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Children's and Young Adult Literature

Genre 2 - Traditional Literature

Schwartz, Alvin.  1992.  ANDTHE GREEN GRASS GREW ALL AROUND.  Ill. by Sue Truesdall.  New York:  HarperCollins.  ISBN:  0060227575.
     In AND THE GREEN GRASS GREW ALL AROUND, Alvin Schwartz has compiled a collection of folk poetry that children are familiar with and has organized these poems into fifteen catagories.  The catagories range from people, food, and school, to nonsense, riddles, fun and games, and those connected to nature.  In the foreward of the book, Schwartz comments that he learned that "Children all over the world had rhymes like mine with the same ideas and the same rhythms." (p. ix.)  Many of the poems in the collection have been passed down orally through generations and have been enjoyed by children for many years.
     One of the folklore poems I enjoyed was "Two Runs Will Win the Game."
          "A man on third, two batters out,
           Two runs will win the game.
           If I could hit a home run clout,
           Great would be my fame.
           I hitched up my pants,
           Spit on my hands,
           Pulled down my cap
           And faced the howling stands.
           "Ball three!" the fans yelled with delight.
           "Strike two!" the umpire said.
           I knocked the next ball out of sight -
           Then fell right out of bed."  (p. 66).
     I thought it was sly and ironic that the young man awoke before getting to see if he had made the home run he had been dreaming of.  I could picture the young man falling out of bed and chuckled when imaging the scene. 
     Many of the poems are pure fun to read through and bring reminders of childhood; when times were simpler and fun.  Schwartz has collected a variety of poems from around the country.  I found several variants of poems I knew, rather than the poem I was familiar with.  I found myself laughing at some of the poems and found others I thought were very clever.
     The book contains black and white illustrations on every page to compliment the poems, sometimes more than one drawing.  The illustrations are drawn in such a way as to resemble children's drawings.  I found myself wishing that some of the illustrations would have been in color, but on the other hand, color may have taken away from the reader's imagination.  One of the larger, full-page illustrations was of a tree with the grass growing around it to illustrate the poem And The Green Grass Grew All Around which is also the title of the book.
     This is an entertaining book that children will enjoy.  They will be able to easily relate to the poems and will have fun reading the riddles and games, some they may be familiar with, or they may even find a new version of an old favorite.
Scieszka, Jon.  1989.  THE TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS!  Ill. by Lane Smith.  New York:  Viking.  ISBN:  0670888443.
     THE TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS! is a retelling of the traditional story with a new twist.  This time it is told from the wolf's point of view.  I particularly enjoyed the "letter" from the wolf at the beginning of the book claiming that he had been framed and there was a logical explanation for the whole fiasco.
     In his defense, Mr. Alexander Wolf explains that he was making a cake for his grandmother and ran out of sugar.  It wasn't his fault that he also had a violent head cold.  So he decided to go to his neighbor's house, the little pig who's house was made from straw, to borrow some sugar.  He then had to sneeze so violently that he blew the straw house down and killed the pig.  Mr. Wolf then explains, "It seemed like a shame to leave a perfectly good ham dinner lying there in the straw.  So I ate it up."  Still needing sugar for his cake, he went to the next neighbor's house, the first little pig's brother, and the same thing happened with his house built of sticks.  According to Mr. Wolf, when he reached the third pig's house, the pig insulted his grandmother, which so infuriated Mr. Wolf, that he tried to break in and was making a real scene when the police arrived.  Needless to say, he was arrested and he claims the reporters have "jazzed up" the story to make it more interesting. 
     Children and adults alike will enjoy Lane Smith's illustrations.  The picture of the giant cheeseburger is quite funny because you can see rabbit ears and the back end of a mouse as well as paws here and a nose there hanging out from between the bun and the rest of the ingredients.  Also included is an illustration of a chalkboard that shows a sneeze + sugar with drawings of these items and a hand holding a pointer to them to enforce the idea that this story is all about these two things.  Children will enjoy the illustrations showing the dead pigs' bottoms poking out from the debris of the destroyed houses.  Lane Smith has used the colors brown and black frequently to give the illustrations a dark tone to go with the darker them of the story, after all, the pigs have died.  The illustrator has also made frequent use of red and yellow to make objects stand out in the illustrations.
     This is one of my favorite books to read to my children.  Now that they are getting older, they are understanding more of the humor aimed at adults which makes the story fresh again for them.  For example, they now understand the wolf's complaints about the press exaggerating the story after going through the last election process.
     This twist on a classic story is enjoyable for both children and adults.  It shows children that there is more than one side to every story and adults will enjoy the sly wit and humor of Scieszka.

Pinkney, Jerry.  2000.  AESOP'S FABLES.  New York:  SeaStar Books.  ISBN:  1587170000.
     In AESOP'S FABLES, Jerry Pinkney has put together a collection of sixty-one fables that are attributed to the ancient Greek slave, Aesop.  In his book, Pinkney has included an introduction that gives a brief history of Aesop and a description of some of the fables contained within.
     Several fables were familiar to me, such as The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf, The Grasshopper and the Ants, The Fox and the Grapes and a few others.  I read several that I was not familiar with and enjoyed reading these "new" stories.  At the conclusion of each retelling is a short moral of the story such as "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched," or "No one believes a liar."
     The illustrations are beautiful watercolor renditions that range in size from small thumbnail prints to full page illustrations.  One illustration occupies two full pages.  The watercolor illustrations have a wide range of colors, from some that are done in pastel colors to those that have brighter colors, depending on the subject matter of the fable to be illustrated.  I found the illustration for the fable The Lion and the Mouse quite suitable for the story.  This is the illustration that occupies two full pages and it is interesting that the author and illustrator chose to show the mouse dangling in the netting right in front of the lion's mouth.
     Children and adults will enjoy this collection of fables.  The advantage of these fables are that they are short, which can be important when reading to younger children who have shorter attention spans.  You can read as many fables as they wish to listen to or have patience for.  This is a well-rounded collection that includes stories with both people and animals as characters.
Brown, Marcia.  1954.  CINDERELLA OR THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER.  New York:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers.  ISBN:  0684216761.
     In CINDERELLA OR THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER, Marcia Brown has written a charming version of the story that is easy to read aloud.  The story flows along quickly with just the perfect amount of information and action to move the story along.  This version of Cinderella is closer to the classic French Charles Perrault story.
     The illustrations are done mostly in pastel colors with soft lines.  They have the look of being colored with chalk and the chalk was smudged to give the pictures a softer look and feel.  Cinderella has been portrayed with long blond hair and Brown has done her eyes beautifully.  The emphasis on Cinderella's eyes draws the reader's focus to them.  I enjoyed the picture of Cindrella pulling the strings on the step-sister's stays to tighten them while the other sister is applying beauty marks to her face.  The drawing is simple yet it shows just enough detail to let the reader imagine the richness of the room and furnishings.
     The illustration of the fairy godmother transforming Cinderella's rags to her ball gown is gorgeous.  The fairy godmother's dress looks Elizabethan, complete with a ruff around the neck. I found it interesting that the text says Cinderella's dress was changed to a gown of gold and silver embroidered with rubies, pearls, and diamonds, and yet, in the illustration, the gown is pink with hints of yellow through it.  This is also the most elaborate illustration in the picture book.  The most frequently used colors in the illustrations are pastel versions of pink, blue, yellow, and green.
     Overall, this is a version of Cinderella that will be well loved by children and adults for generations.  The story is simple, but well told and the illustrations are gorgeous.  This is a book that children will wish to keep and pass on their own children some day.
Traditional literature includes:  Folklore, Folktales, Fairy Tales, Oral literature, and Traditional fantasy.
Traditional literature grows out of our basic human need to explain ourselves and our world.

This site was created as an assignment for a Texas Woman's University course.  The course is a graduate level course in Library Science.

Last updated 01/15/2006