MY BOOK HOUSE Vol. 2: STORY TIME

 

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STORY TIME includes several stories by Aesop, poetry/rhymes from renowned English authors such as William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rosetti.  Lullabies, bed-time stories such as Wynken, Blynken, & Nod, Jack Frost; Christmas classics The Story of The Nutcracker and The Night Before Christmas.   There’s also poems and the story of Noah’s Ark from the Bible.  While many cultures are represented, Christianity is the only religion that is addressed, but not as religion, instead as a source of beautiful writing.

The preface to each volume explains the logic behind the particular collection.  Here’s a snippet from the preface for STORY TIME.

"Story Time" Begins with repetitive stories, short rhythmic stories in prose of the simplest possible plot, construction, and wording.  …So we have these simple prose stories with a refrain repeated frequently like the one in "The Little Gray Pony" —

‘What shall I do?  What shall I do?

If my little gray pony has lost a shoe?

The illustrations for the Nutcracker story are enough to give you a toothache.  That pile of — well, to me it looks like cherries with a pile of sugar on top, but it’s supposed to be sugar plums.  What IS a sugar plum? I’ve had plums, but what makes a sugar plum different? Is it one of those things like "acid jazz" — a benign label with a glitter word to make it sound more intense?  And the ballerina dresses, big puffy-skirted ones are the stuff of  this little girl’s dreams!

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For being a children’s book, and a very young child at that, there’s an amazing breadth of authors represented in the volume.  Poets, novelists, philosophers!  Satirists!  Samuel Taylor Coleridge answers a child’s question on p. 142.  Aesop and Aristophanes represent the ancient Greeks.  Someone you probably wouldn’t expect to see in a children’s book — Count Leo Tolstoy — expressing an uncharacteristic bit of whimsy. 

America is loosing its ties to its folk stories.  Here you’ll find folk stories from the old world: pre-dictatorship Europe, imperial India, the Bible (as in the first volume, as a source of literature, not  preaching), and Native American cultures, as well as ancient Greece.  There’s a piece of libretto from an opera and the story of a ballet.  Children have to get culture early, while their minds are still innocent. 

gingerbread man0001 One of my favorites from this volume is "The Gingerbread Man", a folk tale from New England.  I like how they used a variety of illustration art in the design of the story: black and white inked drawings, silhouettes, and water color. 

The cover of the book has yet another adorable dress.  Two children in an idyllic pastoral setting: a forest with cute animals surround the children sitting on a huge rock by a creek — it’s better than Disney!

Another favorite is a story from India called "Rama and The Tigers".  This little boy has all his new clothes and umbrella stolen by some tigers.  Then the tigers all want to eat the little boy, so they run around a tree chasing each other faster and faster and faster!  They ran so fast they melted all away and left a big pool of butter, called "ghi".  Rama collected the ghi in a pot and took it home to his mom.  She used it to cook pancakes! I’m drooling as I type this. LOL.

Wilhelm Schiller’s poem about a father coming home in the evening from a busy day of, I’m guessing chopping trees, has a sweet melancholy about it.  It reminds me of when I was reading J. B. Bury’s book, THE INVASION OF EUROPE BY THE BARBARIANS.

Bury explains how Germany was so frustratingly difficult for Roman troops to conquer and control because it was so thickly forested.  When you live in south Texas, with its flat brushy, scrubby, cactus-y flatland, it’s tough to conceptualize quite how tree-ridden central Europe is.  Villages separated by a mere mile of forest were so isolated that they ended up speaking vastly different dialects, which is one of the reasons the German of northern Germany is different from the German of southern Germany.  You can’t conquer what you can’t find.  It’s similar to when English troops had to deal with native American tribes in New England.  The English had no concept of guerrilla warfare.  So, for the dad in the poem, spending the day in the forest is no mean feat.

Oh! And to top it all off, when I read Beatrix Potter’s "The Story of Peter Rabbit", never did I imagine that one day, I would go to the location of one of her stories!  It’s true. She wrote a story called "The Tailor of Gloucester" about a little old tailor and some magic mice that help him sew the tiniest, most perfect, beautiful stitches anyone ever saw.  Gloucester (glos-ster) is a city in the west of England.  It’s mainly associated with cricket and rugby and the river Severn.  Potter lived there for a time and so, near its amazing gothic cathedral, there’s a tiny house in College Court that’s the Beatrix Potter Museum.  At the time I went, it had a window set up with a scene from "Tailor of Gloucester" and a souvenir shop where you could buy postcards and the story books. 

One of the best stories is "The Dancing Monkeys" by Aesop.  It reminds me of Young Frankenstein, and it’s a cute story with an interesting semantic twist.  Other Aesop classics in the book include "The Hare and The Tortoise", and "The Lion and The Mouse".  There’s even a poem by Heinrich Heine translated by Elizabeth Barrett Browning! How freaking cool is that for a kids’ book!

And absolutely not to be missed is the story "The Village of Cream Puffs" by Carl Sandburg.  This little girl called "Wing Tip", who comes from the Village of Liver and Onions goes to visit her uncles in the Village of Cream Puffs.  People have to tie their houses down because the cream puffs are so light and fluffy, that they are in danger of floating away in a brisk wind.  Awwwwww….. Hee!

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lawrence on December 14, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    I have written a short Christmas story for children and have used part of Olive Beaupre Miller wonderful rendition of the duck Shingebiss. I have had this series from 1937 in our home ever since I was a child. The stories and the artwork are impossibly rich in children’s fantasy! (It is unfortunate that so many children today have missed so much of this valuable, early literature.) My question is how do I honor any copyright that may be in place over that particular work. (Many others have done the story but they are all different) Who do I write? It is possible that it has become public domain but if not, any suggestions?
    Thanks for any help,
    Love Him!
    Lawrence

    Reply

  2. Posted by Lawrence on December 14, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    I am also writing to say that within my particular version of Story Time, there is no story entitled ‘Rama and the Tigers.’ Instead, there is the tale of ‘Little Black Sambo.’ This may have been changed since by today’s standards, the title is racist and the story is a stereotype of the black community at that time. I think at least, we have gotten better in our world view of people. What version or copyright date do you have?
    Thanks again, and you can write me at my e address.
    Love Him!
    Lawrence

    Reply

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