Category Archives: Library Summer Reading Programs

If you are digging around a special event to be part of your library’s 2013 Summer Reading Program, here’s all the dirt!

O is for Old Dry Fry

Virginia Frances Sterrett illustrated Penn Publishing Company's 1928 edition of Arabian Nights.

Virginia Frances Sterrett illustrated Penn Publishing Company’s 1928 edition of Arabian Nights.




Ever’body knows Old Dry Fry! He’s the preacher who choked on a piece of fried chicken and died. Each character who encountered his body tried to hide it to avoid being accused of murder. It’s an hilarious, rollicking tale told in the American south by black and white storytellers alike, and it fits the culture and environment perfectly!

But the tale’s roots outstretch America’s short history, digging back at least a millennium  to Scheherazade’s “Tale of the Hunchback,” and the storyline likely arose centuries before that legendary storyteller’s rendition.

Matter is not created from nothingness, and neither are stories that matter.

Here are some sources that might matter to your readers and listeners:

Johnson, Paul Brett, Old Dry Frye. Scholastic, 2001.

Yolen, Jane, Favorite Folktales from Around the World. Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folktale Library, 1988.

Scheherazade’s Children, edited by Philip F.Kennedy and Marina Warner. New York University Press, 2013.





“Old Dry Fry” is also on my Storytelling World Honor CD, 1001 Years of 1001 Nights. If your Texas library does not have a copy, send me their address and I will get one to them.

N is for Kay Nielsen













Danish illustrator Kay (“Kigh”) Nielsen began his career at a time when colorful art could be reproduced successfully in books. He illustrated East of the Sun and West of the Moon, some of Perrault and Grimm and his fellow Dane, Hans Christian Andersen. Riding the wave of technology, he designed the “Ave Maria” and “Night on Bald Mountain” segments of Fantasia.

Dismissed by Disney before the film was released, Nielsen was barely able to make ends meet. His work fell out of favor and, after his death in 1957, it was offered to museums in America and Denmark, but none were interested.


These days Kay Nielsen’s art is prized in editions such as these:


Nielsen’s Fairy Tale Illustrations in Full Color (Dover Fine Art, History of Art). Dover Publications; Green Edition, 2006. (Paperback)

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North, illustrated by Kay Nielsen. Calla Editions, 2008.

Larkin, David (editor), Kay Nielsen. Peacock Press/Bantam, 1975.

I’m curious to know why Nielsen was dismissed by Walt Disney in 1941. I’ve never seen an explanation.                  Anybody know?

M is for Mr. Fox


Henry Ryland’s “Mr. Fox” in the 1892 edition of Joseph Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales.

High school girls are surprised to hear traditional stories that include sexual violence, yet it is important for a girl to consider how Lady Mary’s boldness–or one’s own!–can overcome depraved evil. It is, in fact, the single most important attribute when it comes to safeguarding oneself.

In this tale, we also see a justifiably fearful Lady Mary hide herself when being bold would not pay off. Instead, she waits for the moment when her boldness will completely destroy Mr. Fox.

Take the tale’s advice: Be bold, be bold, but not too bold, lest thy heart’s blood run cold!


Be bold! Take hold of one of these books:

Jacobs, Joseph, English Fairy Tales. Everyman’s Library, 1993.

The Classic Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar (Norton Critical Editions). W. W. Norton & Company, 1999.

Yolen, Jane, Favorite Folktales from Around the World (Pantheon Fairy Tale & folklore Library). Pantheon, 1988.

L is for La Llorona


32451089Texas’ most famous ghost is La Llorona, the weeping woman. Oh, she’s said to lurk along waterways in the borderlands to California and deep into Mexico, too, but we know her true haunt is south Texas.
Every town has it’s own version of the story: why she drowned her children, how many children there were, on which nearby river she has been spotted.

Whenever I tell the story, several children wave their hands urgently. “Miss! Once when my uncle was about 12 , he went to see his grandmother. She lived near this river, see, and one night he went outside . . .”

Are any of these books haunting your shelves?

Anaya, Rodolfo, La Llorona: The Crying Woman, bilingual edition translated by Enrique la Madrid and Illustrated by Amy Cordova. University of New Mexico Press, 2011.

Cisneros, Sandra, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories. Vintage, 1992. (Also available in School and Library Binding and in Spanish.)

Hayes, Joe, La Llorona/The Weeping Woman, illustrated by Vicki Trego Hill and Mona Pennybacker. Cinco Puntos Press, 2006.


“La Llorona” is on my Storytelling World Gold-Award-winning CD, Ghostly Gals and Spirited Women. If your Texas Library does not have a copy, send me their address and I’ll make sure they get one.

K is for Kids, 7 of them and a wolf.

Herman Vogel illustrated an 1894 edition of Grimm's Kinder und Hausmarchen.

Herman Vogel illustrated an 1894 edition of Grimm’s Kinder und Hausmarchen.

“The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids” is the ultimate stranger danger story. Kindergarteners faithfully chant with Mama Goat “When I leave…, lock the door…, and don’t open it up again for anyone else but me!” They are stunned by the wolf’s treachery. They bounce anxiously as he searches the home, swell at the baby’s assistance, and heave a sigh of great relief when mama retrieves her kids. Whew!

Isn’t it better for children to hear about wolves preying upon goats than to learn about human predation on a news program?

This is where courage is born: in scary stories.

I hope your 398.2 shelves hold a telling or retelling of this tale.

Grimms Fairy Tales (of course!)

Grimm, Jacob, The Wolf and the Seven Kids, illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft. Troll Communications, 1980.

Grimm, Jacob, Wilhelm Grimm and Molly Stevens, The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats: A Fairy Tale, illustrated by Claudine Routiaux. Abbeville Press, 2001. (Part of Abbeville Classic Fairy Tales series, The Little Pebbles.)

J is for Jack

Ray Hicks told Jack Tales passed down for generations in the Harmon and Hicks families. Ray died in 2003.

Ray Hicks told Jack Tales as passed down for generations in Tennessee’s Harmon and Hicks families. Ray died in 2003.

Jack is probably the best known Fairy Tale protagonist in the western world, largely due to his blockbuster hit, Jack and the Beanstalk. However, that’s not his only tale. It’s not even his only name! Grouped as “Jack Tales” are many, many stories from all around the world. Wherever a lazy, hapless young man with a nagging mother sets out on a task, get’s lucky and wins the treasure, the kingdom, or the princess, you have a “Jack” whether he is called Hans, Aladdin, Ivan, Petit Jean (the Cajun “ ‘Ti-Zhon”), Juan Bobo or simply “the fool” or “the noodle.”

Do you have Jack Tales in your 398.2?

Bernier-Grand, Carmen T., Juan Bobo and the Pig, pictures by Ernesto Ramos Nieves. HarperCollins, 1994.

Davis, Donald, Southern Jack Tales. August House Publishers, 2005.

Ransome, Arthur, The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, pictures by Uri Shulevitz. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1968.

I is for Ivan (Bilibin. We’re on a first name basis.)

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin for The White Duck.

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin for The White Duck.

When I’m telling Russian folktales, Vasilisa steps into the theatre of my mind wearing a richly embroidered sarafan. Ivan Tsarevich, in caftan and pointy-toed boots, proudly rides the grey wolf through a fir forest to an onion-domed palace. Baba Yaga’s log hut on chicken legs boasts a steep thatched roof with colorfully stenciled eaves and window frames. Even barefoot Ivanushka wears his Kosovorotka, his side-buttoned shirt. For me, that rich imagery came from the brush of Ivan Bilibin. A costume and set designer as well as an artist, he created the theater my skazki protagonists play on.

I hope you have an edition of Russian Wonder Tales illustrated by my friend Ivan (!) in your library. His  art has been used in such collections for over a century!

Afansyev, Alexander, Russian Fairy Tales, translated by Post Wheeler and illustrated by Ivan Bilibin. The Planet, 2012 (paperback).

Avery, Gillian, Russian Fairy Tales, illustrated by Ivan Bilibin. Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics, 1995.

Bilibin, Ivan IAkovlevich Bilibin, Ivan Bilibin. Aurora Art Publishers, 1982. (Note: This is an expensive art book!)

In the 1970s, the Russian Ministry of Finance commissioned Goznak Press in Moscow to print a series of Russian fairy tales with Afans’ev’s text and Bilibin’s illustrations in beautiful, large format booklets on heavy paper. You can almost always find the books in Russian or English on ebay for $10-$20. Look for the Frog Princess, Sister Alyonushka and Brother Ivanushka and The White Duck (together in one book), Marya Morevna, Fenist the Falcon, and The Tale of Tsarevich Ivan, the Fire-Bird and Grey Wolf.

F is for Fairy Tale

Another Kay Nielsen: Hansel and Gretel

Another Kay Nielsen: Hansel and Gretel

A fairy tale is a tale of grace: an unexpected blessing. In fairy tales, something magical intervenes to transform an individual’s social/emotional state as when a broken home is healed (Hansel and Gretel), a marriage created (Marya Morevna), a lost relationship recovered (Rapunzel and her prince), or a vocation empowered (The Shoemaker and the Elves). By hearing of others overcoming obstacles to reach a state of joy, our own spirits are lifted vicariously. “Once upon a time” opens the door for the tale to be our own, and when “happily ever after” befalls the protagonists, it also falls upon us.

Find meaningful fairy tales for each stage of life in these volumes:

Andersen, Hans Christian and Maria Tatar, The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen. W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.

Chinen, Allen B., In the Ever After Fairy Tales and the Second Half of Life. Chiron Publications, 1989.

Pearson, Carol S., The Hero Within. HarperOne, 2013.


Drop by my booth 2511 at the Texas Library Conference this week!

E is for East of the Sun and West of the Moon

Kay Nielsen from East of the Sun . . .

Kay Nielsen’s graceful art fills the 1914 edition of East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

. . . and all around the world people besides the Brothers Grimm collect stories! These tales from Scandinavian lands were collected by Peter Christian Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. Alexander Afanas’ev collected Russian tales and Lafcadio Hearne, Japanese. Bozena Nemcova gathered Czech folktales, and the poet William Butler Yeats collected the Irish ones, both in efforts to build national pride during times of struggle. Madame d’ Aulnoy was the first to write down the fanciful stories told in Parisian salons, and another collector, Charles Perrault, named them “fairy tales.” Americo Paredes collected Mexican folktales and J. Frank Dobie brought Texas tales to print.

Here are a few more:

Hamilton, Virginia, The People Could Fly, Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

Walker, Barbara. The Art of the Turkish Tale. Texas Tech University Press, 1990.

Yolen, Jane, Favorite Folktales from Around the World. Random House, 1988.

Who are your favorite collectors?

H is for Hodja

Turkish folktale collector Warren Walker gave me a copy of this Hodja drawing made by a student of his.

Turkish folktale collector Warren Walker gave me this line drawing of Hodja sitting backwards on his little donkey. It was drawn by a Turkish student of his at Texas Tech.

If you go to a grand mosque in Istanbul, your clergyman is an imam; if you go to a tiny mosque in a village, he is a hodja, and if that hodja is Nasruddin–Ah! I see you smiling already!

His wife picks on him, his students play tricks on him, his neighbors badger him, his little donkey won’t cooperate, his congregation doesn’t let him get away with anything, even the great Tamerlane tries to sneer him down! Yet somehow the hodja maintains his charming toehold on wisdom. Like Aggie jokes, Hodja stories let people laugh at life and themselves.

Be sure to have a hodja tale or seven on your 398.2 shelves:

Clark, Raymond C., Nasreddin Hodja, illustrated by Robert MacLean. Pro Lingua Associates, 2004.

Demi, The Hungry Coat. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004.

Shah, Idries, The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin. Penguin Books, 1993. (Shah has two other volumes, too.)


Texas Library Association Conference is in full swing! Drop by and say “hello” at booth 2511!