Thank you very much for this fantastic honor, and for an award that so generously includes far-flung Australians such as myself, currently ten thousand miles away and probably asleep, or else unsuccessfully trying to settle a teething infant.
I am compelled to post this blog entry today because it highlights the issues book lovers face when it comes to children and what they read- often they will choose books that adults don't think are "quality" books. To get children to read, give them a wide array of choices. And don't put their choices down. Key to reading pleasure is self-selection.
Fans of the illustrator and author Jan Brett will find much to love in her newest picture book, “The Animals’ Santa,” which chronicles the efforts of woodland creatures to discover “Santa’s” true identity. All of ...
Claudia M. Reder's insight:
For those of us who celebrate Christmas or other winter holidays, it's fun to read how Jan Brett created this book-- she was up late on one of the hottest nights of the year.
Always check our Julie Danielson's blog about picture books. I wanted to include these spreads in her blog today because they are so beautiful. I can't wait to see the picture book that comes out in February 2015.
I enjoy writing in the first person. I feel it gives readers immediate insight into a novel’s protagonist; from the beginning of the story they’re inside the head that person—with all the confusion and clarity that it entails.
Tweet Each year, a select diverse committee of experts from the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature (CSMCL) identifies the best in multicultural books. The mission of the CSMCL is to provide children, teachers, parents, educators, students, and … Continue reading →
First, I have to thank my editor, Alvina Ling, who has become a great friend of mine. She lives two blocks away from me, so that’s pretty sweet. We get to go for the occasional cocktail on the company.
Cape Town - The first stories told to me were those around a dining room table. Stories of family luck and misfortune; sickness and death and “spook stories”. I sat wide-eyed, taking it all in. What was left out (not for children’s ears!) I filled in with my imagination.
Yet, my family was not a family who read books. Instead, they read from newspapers, some sent as bound editions all the way from England. These were copies of the Daily Mail, in which cartoons such as Garth, Jane, Pip Squeak and Wilfred and others appeared.
Through these, I journeyed into the land of cartoons with the greatest of ease. Then, occasionally, children’s books drifted into our home, and it was a treat to hear my older sister read from Enid Blyton’s Five-Minute Tales collection.
These came with black and white illustrations that showed “bobbies”, postmen, middle-class children and scenes from that faraway place overseas, England.
And, while my sister read, I would be there, running down some country lane following a naughty goblin or climbing over pasture gates on the way to Milly-Molly-Mandy’s cottage.
So, through story, I became a traveller.
Noddy’s Toyland; Alice’s Wonderland; the sea, the lakes and shore where the Famous Five had their adventures – these all became as real to me as my own small suburban street. And herein lies the power of stories: they transport, they provide landscapes that exist in the imagination, inner landscapes you might say.
In those days, most storybooks took South African children out of Africa, to faraway places in Europe or the US.
But, as much as it enriches a reader to share and learn of “others”, it is just as important to have home-grown stories; stories that validate who we are, our own culture and allow us to see ourselves in the books we read – stories with which we can closely identify and give us a place in literature.
It is both comforting and strengthening to recognise the “voice” in a story as belonging to us, especially when it’s a story that can be strongly associated with a personal situation, whatever that may be.
These days, there is still a shortage of South African children’s stories, but organisations such as Praesa (The Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa), which is driving the national Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, are ensuring that South African children’s stories in a variety of mother tongue languages are making their way into the homes and lives of our families through its digital and print platforms.
And, the function of a story, particularly when it is written or told to you in your own language, to change how you feel about the world and yourself, is phenomenal.
This is underlined by the phrase: “That book changed my life.” Further, I am happy to say that there is no one function or purpose for a book. There are books that cover all needs: the need to laugh, to fantasise, to be entertained, to cry, to mourn, to hope, to aspire towards a dream, to understand others and to help us to become the people we wish to become. So powerful!
The physical closeness and mental bond between parent and child through shared reading can form a strong bond that lasts a lifetime. And, further, reading to children is the most pleasurable and effective way of training little minds to focus while stimulating the imagination, both vital facilities in preparing children for school.
I have a chant that I do with children when I visit schools. It goes like this: “The more you read, the smarter you get! The smarter you get, the more you read!” Try it!
Take your children on a reading adventure these holidays. To access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, tips on reading and writing with children or for more information about the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign, visit www.nalibali.org or www.nalibali.mobi.
l Niki Daly is an award-winning children’s author and illustrator.
Book discovery is a pressing issue in the print and digital world. Major online stores are hard pressed to keep up with the sheer amount of new content being published on a daily basis and the brick and motor locations tend to focus on bestsellers and adult content. Kids have the hardest time in discovering new authors and new books to read because no one exclusively caters to their needs.
Rapunzel is impregnated by her prince, the evil queen in Snow White is the princess’s biological mother, plotting to murder her own child, and a hungry mother in another story is so “unhinged and desperate” that she tells her daughters: “I’ve got to kill you so I can have something to eat.” Never before published in English, the first edition of the Brothers Grimms’ tales reveals an unsanitised version of the stories that have been told at bedtime for more than 200 years.
The Grimms – Jacob and Wilhelm – published their first take on the tales for which they would become known around the world in December 1812, a second volume following in 1815. They would go on to publish six more editions, polishing the stories, making them more child-friendly, adding in Christian references and removing mentions of fairies before releasing the seventh edition – the one best known today – in 1857.
Jack Zipes, professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota, says he often wondered why the first edition of the tales had never been translated into English, and decided, eventually, to do it himself. “Though the Grimms kept about 100 of the tales from the first edition, they changed them a good deal. So, the versions with which most English-speaking (and German-speaking) readers are familiar are quite different from the tales in the first edition,” he told the Guardian.
His version of the original 156 stories is just out from Princeton University Press, illustrated by Andrea Dezsö, and shows a very different side to the well-known tales, as well as including some gruesome new additions.
How the Children Played at Slaughtering, for example, stays true to its title, seeing a group of children playing at being a butcher and a pig. It ends direly: a boy cuts the throat of his little brother, only to be stabbed in the heart by his enraged mother. Unfortunately, the stabbing meant she left her other child alone in the bath, where he drowned. Unable to be cheered up by the neighbours, she hangs herself; when her husband gets home, “he became so despondent that he died soon thereafter”. The Children of Famine is just as disturbing: a mother threatens to kill her daughters because there is nothing else to eat. They offer her slices of bread, but can’t stave off her hunger: “You’ve got to die or else we’ll waste away,” she tells them. Their solution: “We’ll lie down and sleep, and we won’t get up again until the Judgement Day arrives.” They do; “no one could wake them from it. Meanwhile, their mother departed, and nobody knows where she went.”
Rapunzel, meanwhile, gives herself away to her captor when – after having a “merry time” in the tower with her prince - she asks: “Tell me, Mother Gothel, why are my clothes becoming too tight? They don’t fit me any more.” And the stepmothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel were, originally, their mothers, Zipes believing that the Grimms made the change in later editions because they “held motherhood sacred”. So it is Snow White’s own mother who orders the huntsman to “stab her to death and bring me back her lungs and liver as proof of your deed. After that I’ll cook them with salt and eat them”, and Hansel and Gretel’s biological mother who abandons them in the forest.
Zipes speculates that the Grimms’ changes were “reflecting sociologically a condition that existed during their lifetime - jealousy between a young stepmother and stepdaughter”, because “many women died from childbirth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and there were numerous instances in which the father remarried a young woman, perhaps close in age to the father’s eldest daughter”.
Cinderella’s stepsisters go to extraordinary attempts to win the prince in the original Grimms version of the tale, slicing off parts of their feet to fit the golden slipper - to no avail, in the end, because the prince spots the blood spilling out of the shoe. “Here’s a knife,” their mother urges, in Zipes’ translation. “If the slipper is still too tight for you, then cut off a piece of your foot. It will hurt a bit. But what does that matter?”
Wilhelm Grimm, said Zipes, “deleted all tales that might offend a middle-class religious sensitivity”, such as How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. He also “added many Christian expressions and proverbs”, continued Zipes, stylistically embellished the tales, and eliminated fairies from the stories because of their association with French fairy tales. “Remember, this is the period when the French occupied Germany during the Napoleonic wars,” said Zipes. “So, in Briar Rose, better known as Sleeping Beauty, the fairies are changed into wise women. Also, a crab announces to the queen that she will become pregnant, not a frog.”
The original stories, according to the academic, are closer to the oral tradition, as well as being “more brusque, dynamic, and scintillating”. In his introduction to The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which Marina Warner says he has “redrawn the map we thought we knew”, and made the Grimms’ tales “wonderfully strange again”, Zipes writes that the originals “retain the pungent and naive flavour of the oral tradition”, and that they are “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”, with the Grimms yet to add their “sentimental Christianity and puritanical ideology”.
But they are still, he believes, suitable bedtime stories. “It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the Grimms’ tales for children,” Zipes told the Guardian. The Grimms, he added, “believed that these tales emanated naturally from the people, and the tales can be enjoyed by both adults and children. If there is anything offensive, readers can decide what to read for themselves. We do not need puritanical censors to tell us what is good or bad for us.”
To order The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm for £21.21 (RRP £24.95) go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846.