WRB—Children’s Literature Supplement, June 2023
Trust your gut
’Tis June! Blessed time of the Sacred Heart, the beginning of summer, and the month of Sarah’s birthday. She loves her birthday so dearly that, in order to see if it was indeed the exact middle of the year, she once woke her long-suffering sister up to help count the days. Alas, she’s 16 days too early. But enough about birthdays—there are books to be read! From literature about fathers to fairy tales to folklore, there’s something for everyone here.
The editor of this supplement was appalled to realize that, while there is a plethora of books with strong father-like characters, there are very few which have actual fathers even present and active in the tales. This doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but it is something to consider. Here are two series which do include great dads (and please send in suggestions with others she may have forgotten):
Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary (1977)
Little House on the Prairie (and its prequels and sequels) by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)
Celebrating black history:
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe (1993) [This was a Reading Rainbow book that absolutely enchanted me. —Sarah]
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman (1991)
John Henry by Julius Lester [This edition is illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, a wonderful artist who received a mention in this supplement recently. —Sarah]
Folklore & fairy tales:
How do you distinguish between folklore and a fairytale? A fable and a nursery rhyme? We’ll put our CLS research team to work on this important question, but in the meantime, here is a list of memorable collections and picture books from these genres.
Sarah has recommended some these before, but they’re absolutely delightful and deserve the attention:
My Grandmother’s Stories by Adele Geras (2003)
Tales of a Chinese Grandmother by Frances Carpenter (1937)
The title story of The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888) by Oscar Wilde is deeply moving and makes Sarah cry.
Sarah could have recommended an absolutely enormous number of picture books in this category, but she kindly kept it to a reasonable five—this time.
The Mysterious Giant of Barletta by Tomie dePaola (2019)
Stone Soup by Marcia Brown (1997)
The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop (1996)
One Grain of Rice by Demi (1997)
Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg (2008)
Sarah wishes she could be 15 again and reading Regina Doman’s retold fairy tales for the first time. These books, especially Waking Rose, deal with some harder subjects, so parents should use discretion. In the world of fairy tale retellings, these stand out for their creativity, engaging characters, and general wholesomeness.
The Shadow of the Bear (1997)
Black as Night (2004)
Waking Rose (2007)
The Midnight Dancers (2008)
Every toy has a tale to tell . . .:
The tale balances a doll-sized view of the world with major historical changes. During her first adventure on a whaling boat, we learn about the mighty trade and dangerous lifestyle surrounding the production of whale oil. Over the decades, she observes the effects of the Civil War — from both sides — is held by Charles Dickens during one of his U.S. visits, has a poem written about her by John Greenleaf Whittier, hears Adelina Patti sing, has her daguerreotype taken, rides a train, and gets tossed out of an automobile.
While the historical aspects of the story are interesting, what fascinates readers are the twists and turns in Hitty’s life, the winding ways through which she passes from one owner to the next that, when considered, are highly plausible. Toys are constantly being lost amid cushions, hidden in attics, dropped into the ocean, or mailed to the wrong addresses.
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