Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Zelinsky, Paul O.1986.  RUMPELSTILTSKIN. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0-525-44903-5

Plot Summary
A miller's daughter is put into an impossible predicament when her father's boastful lies about her magical ability to spin straw into gold.  The greedy king throws her into a room full of straw, and he threatens her life for spun gold.  Her future seems bleak until a mysterious diminutive man comes along and completes the task for her.  After she has given him all she has, he requests her firstborn and, in an attempt to save her life, she complies.  When the day finally arrives and her baby's future is in jeopardy, the dwarfish man reappears to stake his claim.  The only way to foil the plan is for her to guess his unusual name.

Critical Analyis
The miller's daughter's story evokes feelings of anguish and obligation.  Unlike the "happily ever after" types of tales, she ends up to a stingy king with her child's life on the line.  The father and king are portrayed as insensitive male figures, and then the reader is left wondering about Rumpelstiltskin's motives and origins.  While the illustrations are remarkably beautiful and captivating, the age-old story seems to lack a defined line between good and evil.  The moral of the story is distant, and Rumpelstiltskin plays a confusing character.  He teaches about the repercussions of loud reckless behavior.   Zelinsky is a master at portraying the madness of the folktale, and it is quite apparent in the eyes of Rumpelstiltskin on the front cover of the book. 


Caldecott Honor Award

Reading Rainbow: Best 100 Titles


"Zelinsky's smooth retelling and glowing pictures cast the story in a new and beautiful light." - School Library Journal

"Zelinaky's illustrations are opulently painted, full of classical architectural detail, fantastic distant landscapes, and that early use of perspective which gives a raked stage effect." - Kirkus Review

"Zelinsky is that rare practitioner who can create sophisticated work that adults will marvel at, and that children will joyfully embrace." - Publishers Weekly


  • Rumpel's World:  Readers can complete the book by writing a fiction story based on Rumpelstiltskin's origins and goals.  Teacher-librarians can assist learners by encouraging them to justify his actions.
  • Artful Analysis:  Students can read and view other works retold by the Brother's Grim, and compare and contrast works of art.
  • Poor Winner/Loser:  Children can be given cards which reflect a specific win-lose situation.  They can project their feelings in small groups and/or on paper.  
    • First round: Students do not hold back boasting positive situations and complaining or making excuses for negative situations.
    • Second round:  Students find more productive ways to handle winning and losing situations, and discuss.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Los Tres Pequeños Jabalíes

Lowell, Susan. 1996. LOS TRES PEQUEÑOS JABALÍES. Ill. by Jim Harris. Arizona: Rising Moon. ISBN 0-87358-661-1

Plot Summary
LOS TRES PEQUEÑOS JABALÍES or THE THREE LITTLE JAVELINAS is a version of "The Three Little Pigs" retold by the "chili-flavored" styling of Susan Lowell.  The story takes place in the Southwestern regions, and creatively incorporates images of the desert in to the classic story.  After a whirlwind of a dust storm, the first javelina builds a home from tumbleweeds.  Coyote smells the little piggy and prepares himself for a meal.  He easily huffs and puffs and blows the tumbleweed house in.  After escaping the first javelina makes it to the next javelina's house of cactus sticks.  After a bit of tricks, magic, huffing and puffing, Coyote has no trouble blowing the second house in.  Javelinas one and two run to the home of javelina number three, and she built a solid home of adobe.  No matter how hard Coyote tried to blow, he could not make the adobe falter.  He tried his magic to sneak down the stove pipe, but sister javelina was quick on the draw, and sent old Coyote away  in a "puff of smoke."  

Critical Analysis
The southwestern take on the classic beast tale, "The Three Little Pigs" uses authentic dialect from the desert to add an interesting flare.  The ties to Southwestern culture are strengthened by the adjacent Spanish and English translations.  Edgy detailed desert-scapes depict the  setting from the specific region which is likely to spark a readers interest in the area and the language.  The javelina heroine builds her home intelligently with adobe brick, and she also outsmarts the evil wolf.  The final scene of Coyote in a puff of smoke is quite different from his sinister debut appearance at the beginning of the book.  Coyote's final "noise" is "Yip yap yeep YEE-OWW-OOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" which translates terrifically in to the Spanish version, "¡Aa aay aaay Aaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!"  Even the most basic language learners have a place to start with these fun expletives.  


Arizona Young Readers Award 1994 THE THREE LITTLE JAVELINAS 

Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award Finalist 1996 THE THREE LITTLE JAVELINAS


"The text is fast-paced and witty in both languages, and is accompanied by energetic, full-page illustrations done in rich earthy tones that evoke the setting as faithfully as the text." - School Library Journal

"Harris's lively, finely detailed illustrations, with the bristling, pink-nosed peccaries clad in cowboy outfits, amusingly contrast the villain's vigorous wiles with the title characters' cozy domesticity." - Publishers Weekly


  • Students learning English or Spanish, Los Tres Pequeños Jabalíes can trade off reading by sections rotating from Spanish to English.  
  • Flash Spanish:  Each child can draw a flash card with English on one side and Spanish on the other.  As the teacher reads the story in English, students can listen for their word or phrase.  When they hear it in English they can yell out the Spanish translation.  The rest of the class can chant the translation with the teacher, and then continue the story.
  • Three Little Pigs Culturama:  After reading the original "Three Little Pigs" and "Los Tres Pequeños Jabalíes" students can be assigned a specific country or region, research the culture, landscape, flora, fauna and linguistics to create their own version of the timeless folktale.  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Ballad of The Pirate Queens

Yolen, Jane. 1995. THE BALLAD OF THE PIRATE QUEENS. Ill. by David Shannon. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace & Co.

Plot Summary
The female pirate duo, Anne Bonney and Mary Reade take on the "Man-o'-war" whilst the men of the ship, including Calico Jack himself, drink their cares away.  The pirate queens put up a strong fight but they were eventually overtaken and put on trial, saved only by the bumps in their bellies.

Critical Analysis
Pirate language, a catchy refrain and vivid acrylic colors make Yolen's story of the legendary female pirates come to life.  The Ballad of the Pirate Queen easily lends itself to chanting and singing.  The retelling of this infamous true story of Anne Bonney and Mary Reade come to life, and the details of the ladies' fight and fervor are not spared.  The women show a courageous strength that was unheard of during the 1700s.  The quote from wife to husband while passing along his cell is a far cry from the apologetic or subservient women's role of the time period.  The wily circumvention of the maids and vision of the next generation allow the readers imagination to carry on after the last page.  

Review Excerpts

"This rollicking ballad is offbeat and grimly amusing." - By Publishers Weekly, 1998

"Shannon's acrylics are rich, dark, and realistic, and expand upon the story." - School Library Journal:  Putnam, 1992

"The eighteenth-century feeling is enhanced by pen-and-ink borders and the use of a parchment-colored background for the text.  Pirate fans will enjoy Yolen's informative author's note." - Booklist:  McDermott, 1995

  • Children can create a message in a bottle, and include a bucket list of goals that they want to achieve throughout life.  They outside can be decorated with adventurous words.
  • Readers can research pirates' pillages and crimes and hold a moot trial.
  • After reading the book, readers can write a pirate style shanty.  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Judith Viorst
Ill. by Ray Cruz
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1972
ISBN 0-689-30072-7

Judith Voirst’s authentic portrayal of the young and cranky Alexander quickly charms readers.  It easy to relate to his day, and each turn of the page leaves you (and Alexander) guessing about what could possibly go wrong next.  One annoyance after the next leaves our young Alexander so terribly angry that he is ready end it all and move to Australia.  Unlike other predictable children's books, this one does not include a perfect ending.  Alexander’s issues build and no one seems to care.  In the end his mom lets him know that “some days are like that.”  As he is drifting off to sleep he realizes that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days can even happen in Australia.

Critical Analysis
The characters of Alexander and he Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day play realistic roles.  Voirst’s cool writing style is portrayed by the common actions and responses of Alexander’s mother.  The message of the story is simple, and children and adults are reminded that there are good days and bad days for everyone.  The illustrator, Ray Cruz, captures Alexander’s troubled pouts perfectly.  The lackadaisical responses to his pouts (and even tantrums) from the other characters teach children that it is okay to be in a bad mood every once in a while, but the world keeps on turning.  There are better days ahead and there are bad days everywhere, even in Australia. 

Georgia Book Award (1977)
SMART Book Award Nominee (2005)
ALA Notable Book


"Ray Cruz's black-and-white line drawings lend themselves well to the story's mood. Cruz has an undeniable knack for realism, and he captures Alexander's emotions wonderfully." -By Mary LeCompte of Disney

"This book scores high on the reality meter; just about any school-age child has had at least one terrible, horrible day. As a bedtime read for any kid who has just had one of those days, this one's a winner--it's almost guaranteed to chase away the blues." - Common Sense Review

"Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a great antidote to bad days everywhere, sure to put a smile on even the crabbiest of faces."  -Amazon Editorial Review


Children can free write in a journal about their "very bad day."  Afterwards they can make a decision map about their choices and how they can cope with days like that in the future.  

Have students act out "bad day" situations and focus on facial expression.  Demonstrate the effects of smiling verses pouting with mini-skits.  

Children can read other books which deal with frustration and anger management.  Casey Mahaffey of Franklin College lists some related books:  
  • Piper, Watty. The Little Engine That Could. New York: Platt and Munk Publishers, 1976. 
  • Everitt, Betsy. Mean Soup. Singapore: Tien Wah Press, 1992. 
  • Bang, Molly. When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry.... New York: The Blue Sky Press,1999.
  • Moser, Adloph and David Melton. Don’t Rant and Rave on Wednesdays!: The Children’s AngerControl Book. New York: Landmark Editions Inc., 1994. 
  • Verdick, Elizabeth and Majorie Lisovskis. How to Take the Grrrr out of Anger. New York: Free Spirit Publishing, 2002. 
  • Loomans, Diane. Today I Am Lovable: 365 Positive Activities for Kids. Tiburon, CA: H.J. Kramer
Franklin College (Novemeber/December 2004)