Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Egyptian Cinderella

Title: The Egyptian Cinderella
Author: Shirley Climo
Illustrator: Ruth Heller
Publisher: Harpor Collins Publishers, 1989
Genre: Picture book, fairy tale, historical fiction
Age Range: Grades 1-3

Summary: A young Grecian girl is sold into Egyptian slavery. She has blond hair and rose-colored skin, earning her the name of Rhodopis. She is ordered around by the servant girls of the house. She bonds with the animals, and her master loves her dancing. He buys her beautiful rose-gold slippers. When the Pharaoh holds court, she is left behind. A falcon comes and steals one of her slippers, taking it to the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh believes that the gods are telling him to marry the girl whose foot fits this slipper. He travels all over Egypt, and finally finds Rhodopis' home. She hides from him as the other servant girls attempt to try on the slipper. He sees her hiding and asks her to try it on. She does so, and he claims that she will be his queen.

Response: This story is intriguing to me because it is partly true. Rhodopis was an actual Grecian slave, who was made queen by Amasis during Dynasty XXVI, 570-526 B.C. This is provided in the Author's note at the end of the story. Rhodopis differs from the traditional Cinderella in that she is not mistreated by her stepmother or stepsisters. She is sold into slavery when she is almost full grown. The servant girls in the story take the place of stepsisters because they are always ordering Rhodpis around. Her master, on the other hand, sees her as a very "nimble goddess" because he sees her dancing one day. He buys her beautiful rose-gold slippers, which makes the other girls even more jealous of Rhodpis. They tell her she is not allowed to go to Memphis, where the Pharaoh is holding court. The Pharaoh does not want to hold court, he wishes he could be free and drive his chariot. He is similar to Rhodopis because he is bound to uphold his duties as Pharaoh, just as she is bound to slavery. The story says that Rhodopis is very friendly with the animals. We see pictures of a monkey, birds, and a hippopotamus. In reading about Egypt, the hippopotamus was dangerous and known to attack people. It shows how pure and sweet she was, that this dangerous animal would befriend her. The falcon steals her slipper, which is a representation of Horus, who is the deity of the living pharaohs. He takes the slipper to the Pharaoh, who sees this as a sign. This shows the great belief and commitment the Egyptians had towards their gods. Ra, the sun god, is also mentioned in the story. When the Pharaoh Amasis discovers that the slipper belongs to Rhodopis, he exclaims "In all this land there is none so fit to be queen." The servant girls are upset because technically, Rhodopis is not Egyptian. However, the Pharaoh tells them that "her eyes are as green as the Nile, her hair as feathery as papyrus, and her skin the pink of a lotus flower." Even though she may not be Egyptian, she embraces the culture through her looks and her behavior. The illustrations in this book are beautiful and full of color. They are most likely done in water colors. The beautiful bold colors show how important it is to Egyptian. The characters are drawn very similar to actual cultural fashions of the time. The women wear cloth dresses, mostly white, but can be died into light colors of green, yellow,etc. Also, the wear charcoal around the eyes, and green pigmented eye shadow. Their black hair is usually a wig, and for special occasions, headdresses are also worn. Another important thing in the illustrations is that nature is represented in nearly every page, whether it is flowers, animals, or palm trees in the court.

Teaching Ideas: This is a great story to use in a study of Egypt. The story shares so many great aspects of Egyptian culture, including: religion, fashion, social class, and many more. The fact that Rhodopis was a slave who was made into a queen of Egypt is also a great classroom connection. As a tale of Cinderella, it can also fit into a fairy tale unit. The following link is a great resource about Egyptian culture that students will find helpful.


Title: Cinderella
Author/Translator: Marcia Brown
Illustrator: Marcia Brown
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1954
Genre: Picture book, fairy tale
Age Range: Grades 1-3

1962 Caldecott Medal Winner

Summary: A free translation from Charles Perrault. A young girl is forced into living as a servant to her stepmother and stepsisters. She is always near the fire and is given the nickname Cinderella. When the prince has a ball, the stepsisters are invited. Cinderella's godmother appears, turning ordinary items into magic, but only until midnight. Cinderella is the most beautiful mysterious princess for both nights. On the second night she does not heed her godmother's warning about time, and runs out of the castle as the clock strikes midnight. She leaves her glass slipper, and the prince is determined to find the woman who wears the slipper and make her his wife. Finally, he arrives at their home, and the two sisters try on the slipper, which does not fit. Cinderella asks if she may be allowed to try it on, and it is a perfect fit. She is immediately married to the prince. She allows her stepsisters to live in the palace and marry lords.

Response: This version of Cinderella is perhaps the closest to the Disney tale that I am most familiar with. The plot makes a few changes, such as there are two nights in the ball. Also, Cinderella's father is alive in this story, but in the Disney tale he passes away. The cruelty of the stepmother is left out of this story, and the stepsisters are not quite so mean to her; however, still treating her as a servant is bad enough. Cinderella is perfect. She is so kind to everyone and everything despite how they treat her. Even after she tries on the glass slipper, and her sisters know that she will one day be queen, she is so quick to forgive them, and even gives them homes and husbands in the palace. I think that this is the story of Cinderella in the ideal world, meaning no one gets hurt or in trouble throughout the story. Cinderella is a perfect example of the golden rule, and her beauty shines regardless of being in rags or riches. The element of fantasy is also presented in this story. The godmother waves her magic wand and turns a pumpkin, mice, rats, and lizards into a golden coach with a driver, horses, and footmen to escort the young girl to the ball. Her gowns are made of gold, silver, rubies, and diamonds. But what is also important in this story is not that she was beautiful because she wore these things to the ball, but her inner beauty was present the entire time. Yes dressing up brought her much attention, but even at the end of the story, the man allows Cinderella to try on the slipper because he can see her beauty even in the rags she is wearing. The illustrations in this story are very different than what I have seen in other Cinderella stories. The images are first drawn with ink, and then they are colored in, but not colored perfectly, almost blurred a little, and white spaces are prevalent where color would normally be found. Cinderella always has this white outline around her body, giving her this glow, almost like a goddess of some sort. She has blond hair in the story, while everyone else has dark hair, which sets her apart from them once more. The colors used in the illustrations are very light colors, and they are most likely colored with oil pastels because of the smudging that the illustrator does in many of the images. There is no structure as to how they appear on the pages. There are some illustrations that are small on each page, some that take up the whole page, and even those that have several pictures one page. My favorite illustration is drawn when the sisters return from the ball on the second night and Cinderella is holding her glass slipper in the corner. Her entire body is colored with brown and a bit of orange and turquoise coming through. The background is white and her sisters are drawn normal. It is just a great depiction of the sadness she is feeling, and wishing that she could go back to being the princess at the ball. She is almost camouflaged in the corner, which is how her life is. She blends in, and no one notices how beautiful and wonderful she is.

Teaching Ideas: This is the traditional story of Cinderella. Children in the classroom will relate to it, especially if they have seen the Disney movie. It fits great as a read a loud in a fairy tale unit. A great idea is using this story with another Cinderella tale from another culture, and completing a creative Venn Diagram, or writing a contrasting piece of literature, such as an "I Poem for Two Voices." The format for this can be found at:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Creative Venn Diagram

I created a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast different elements in Lon Po Po and Petite Rouge. These are both variations of the story "Little Red Riding Hood." By making the circles into the different faces of the villains, it adds a little creativity fir children. I attached all the pieces with Velcro. This will allow for an interactive way for students to discern the similarities and differences in the stories. Also, other creative Venn Diagrams can be created and used on the same surface. I think it would be a fun project to have my kids do the same thing with variations of different traditional tales.

"Swamp Angel"

Title: Swamp Angel
Author: Anne Isaacs
Illustrator: Paul O. Zelinsky
Publisher: Puffin Books, 1994
Genre: Traditional Stories, Tall Tale
Age Range: K-3

1995 Caldecott Honor Book

Summary: Angelica Longrider was born as tall as her mother. She was a giant who helped Tennessee by building log cabins, like they were toothpicks. She picked up wagons stuck in the swamp and earned the nickname Swamp Angel. There was a bear roaming around eating everyone’s food. Thundering Tarnation was such a problem that there was a competition held to see who could kill him. After several men failed to kill the bear, Swamp Angel decided to try. She and the bear met one morning and began to wrestle. She threw him up in the sky, and they stirred up dust all over the mountains, making them known as the Smoky Mountains. They fell asleep wrestling and knocked down some of the forest. Finally, the bear was killed when Swamp Angel snored down a huge tree. The entire state of Tennessee fed off of the bear, and Swamp Angel took his pelt to Montana, which is now called Shortgrass Prairie. The bear left his impression against the stars when she threw him into the sky.

Response: I enjoyed reading this tall tale because it was one that I had never heard of before. The southern setting and vocabulary adds another dimension to the story. The most noteworthy aspect of the book is the incredible illustrations. They are done using oils on birch, cherry, and maple veneers. The wooden backgrounds coincide with the time period in which the story was written. Homes were built of logs, and portraits were drawn at that time on wood. The illustrations are drawn on wood, with the picture painted in a carved-out oval. The colors that are used in the illustrations are rich and warm. Angelica, very similar to her nickname “Angel”, is drawn like a giant, as she makes log cabins and wagons look like miniature toys. She is very interested in working outdoors, even wrestling Thundering Tarnation, but wears a dress and a bonnet. This shows the toughness of the southern woman. I love that when she is born, her mother is holding Angelica and the baby’s head is three times the size of the mother’s. The only thing that is remotely the same size as Swamp Angel is Thundering Tarnation. This giant bear and Swamp Angel engage in an epic battle across the mountains and plains of Tennessee. They kick up so much dust that it makes the mountains become smoky, thus creating the Smoky Mountains of today. They sling each other around, drink a lake dry, and snore down trees, which ends up being the downfall of Thundering Tarnation. She uses his skin as a rug out in Montana, creating the Shortgrass Prairie. When she throws the bear into the sky, Tarnation crashes into stars leaving an imprint. All these things are examples of how early settlers used to explain the creation of places and things that they really didn’t know about. Also, storytelling was a great source of entertainment. The more exaggerated the stories were told, the better the audience liked them.

Teaching Ideas: This story goes great in a unit of Tall Tales. It is important for students to realize that they are extreme and exaggerated stories about life. When talking about Tennessee and the early southern settlers, this would be a great story to show different aspects of life. The building of log cabins, cooking and storing food, the need for everyone to work together in a small town in order to survive. If I was to have a Tall Tale unit, I would have my children to create their own stories.

"Petite Rouge"

Title: Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood
Author: Mike Artell
Illustrator: Jim Harris
Publisher: Puffin Books, 2001
Genre: Traditional Stories
Age Range: 2-3

Summary: This is the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” with a Cajun twist. Petite Rouge’s mother tells her that she needs to take gumbo to her sick grandmother. She has to cross the swamp, but her mother warns her to beware of the alligators. She comes across Claude, the gator, who wants some food for lunch. Petite gets a stick and bats him away. He is angry, and sneaks into the grandmother’s house. The scared grandmother hides in the closet, as Claude disguises himself as grandmother in order to obtain Petite’s food. Petite and her cat arrive and question the false grandmother. Claude jumps up at chases Petite, hoping to catch her and eat her. Her cat takes a piece of boudin and soaked it in hot sauce. Petite throws it into Claude’s mouth, and he jumps into the swamp because it is so hot in his mouth. Grandmother and Petite eat the food and laugh at Claude, who never goes near people again.

Response: The most crucial part of the entire story is the distinct Cajun dialect that is used by the narrator. There is a glossary in the front that helps with some unfamiliar words, and shows how to pronounce them. It took me quite a while to really get the hang of it, and I had to read and re-read passages several times. I think it worked best when I was able to read aloud. I love the title Petite Rouge, meaning little red in French. The author’s note at the beginning of the book explains a little bit about the Cajun people, and how they earned their name. This is interesting information that I never knew. The dialect is a mixture of the French and English spoken down in Louisiana. The villain was of course an alligator, who are well known in the swamps down south. I thought it was great how he was given a very common French name, Claude. Something that set this particular version apart was that Petite Rouge was given a sidekick. She had a cat named TeJean who helped her every step of the way. This Little Red actually wore a red jacket with a patched hood, like the girl in the story I remember from my childhood. As Little Red departs through the swamp she meets Claude, and is so brave fending him off with a stick. The illustrations in this book are some of my favorite. The artistic media used are watercolor and pencil on Stathmore rag bristol. The water color is used in different degrees of darkness. For example, a lot of the background pictures of the swamp are done in a very watery based water color because they are light, but you can still make out the trees that seem to extend on forever. The nature and characters seem to be done in much more rich water colors. The nature in the book is also very realistic, while the characters are much more cartoon-like. There are both single and double-page spreads. The text and illustrations coincide with one another, and because the dialect that is used is difficult, the pictures really help readers to see what is taking place in the story. There is a little mouse that is found on every picture except for the one where TeJean is handing Petite Rouge the hot sauce. Food is a very large part of the story. Petite Rouge sets out on her journey because she is supposed to be going to take gumbo and other traditional Cajun foods to her sick grandmother. Claude is simply hungry for food, and that is his motivation for disguising as the grandmother. Food is also what saves Petite because they douse Claude’s food in hot sauce, forcing him back into the swamp to cool down. Another interesting thing I noticed with the pictures was that there are famous paintings in the grandmother’s house, just painted with animals instead of humans. For example, there is a picture of the Mona Lisa in the background. The illustrations show extreme emotions, and the story is told with great exaggeration. I think this also goes back to the Cajun culture, as it is known for being extreme. This story spices up “Little Red Riding Hood” by adding a few extra things, including hot sauce to save the day.

Teaching Ideas: This story can be incorporated into the teaching idea about Lon Po Po, by comparing and contrasting the two tales. I think this can also be used when studying the French colonization, and talking about the Cajun culture down in Louisiana. It is a great way to talk about dialect because it is so distinct and different from a typical text. Because of the intricate dialect that is used, I would probably wait until first or second grade to incorporate this story so that the children could enjoy it and understand it.

"Lon Po Po"

Title: Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story From China
Author: Ed Young
Illustrator: Ed Young
Publisher: Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 1989
Genre: Traditional Stories, Multicultural
Age Range: K-3

1990 Caldecott Medal

Summary: This story is the Chinese version of “Little Red Riding Hood”. Three young Chinese girls are left at home alone, while their mother goes to visit their Po Po, grandmother. When she leaves, a wolf disguised as their grandmother tries to come into their house. They are tricked at first and let her in. Soon, they realize that she is really a wolf. They go outside and climb a tree, telling the wolf that there are gingko nuts that will give everlasting life. The children tell the wolf they will pull it up in a basket; however, they keep dropping the wolf, and eventually he breaks his heart and dies. They stay safely in their home until their mother returns with their grandmother.

Response: “Little Red Riding Hood” was one of the stories I listened to many times growing up. There are a few differences between the version I grew up with, and this Chinese tale. The story I grew up with had one little girl going to visit her grandmother, wearing a red coat. This story has three little girls who are left home by their mother, and there is no mention of anything red in the entire story. The wolf is already disguised as the grandmother when the girl arrives, in the tale I recall, and she is able to outsmart the wolf by stuffing its stomach with cotton balls. This story is very interesting because it shows the different interpretation of another country. I think it is amazing that these tales can be universal, just altered a bit to fit a certain culture. The dedication on the first page was very eerie to me because the author says that the wolf is considered to be a symbol for human darkness. So, perhaps the wolf in the story is actually a human who has a dark heart and soul. The picture next to this dedication shows a wolf and a human intermingled. The illustrations in this book are very mysterious and abstract. They are drawn using watercolors and pastels. You can not see much of what is going on, especially with the wolf. He is dark and dangerous. His pictures are a lot larger than those of the children. The smudging of the artwork really gives a surreal and scary atmosphere to the book. Some of the pictures are a little difficult to discern, but they all give a very mysterious vibe. The wolf was overpowering, but the girls were able to outsmart him because his hunger was getting in the way. I think that this version of “Little Red Riding Hood” is a little darker because you see the children actually getting close with the wolf, as they all climb in the bed. Also, they kill the wolf by breaking his heart. He is pulled up and dropped three times, dying the last time. His desire to get these nuts that give everlasting life, and perhaps eat the children, clouds his judgment and it costs him his life. I think that this story is told with a much darker tone because the Chinese culture is trying to emphasize a few points. First, for children, is to be obedient to their parents. The young girls disobey their mother’s orders and open the door for the wolf because they think it is their grandmother. They put their lives at risk, and although it may be a bit extreme, it shows children the dangers of not being obedient. The second lesson is to not be greedy and selfish. The wolf’s motive for all his action was to fulfill his desire at the moment. He wanted to eat the children, so he disguised himself as their grandmother. He wanted to get up in the tree to eat the nuts, so he trusted the children to pull him up. What confused me a bit was the fact that he was out in broad daylight under the tree with no disguise on. Obviously the children already knew he was a wolf before this time, but he did not know they had caught on. He was still pretending to be the grandmother without any sort of disguise. This was not the typical “Little Red Riding Hood” tale for me. I felt like it was a darker, scarier version of the story.

Teaching Ideas: This is a great story to incorporate while reading traditional tales. I think a great idea would be to read this, as well as a few other versions of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Then perhaps create a Venn-Diagram (example shown on Blog) displaying the similarities and differences in the stories. Talk about how different cultures interpret stories, and how they may alter them to fit their lifestyle.