peter Pan
  26. Popcorn at the Palace by Emily Arnold McCully
  27. A Possum’s Tail by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow
  28. Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan and Nancy Carpenter
  29. The Queen’s Progress: An Elizabethan Alphabet by Celeste Davidson Mannis and Bagram Ibatoulline
  30. Shakespeare’s Seasons by Miriam Weiner and Shannon Whitt
  31. Stage Fright on a Summer Night by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca
  32. Watch The Sword in the Stone
  33. This is London by M. Sasek
  34. Color Crayola’s flag and map of the United Kingdom
  35. A Walk in London by Salvatore Rubbino
  36. William Shakespeare & the Globe by Aliki
  37. Who Was Charles Dickens? by Pamela Pollock and Meg Belviso
  38. Who Was Queen Elizabeth? by June Eding and Nancy Harrison
  39. Who Was Queen Victoria? by Jim Gigliotti and Max Hergenrother
  40. Who Was William Shakespeare? by Celeste Davidson Mannis and John O’Brien
  41. Who Were the Beatles? by Geoff Edgers and Jeremey Tugeau


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So Many Cinderellas

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My elder daughter has been going through something of a Cinderella phase, originating with a viewing of the 1950 Disney film (of course, right?). Her grandparents gave her a book derived from the movie, and then she chose another, nearly identical book version as a prize for the library’s summer reading program. Before we knew it, my husband and I were reading multiple versions of the same story every night at bedtime, so I decided to see how deeply we could immerse ourselves in Cinderella tales. The following list comprises the results of this experiment, divided into three categories: Cinderella-type stories from countries and cultures around the world to show its universal themes and particular variations; adaptations of the Perrault version that originated in 17th-century France and inspires the most popular retellings in this country (including Disney’s); and spoofs or spinoffs that change and challenge the perspective of the story or reinterpret its key characters and plot points. I think I could keep building this list ad infinitum, and while we still enjoy Disney’s Cinderella, these books have expanded and enhanced our understanding of a timeless tale that enchants us in all of its manifestations.

 

Cinderella around the World

Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story by Tomie de Paola

Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella by Jewell Reinhart Coburn and Eddie Flotte

Ashpet: An Appalachian Tale by Joanne Compton and Kenn Compton

Anklet for a Princess: A Cinderella Story from India by Lila Mehta, Meredith Brucker, and Youshan Tang

Cendrillon: A Cajun Cinderella by Sheila Hébert Collins and Patrick Soper

Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci and Brian Pinkey

Fair, Brown & Trembling: An Irish Cinderella Story by Jude Daly

The Golden Sandal: A Middle-Eastern Cinderella by Rebecca Hickox and Will Hillenbrand

The Irish Cinderella by Shirley Climo and Loretta Krupinski

The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo and Ruth Heller

Little Gold Star: A Spanish-American Cinderella by Robert San Souci and Sergio Martinez

The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece by Anthony Manna, Christodoula Mitakidou, and Giselle Potter

The Persian Cinderella by Shirley Climo and Robert Florczak

The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin and David Shannon

The Salmon Princess: An Alaska Cinderella Story by Mindy Dwyer

Sootface: An Ojibwa Cinderella Story by Robert D. San Souci and Daniel San Souci

Smoky Mountain Rose: An Appalachian Cinderella by Alan Schroeder and Brad Sneed

The Way Meat Loves Salt: A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition by Nina Jaffe and Louise August

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China by Ai-Ling Louis and Ed Young

 

Perrault Revisions

Cinderella by Marcia Brown

Cinderella by K. Y. Craft

Cinderella by Max Eilenberg and Niamh Sharkey

Cinderella by Paul Galdone

Cinderella by Barbara McClintock

Hilary Knight’s Cinderella by Hilary Knight

James Marshall’s Cinderella by Barbara Karlin and James Marshall

 

Cinderella Spoofs and Spinoffs

Belinda and the Glass Slipper by Amy Young

Bigfoot Cinderrrrrella by Tony Johnston and James Warhola

Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson and Kevin O’Malley

Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story by Lynn Roberts

Cinderella’s Rat by Susan Meddaugh

Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci and David Catrow

Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella by Susan Lowell and Jane Manning

Dear Cinderella by Marian Moore, Mary Jane Kensington, and Julie Olsen

Ella’s Big Chance: A Jazz-Age Cinderella by Shirley Hughes

Penguin Cinderella, or The Little Glass Flipper by Janet Perlman

Prince Cinders by Babette Cole

Seriously, Cinderella is SO ANNOYING by Trisha Speed Shaskan and Gerlad Guerlais


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(This image courtesy of Carolina Weick’s Walk With Me Photography)

It’s not that I object to princess stories per se, but I like to challenge the mainstream princess motifs (beauty and marriage, the occasional sleeping curse) with alternative storylines now and then. I like to think that even princesses aren’t monolithic, and I want my daughters to see lots of stories that illustrate their potential pathways in life—not just the standard princess’s happily ever after. Each of the stories on this list features a strong, likeable female character, and all of them play with the genre in ways that freshen up the stories and the princess perspective.

1. Blueberry Girl  and “Boys and Girls Together” by Neil Gaiman

This book is technically not about princesses, but it’s by one of my favorite authors and it’s oozing with magical girl power. The text reads like part incantation, part prayer, all enchanting. And the poem gives an interesting glimpse into the post-happily-ever-after world, when the princess becomes the queen.

2. Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer

After perpetuating the obsession, Olivia realizes she’d prefer to be more unique than the stereotypical pink, tutu clad fairy princess; she alters her style in search of something different, something more powerful, and bears the transition royally.

3. The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

In this twist on the fairytale conclusion, Princess Elizabeth rescues the Prince but ultimately decides he’s not worth the trouble. Too much of a complainer. Ever the optimist, Elizabeth dances off into the sunset on her own, proud to be (and be by) herself.

4. Princess Bee and the Royal Goodnight Story by Sandy Asher and Cat Bowman Smith

Another of my favorite authors, Sandy Asher tells the sweet story of Princess Bee, who really just wants her mother to tell her a bedtime story. The story—soft and charming—features a royal family that’s mostly functional and loving, with a special relationship between the queen and her youngest princess.

5. and 6. The Princess Knight and Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke

Both of Funke’s stories show protagonists who deviate from the traditional line of princess work; instead of preening and pampering, these princesses play rough and tumble and like to get their hands dirty. Turns out they’re mighty good at their vocations, too.

7. The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane Auch and Herm Auch

A comedic gem, this tale tells of Princess Paulina’s efforts to get back to “princessing” and riffs on several well-known fairytales in the process. In the end, Paulina decides she’s more invested in entrepreneurship than matrimony, and her choice is simply delicious.

8. The Princess and the White Bear King by Tanya Robyn Batt and Nicoletta Ceccoli

This story updates a classic fairytale, with a brave, resourceful, and virtuous princess. She makes mistakes but atones for them, and rescues her true love along the way. The illustrations in particular make these Northern European folktales timelessly beautiful.

9. Princess Pig by Eileen Spinelli

Pig is a makeshift princess (and another addition to the strange trend of coupling princesses and pigs) who learns that being royal isn’t all about luxury. Sometimes it’s better to be a regular old pig—if, as her wise friend Pony reminds her, that’s what one happens to be.

10. The Queen of France by Tim Wadham and Kady MacDonald Denton

This story is a delightful romp through Rose’s imagination, where she alternates between her ordinary self and the Queen of France, and whatever else her mind can conjure up.