Saturday, August 10, 2013

Taking a Short Break

Apologies once again for the long silence! Due to iffy internet connections, demanding work schedules, and being introduced to Doctor Who, Ink & Pen is going to be taking a sabbatical for the remainder of the summer. We'll be back in full force this fall though, so make sure to subscribe so you don't miss any of the exciting things we have planned! Thank you for reading and we'll see you in the fall!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Four Short Story Collections About Strong Women and Girls Around the World

My apologies for the long silence! This is a list of recommendations I wanted to post during Women's History Month, but couldn't get a hold of all the titles in time. That's okay though since we celebrate women and girls all the time on Ink & Pen! So, here are four collections of short stories about strong women and girls who think--and do--for themselves. Many of these tales have been buried or ignored, but we're glad to have them available to us now. Enjoy!

Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls
collected and told by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Susan Guevara

This collection of thirteen tales from Greece, Niger, Germany, Argentina, China, the White River Sioux, the Ozark Mountains, Scotland, Romania, Poland, Japan, France, and England, was by far my favorite. Yolen is a gifted storyteller and chose an array of engrossing tales that left me wishing there were a second collection!

The Serpent Slayer: and Other Stories of Strong Women
written by Katrin Tchana, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

This collection includes 18 stories of strong girls and women from Asia, the Americas, India, the Jewish tradition, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The tales in this collection are fascinating and the girls in them are all strong in unique ways. The illustrations for this treasury are remarkable and the stories fascinating.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ten Cinderella Tales from Around the World

It's officially summer here in the Northern Hemisphere and we'd like to take this season to focus on folk and fairy tales (and perhaps myths and legends, too) here on Ink & Pen. So, to start things off here are ten Cinderella tales from around the world. Considering that it is widely accepted that the Cinderella tale was first recorded in China, it's surprising that multicultural versions of the story are not more popular, but thankfully there are a multitude of picture book versions from a truly diverse array of countries and cultures.

When I was a teacher, I spent an entire month exploring Cinderella tales with my students and we still didn't get through every culture's version. I found my students open to and interested in Cinderella stories from every culture. In fact, when I began reading them a Perrault version (what would be the "standard" for those of us in mainstream Western culture--except perhaps in Germany) they asked me what country the story was from, not viewing it as more original, authentic, or authoritative than any other version.

Of course, the Cinderella tale can be problematic when it comes to gender, body image, etc. I would strongly recommend that you engage any children you may be reading with in a discussion about standards of beauty as well as any other issues you may see with the tale. It's important for children to know that physical attributes are not an indicator of inner worth, and while some children will come to this conclusion on their own, it is helpful to have a trusted adult either introduce or reaffirm this notion.

I'm not including synopses for these books for though they differ widely in details, they are all versions of the same tale. Here are my top ten (in no particular order):

1. Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale

2. The Korean Cinderella

3. The Rough-Face Girl

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Five Diverse Fantasy Novels

As I've stated before, fantasy is my very favorite genre. It's a sad fact that growing up I never saw anyone that looked anything like me in the fantasies I read. And while as an adult I have encountered more characters of color in middle grade and YA fantasy novels, they are still very thin on the ground. So, for those of you that are fantasy fans, or know a fantasy reader, here are five great stories written for the older middle grade/younger YA crowd that feature protagonists of color. All summaries in quotes from IndieBound.

Akata Witch
by Nnedi Okorafor

Okorafor's skilled writing makes this African mythology-based story accessible to readers more used to fantasies steeped in European mythology. I've had a lot of success recommending it to fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. 

"Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she's albino. She's a terrific athlete, but can't go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing-she is a "free agent," with latent magical power. Soon she's part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?"

by Anne Ursu

Hazel, the protagonist of this beautifully-written book, is adopted and while that fact is not a major theme in the book, I thought it worth pointing out for anyone who might be looking for books with adopted protagonists. Much more important to the plot are Hazel's feelings of awkwardness and not fitting in with her community. Though the book doesn't dwell on it, I think it's pretty clear that this awkwardness is due--at least in part--to her physical difference, being of Indian descent in a town that is predominately white.

"Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it's up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind."