Duffy and the Devil by Harve and Margot Zemach
This is a charming variation on the Rumpelstiltskin story. A young girl is hired to spin wool into thread, weave thread into fabric, and make clothing for a wealthy man who eventually falls in love with her because of her craftsmanship. What he doesn’t know is that the young girl has made a deal with a devil who is willing to do all this wonderful work for three years at the end of which he will take her home with him. Unless of course, she can tell him his name.
For Further Exploration
- Read another version of the story, Rumpelstiltskin, and compare the two.
- If possible, see someone spin wool into yarn. (Colonial villages or Renaissance festivals are a good resources for finding craftspeople who still do these things.)
- On a loom, weave your own cloth using yarn or thread. (There are kits available where your child can make potholders using loops of stretchy fabric. Or you can weave a paper place mat using colorful construction paper.)
- Perhaps discuss the idea of choices and consequences, depending on your child’s age and maturity. In a way, Duffy is rewarded for laziness. Invite your child to rewrite this story so that Duffy actually suffers some of the consequences for her actions. It doesn't have to be about her being punished. Perhaps she learns how to weave or goes shopping and realizes that she has to buy fewer luxuries now that they have to buy clothing, etc.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
This story is adorable, about a donkey who makes a careless wish and nearly spends the rest of his life as a rock. The ending is sweet.
For Further Exploration
- Have your child create a "wish list" by drawing pictures of things he/she would wish for or by cutting out pictures from a magazine. (You could even have your child make a vision board.)
- Better yet, have your child draw a picture of a wish for someone else. What do you wish for your best friend? Your sibling? Your teacher? Your relatives--grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, etc.? Mat these wishes and give them as gifts from the heart.
- Watch Shrek. William Steig is the genius behind this charming story about an ogre who finds love, a sort of play on traditional fairy tales. Of course, you could read the book before you see the movie.
Sam, Bangs, & Moonshine by Eveline Ness
I truly love the drawings in this book which uses a very simple palette of black and white with accents of red and gold. I really wanted to love the story as well about a little girl whose vivid imagination and story-telling results in a crisis.
I found the story too preachy and I don't remember enjoying stories that were moralistic when I was a little girl and I'm assuming other children feel the same way. Or maybe not. Maybe I just didn't like it when adults tried to preach to me.
For Further Exploration
- Have your child write and illustrate a sequel in which the reader learns if Sam and Thomas remain friends.
- I suppose you could discuss with your child the difference between the real and "moonshine" but I can't get away from what else "moonshine" means and I can't help but think of illegal booze. It's probably just my being a little weird but the end results are the same.
Drummer Hoff by Barbara and Ed Emberley
I adore the illustrations in this book and I even like the rhythm of the text. Unfortunately, I utterly loathe the story it tells of a band of soldiers cooperating to build a cannon which is then exploded. At first I thought the last page redeemed the content but, upon closer inspection, I realized that some time had passed between the previous two page spread and the final page.
Ed Emberley has a series of wonderful books on how to draw but none of the ones I've seen have the sheer visual impact of this amazing little book. I just wish I could recommend it. If I could I would suggest having fun with a coloring book and converting the typically large blank spaces by filling them in with patterns and lines before coloring with bold blocks of red, blue, yellow, etc. I think that would have been great fun.
The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome and Uri Shulevitz
This is a book I remember from my own childhood. I chose it because of the pretty pictures (and cover) by Uri Shulevitz and I remember reading it over and over again. The story is not unlike many typical fairy-tale. Three brothers, the youngest is a fool. The czar announces that the first man who brings to him a flying ship may marry his daughter. The three sons set out to find a flying ship. Along the way, the foolish son picks up some wanderers who help the son win over the czar so that the boy can marry the beautiful daughter.
I didn’t like that the parents were not as loving towards the foolish son, that the book repeatedly states that the mother doesn’t even love him. And atheists will be put off by the fact that the story also says how God loves simple folk.
For Further Exploration:
- Look at other stories where one child is favored over another and notice how this is typically the youngest child. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, et al.
- Find a traditional story from your own family’s culture. (If you are Russian, try to find another story to go along with this one.) Compare the stories to one another and then see if you can find similar stories from other traditions. Many stories have variations that can be found across cultures and it can be fun to compare these.
- Take one of the stories you found from your own culture and retell the tale, adding illustrations of your own as well.
- Look at a map of Russia and perhaps borrow a book about the history, preferably one appropriate to your child’s age. If you can, look at illustrations and photographs of the architecture, art, and even costumes of the country.