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."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Five Diverse Picture Books for Father's Day

This upcoming Sunday is Father's Day in the U.S. and for once I am happy to present a list of book recommendations prior to the actual day of celebration! So, here are five diverse books that celebrate fathers and explore fatherhood. All summaries in quotes from IndieBound.

When Dads Don't Grow Up
written by Marjorie Blain Parker, illustrated by R.W. Alley

"[T]his playful book follows four father-child pairs as they spend happy, silly times together, popping bubble wrap and watching cartoons and taking part in shoppingcart races. These are dads who aren't worried about looking goofy or getting their hair wet - dads who still remember what it's like to be little. Don't be fooled. They may look like grown-ups on the outside, But underneath they're just like you . . . Kids!"

A Father Like That
written by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

A great choice for children who don't have their father in their lives--or expanding the horizons of children who do--this book shows all the things the little boy protagonist knows about fathers without having his own present. Though it is clear the little boy feels a void is left by his father's absence, he has a loving, supportive mother and enjoys imagining an ideal father for himself.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Five More Diverse Board Books

First of all, my apologies for the lack of posts lately. All of us writers have been particularly busy lately with moves, school, and work. We have some exciting upcoming plans for summer though--specifically with folk and fairy tales--so stay tuned for that! In the meantime, I realized we haven't had a post about board books since April, so here are five more diverse board books (in no particular order). Again, I won't include synopses since they are relatively straight-forward, but if you have any questions about a a specific title, feel free to leave it in the comments. Enjoy!

1. A You're Adorable
by Martha Alexander

2. Ten Little Babies
 by Gyo Fujikawa

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Five More Picture Books That Celebrate Creativity in Girls

Our previous post about books that celebrate creative girls has been so popular that we wanted to offer you more five more titles in the same vein:

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina
written by Monica Brown, illustrated by Sara Palacios

From her brown skin and red hair, to her penchant for wearing polka dots with stripes, people tell Marisol McDonald that she doesn't match. Marisol doesn't mind though: she likes herself the way she is, but when a friend tells her she couldn't match if she tried, Marisol decides to take up the challenge. But matching is no fun for Marisol who learns that her uniqueness is something to celebrate. Palacios's illustrations are vibrant, colorful, and fun. Includes a note on why the author created a multiracial protagonist, as well as a note on the translation. Bilingual: English/Spanish

Jingle Dancer
written by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright & Ying Hwa-Hu

Jenna wants to dance at the upcoming powwow, but there isn't enough time to order the tins to make her dress jingle. Undeterred, Jenna visits family members and friends considerately asking each for only enough jingles to make a row, ensuring no one dress will be silent. Each person who lends Jenna jingles can't attend the powwow and asks her to dance for them. When the day of the powwow arrives, Jenna dances beautifully to the brum, brum, brum, brum beat of the drum, for herself and for everyone that helped her, jingling all the while. Beautifully illustrated by Van Wright and Hu who showcase the diversity of skin tones found among Native American people. Includes an author's note and glossary.

Weekly Roundup: May 26 - June 1, 2013