6 June 2009
Reading Log 1: Traditional Literature and Modern Fantasy.
1. Author/Illustrator: Retold by Ai-Ling Louie; illustrated by Ed Young
2. Title: Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China, 1982
3. Genre: Folktale
4. Format: Picture Book
5. Award: None indicated
6: Summary: This folktale closely follows the traditional Cinderella story. A young,
usually kind and attractive girl is left in the care of a evil stepmother and two
stepsisters. Like the traditional Cinderella, Yeh-Shen has assistance from a
supernatural being, attends a ball, and is chosen to marry the king. Unlike Cinderella,
Yeh-Shen is Chinese, has a fish as a companion, who the evil stepmother kills, and is
given golden slippers versus glass. Another usual feature, but true to Chinese culture
is the small size of Yeh-Shen’s feet. Like the traditional Cinderella, the evil
stepmother and stepsisters are not taken to the castle. In the end, they live in a cave
and are eventually killed by flying stones.
A. This is definitely a good book to use as a read aloud. However, because the fish
and the evil mother and sisters are killed, perhaps it is better suited for an older
B. Since so many different cultures tell some version of the Cinderella story, using
this book as a comparison to other such tellings would also be a good strategy. If
I did this, I would choose some of the others that gave some additional insight
into the culture and spend some time discussing why the changes occur in the
C. As a high school teacher, I think that this version of the Cinderella story could be
used to introduce a unit on Chinese culture. We currently do research of foot-
binding, family relationships, and the role of women in Chinese culture before
reading The Good Earth. This folktale is a nice way of hooking students and
making a connection back to the stories they enjoyed so much as children.
D. As a writing assignment, you could have any age group write a version of a
folktale that describes a contemporary archetypical character. What would people
who read this tale believe about the American culture in the 21st century.
E. For an older audience, I would have them analyze stylistic differences in the
different versions of the Cinderella story. I especially like the use of language in
Perrault’s “Cinderella: or The Little Glass Slipper” (Norton, 217). They could
also analyze and assert why the endings in the versions are different. One version
has Cinderella forgiving her stepfamily, while the China version punishes their
cruelty. What does this show about these cultures?
1. Author: Verna Aardema; illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
2. Title and Date of Publication: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ear, 1992
3. Genre: A West African Tale
4. Format: Picture Book
5. Award: Winner of the Caldecott Award
6. Summary: This tale provides one explanation why mosquitoes are such buzzing
pests. The tale begins with a mosquito telling an iguana about something that he
saw the previous day. The iguana says that he will not believe what the mosquito
has told him and then the iguana puts sticks in his ear to keep from hearing
anything else that mosquito says. Everything that happens from this point on
revolves around the mosquito first disturbing the iguana. Many critters in the
forest are affected and ultimately the owl will not bellow for the sun to come up.
As the story continues each critter faults the previous critter for causing the chaos
that ensues. Finally, the fault is attributed to the mosquito and his punishment is
to whine in people’s ears asking if they are angry at her!
A. This is a good book for a younger audience to act out. Sometimes we don’t
understand how our actions affect others and the impact it has on other people’s
lives, even when our behavior is innocent. This is a direct correlation to John
Donne’s philosophy message is “No Man is an Island.” This children’s book
reinforces a universal message that everyone is affected by other’s actions. I
could also tie in The Five People You Meet in Heaven to reinforce this message.
B. There are many examples of these kinds of tales that students could use to choose
from and explain to the class how a culture explains natural occurrences.
C. This book employs a lot of repetition. It could be use as a means of getting
younger student to recognize repeated phrases and sounds. This is a skill that
high school audiences focus on. This book could reinforce to high school
students that even picture books use
D. Cause and Effect. Any grade level could use this tale to understand and write
about cause and effect.
E. You could compare this picture book to the Chinese Fable “How the Elephant Got
1. Author: Marianna Mayer; Illustrated by K.Y. Craft
2. Title/Date of Publication: The Twelve Dancing Princesses/1989
3. Genre: Fairytale
4. Format: Picture Book
6. Summary: Each night, even though the king locks his 12 daughter away for the
night, the next morning their slippers are worn. The king works to unravel the
mystery behind what his daughters are doing in the wee hours of the night. A
young man, a commoner, comes to work in the garden. Upon seeing the 12
princesses, he is quickly is smitten with Elise. Peter, the young gardener, finds a
struggling plant and nurtures it. From this plant emerges a bud with golden
leaves. When he places the bud in his buttonhole he becomes invisible. His
invisibility enables him to follow the sisters undetected. While he is following
them he realizes their secret of dancing all night. All previous princess who had
attempted to find out the princesses’ secret was given an elixir that made his
death-like. As Peter follows the princesses, he becomes more enamored with
Elise, who soon discovers that he knows their secret. On the evening when the
sisters are going to give Peter their elixir, Elise decides to reveal her love for Peter
and the spell is broken. Peter and Elise and married, and we assume a happily
ever after fairytale ending.
A. This children’s book could be used to introduce mystery as a genre. I know that
our 9th grade text included this fairytale. Students could use this shorter version to
look for the elements of a mystery.
B. An older audience could also use this fairytale to write about how it qualifies as a
narrative involving a quest. When the story begins Peter is labeled a “dreamer,”
who wanted to “leave the village and seek his fortune.”
C. Since the story has an ironic twist at the end, students could predict what they
think will happen to Peter (we assume he will be in the princesses’ trance).
D. This fairytale also addresses the idea of trust; Peter assures, even when offered
large sums of money, that he will not tell the princesses’ secret. This fairytale is a
good springboard to discuss trust and its importance in relationships.
E. Students who are familiar with Hogwarts can compare the ballroom where the
princesses exist in a fantastic world to their knowledge of Hogwarts.
F. Students can also discuss the idea of young people who need to have a place that
is uniquely there’s.
G. High school students could compare Peter’s quest and test to that of Odysseus,
hero of The Odyssey.
1. Author: Robert Nye; illustrator: none
2. Title: Beowulf: A New Telling; Copyright: 1968
3. Genre: Legend
4. Format: Chapter Book
5. Award: A Hornbook Fanfare Best Book
6. Summary: This is a new telling of the oral tradition story of Beowulf. Like the
original, Hrothgar’s kingdom is being destroyed by the evil fiend, Grendel. Just
when it seems that Grendel is beyond defeat, Beowulf shows up to save
Hrothgar’s kingdom. Beowulf is successful in defeating not only Grendel, but
when Grendel’s mother avenges her son’s death, Beowulf kills her as well.
Beowulf becomes a king of his homeland and eventually dies battling a dragon.
A. I would like to begin this section with an explanation of the differences in style
with regard to the original epic poem and this new prose telling. Nye clearly
states that his telling is not a translation but an interpretation. As such, they are
distinct characterization differences that affect the story. In this telling, Beowulf
is able to defeat Grendel and his mother because he admits that he has a
combination of good and evil within himself. He has to fight hard (inner conflict)
to keep the “mark of Cain” from prevailing. There are several examples where
Beowulf is described this way. For example, when Beowulf speaks, it is with
“quiet strength” and Beowulf admits that the monster cannot be killed by strength
alone (21). As I read, I quickly made a connection to Harry Potter and his
connection with Voldemort; this connection gives him insight into Voldemort’s
thoughts, while reminding him that he never wants to go over to the dark side
(another connection to Darth Vader). With these connections, you could use the
book to discuss man’s battle of good and evil. You could even tie in The Garden
of Eden story or Pandora; this is a reoccurring theme that all students can see. For
upper level students, you could also tie in Stephen King’s novel The Stand. You
could use any combination of these texts to differentiate reading abilities of
B. Another strategy could be focusing on society’s need for a hero. Students could
complete a comparison of Beowulf to Odysseus, Achilles, Luke Skywalker, Harry
Potter, and other famous storybook heroes. I would use Geraldine McCaughrean’s
adaptation of The Odyssey and Padraic Colum’s The Children’s Homer: The
Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy for both Odysseus and Achilles.
You could bring in a video of Star Wars in order to use visual text to support this
task. The comparison for a younger (middle school) audience could be a visual
character diagram which analyzes the characters thoughts, feelings, words, and
C. I also think that this would be a good read aloud for an older audience; high
school students like to be read to as well as elementary. The chapters of the book
are short enough that you could do a chapter a day, keeping them interested in the
plot and wondering what will happen. You could use the chapter at the end of the
class period as an incentive to get the day’s tasks accomplished.
D. Students could write their own version of a hero’s adventures. Perhaps the class
could create a hero and each person writes a portion of the story. The students
would have to understand the qualities of the hero to accurately represent his
words, actions, and feelings. Students could also write or role play an additional
adventure for the hero from any of these texts.
E. This chapter book is also a good text for analyzing the values and beliefs of
1. Author: Retold by John Cech; Illustrated by Martin Jarrie
2. Aeosop’s Fables, 1995
3. Genre: Fable
4. Format: Picture Book
5. Award: Boston Globe/Horn Book Award
6. Summary: This is a compilation of 36 different fables. Some of these are those
most commonly known, such as “The Tortoise & the Hare,” and “The Shepherd
and the Wolf.” I will focus on “The City Mouse & the Country Mouse” because
it is one of my favorites. A city mouse visits his cousin in the country, but he
does not appreciate the simple country life. He invites the country mouse to the
city to see how great life can be. Unfortunately, the country mouse doesn’t like
the danger the city presents, even though it offers apparent delicacies. The moral
of the fable is “It’s better to eat bread and cheese in safety than to run for dear life
among delicacies” (8). Each fable has a moral stated at the end that teaches
universal truths, regardless of culture.
A. This is a good read aloud, especially with the accompanying illustrations. You
could read each fable, and discuss the message behind each fable.
B. Students could be assigned a fable to read, summarize and share with the class.
C. You could take the morals at the end of the story and have students write a story
that reinforces this message.
D. After reading the fables, students can discuss how these truths have been present
in their lives or the lives of people they know.
E. You could also bring in and compare and contrast fables from other cultures.
From these multi-cultural fables, students would learn the different values and
beliefs from different cultures. This is an important message since today’s society
is so diverse with so many different cultures.
1. Author: Lois Lowry; no illustrator
2. The Giver; 1993
3. Genre: Science Fiction
4. Format: Chapter Book
5. Award: Newberry Medal, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, An American
Library Association Best Book for Young Adults, An American Library
Association Notable Book for Children, Winner of the Regina Medal, Booklist
Editor’s Choice, and A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
6. Summary: Jonas, Lowry’s protagonist, is reaching a point in his life, his twelfth
birthday, when his community will assign him his task in the community. Jonas
is honored to be selected to be the community’s “Receiver”; the person in their
community to be the keeper of memories. During Jonas’s training period with
“The Giver,” the previous “Receiver” shares the truth about their utopian society
—much is being lost and sacrificed in the name of “sameness.” Jonas realizes
that his world is really not what he had believed and he and The Giver plan a way
for him to escape to Elsewhere and assist the community seeing all that is being
lost as they impose equality and sameness.
A. Students can compare and contrast other utopian societies, such as Fahrenheit
451 and Anthem. In all three novels, readers can clearly see that when man gives
up the privilege of choosing from himself, he opens the door for other rights and
privileges to be taken away. This understanding sets the stage for young readers
to understand the necessary part citizens must play in order be true members of a
society rather than mindless drones.
B. Students can create their version of the perfect society. Different learning styles
could be addressed here. Students could create a model of their society, a musical
score, a play, or skit. Their final representation should somehow touch on
elements such as religion, ethics, family, and government.
C. The ending of the novel is somewhat ambiguous, students can write or discuss a
possible beginning chapter of Jonas’s new life. Many students will wonder
whether Jonas dies as he hears the music and reflects on The Giver’s Christmas
memory, while others will assert that this is a promise of hope for the future.
Students can also discuss the risk Jonas and the Giver take to awaken their
community to the impact of releasing, lack of love, family, and questioning
D. Students can discuss the benefits of the advances addressed in The Giver. What is
lost when family units are established by the government, when man no longer
has a choice about a spouse, children, jobs, etc?
E. Compare Stephen Crane’s poem “Think as I think” to Lowry’s theme in The
Giver. The poem focuses on the speaker admitting that he would rather be a toad
than give us his right to think for himself. Students can create a visual or an
argument that discusses the power man has when he thinks for himself versus
what must be relinquished when man allows someone else to make day-to-day
choices for him.
1. Author: Ayn Rand; Illustrator: None
2. Title: Anthem; copyright: 1995
3. Genre: Science Fiction
4. Format: Chapter Book
5. Award: None
6. Summary: This futuristic novel begins with a re-telling of previous events. The
narrator, Equality 2525, has committed the ultimate sin; he thinks thoughts that
are different from his brothers. During his retelling the reader comes to
understand the society in which Equality lives. There are no families, no
friendships, no love; everyone is made to believe that absolute equality exists, but
the level of oppression is overwhelming and destructive to the individual. At the
age of 15 Equality is given the Life Mandate of Street Sweeper, although he
aspired to go into the Home of Scholars where he could be a part of great
scientific discoveries. Since birth Equality has felt that he is cursed; although he
has attempted to be like his brothers, even the inferior brothers, he cannot. For
that, he is punished. Equality discovers an underground tunnel and begins to
conduct illegal experiments where he learns more than he had in his previous
schooling. He meets Liberty 5-3000, a young woman much like himself, for she
defies to be tamed. Because relationships are forbidden, Equality and Liberty
must keep their feelings hidden. Equality discovers the power of nature and
creates light, a means of making life easier for his brothers. Unfortunately, in
order to keep his brothers powerless, the council casts off Equality’s invention as
evil, since he has created this on his own and without permission. His penalty is
death. Equality escapes with his light into the Forbidden Forest, discovers the
secrets of the past, the use of the word I, and decides that he will sneak back into
the city and save the brothers who are like him.
A. Compare Gabriel from The Giver to Union from Anthem. Why does each author
have these characters cry in the night?
B. Focus on characterization: Rand clearly characterizes Equality and Liberty in
such a way that the reader clearly sees, hears, and feels how they are different
from others in their society who mindless following what the councils tells them
is true. Students can pick out examples of characterization that illuminates what it
is about Equality and Liberty that make it impossible for them to continue
following their old beliefs once they discover that things are not as they appear.
C. Because The Giver and Anthem are so alike in their message, the strategies could
be the same. Anthem is written on a young adult level, while The Giver is more
appropriate for a middle school audience, so strategies would need to be modified
to address each level of learned.
D. Discuss how each of the main characters reacts when he realizes that the truth he
has been told is very different from reality. This is a good place to tie in
Fahrenheit 451. Like Equality and Jonas, Guy Montag, Bradbury’s protagonist
meets a young woman who poses the question, “Have fireman always burned
books? to make Montag begin to question.
E. The Ayn Rand foundation has a yearly essay writing contest with monetary
awards. Teachers could have students enter this contest which asks young writers
to consider Rand’s philosophy about individualism versus collectivism, a theme
from both Anthem and The Giver. Additionally, the foundation offers classroom
sets of the novel, free, for any teacher willing to teach the novel.
**The issues on page 305 of the text are good discussion points: “What could happen
if people do not strive to retain freedom of choice.” Kurt Vonnegut’s satiric short
story “Harrison Bergeron” and the movie Gattacca are good additional resources for
this issue/theme. In both, as in these two novels, the main character overcomes the
restrictions place on individuals in society.
1. Author: Kate DiCamillo; Illustrator: Timothy Basil Ering
2. Title: The Tale of Despereaux; Copyright: 2003
3. Genre: Modern Fantasy
4. Format: Chapter book
5. Awards: Newberry Medal
6. Summary: The main character, a mouse, is born under unusual circumstances; his
eyes are open, he is unusually small, and he had rather large ears. Because
Despereaux is not like his siblings, his family believes that there is something
terribly wrong with him. Despereaux develops an unusual fascination with a
princess in the castle he inhabits. Overcome by the King’s beautiful music,
Despereaux commits an unforgivable sin and sits too close to the King and allows
the Princess to pet his head. For these crimes, Despereaux is sentenced to the
dungeon where it is expected he will perish. Lucky for Despereaux, he develops a
relationship with the jailer and he is spared because of his story-telling abilities.
While Despereaux attempts to survive the dungeon, another story unfolds; it is the
story of Mig, a girl sold into servitude by her father, who is also sentenced to the
jungle. A third story interwoven into Desperaux’s focuses on an evil rat named
Roscuro who plots to kidnap the princess. Despereaux works to save her and Mig
and her father are reunited.
A. Even though The Tale of Despereaux’s protagonist is a mouse, what connections
can be made to man’s struggles through Despereaux’s experiences?
B. Although Despereaux’s father was responsible for his son’s banishment to the
dungeon, Despereaux is able to forgive him, would you be able to forgive
someone for this kind of betrayal?
C. Younger readers can draw pictures of Despereaux as a means of showing their
understanding of how his physical appears affects his ability to overcome the
obstacles placed before him.
D. How does Despereaux qualify as a hero in literature?
E. Create maps of Despereaux’s movement throughout the castle and the dungeon.
F. How should people treat others who are different? A lot of Despereaux’s
problems stem from how he seems to go against social/family expectations. It is
more important for people to be comfortable with themselves or is it important to
G. Compare and contrast Despereaux and Roscuro or compare and contrast
Despereaux and Furlough.
H. Discuss the use of the direct address to the reader. This might be a strategy to use
with an older audience. How does the use of direct address add a layer to the
story. Does this writing strategy make the story more dramatic and emotional?
I. The Tale of Despereaux is a good read aloud for all audiences. As chapters are
read aloud students can role-play specific instances where choices are made or
1. Author: Angie Sage; Illustrator: Mark Zug
2. Title: Septimus Heap; Copyright: 2006
3. Genre: Fantasy
4. Format: Chapter Book
5. Awards: New York Public Library Books for Teens Award
6. Summary: In Book II of Septimus Heap’s adventures, Septimus’s brother Simon
kidnaps their adopted sister, the future Queen. Septimus decides he must rescue
Jenna, but he finds it hard to convince others that some evil plot is taking place.
During Jenna’s kidnapping and Septimus’s rescue, a world of talking trees, Land
Wurms, and charms is revealed. Septimus successfully finds Jenna, who has
managed to escape on her own from Simon and they collectively find a way to
defeat the evil working against them.
A. This is a perfect book of which to have students track and discuss the elements of
B. Compare and contrast Simon with other fantasy antagonists (Malfoy from Harry
Potter). Even though the antagonists commit evil acts against our protagonist,
since the protagonist is a representation of good, he must overcome the temptation
to allow the dark side to prevail.
C. Discuss evil characters such as Darth Vader, Voldermort, Capricorn, and
DomDaniel. How does their characterization make them seem darker and almost
undefeatable? Students can pick out specific text to demonstrate the power of
language. Students can share and discuss other dark characters they have
experienced in other texts.
D. Students can create their own fantasy world, connecting back to strategy 1 where
they demonstrate their understanding of the elements of fantasy.
E. Students could role play some of the plot from this text. Groups or individual
students could be given “what if” scenarios to act out or what would you do
1. Author: Cornelia Funke; Illustrator: none (Translated from the German Tale by
2. Title: Inkheart; Copyright: 2003
3. Genre: Literary Folktale
4. Format: Chapter Book
5. Awards: Teens Top 10 Award
6. Summary: Meggie learns that her father has the power to read characters out of
books. Unfortunately, when a character appears from the book, a character from
the real world disappears. Mo, had been responsible for making his wife go into
the world of Inkheart, a cold calculating killer, since then Mo has refrained from
reading aloud. Mo has been on the run for many years attempting to stay ahead of
the characters of Inkheart that he brought into his world; he has yet to figure out
how to send them back and recapture his wife. These evil characters continue to
chase Mo because he has kept a copy of Inkheart in the hopes of sending them
back and recapturing his beloved wife. Mo and Meggie are kidnapped by the evil
Capricorn and Meggie discovers that she, too, has the power to read characters
out of books. During a convoluted escape and recapture, Mo is able to locate the
writer of Inkheart and he proves to be helpful in helping Maggie and Mo
overcome Capricorn while also locating their missing wife and mother.
A. Since Funke uses a quote from other fantasy selections, you could use several
strategies collectively. First, as either an introduction to the text, or an after-
reading exercise, students could make connections to the quote for a designated
chapter. For example, in chapter 17, Funke uses a quote from Fahrenheit 451 that
addresses the burning of books. Students could either research the connection to
this quote/text, or they could read the text. Time permitting, the teacher or the
media center specialist could do literature circles and have a separate group read
each of the texts discussed as chapter preludes. This reading, research, and
discussion would add multiple layers to the text.
B. I could see many of these fantasy books being on the banned book lists. Students
could discuss and write arguments about the literary value of these texts. This
would help them understand how a media specialist has to be able to justify the
inventory housed in the media center. Another strategy that would involve using
multiple fantasy texts, would be the students creating a multi-media presentation
highlights the benefits of their assigned text or they could create movie posters, or
DVD covers to entice others to read their text.
C. Like Harry Potter, Meggie has powers that she has to control. It would be easy
for her to use her power to alter her world, but she understands how that power
has an opposing dark side to it as well. As young adults mature, they come to
realize the actions have consequences, and we must like with the decisions that
we make. Choices and consequences is always a good discussion topic.
D. Students could create a visual story board to help them remember the elements of
fantasy or the main plot to review the story.
E. If you were doing literature circles, students could have a debate as to which
author has created the best fantasy; in which story is the suspension of disbelief
the strongest. In which fantasy world were they most captivated?
F. Since The Chronicles or Narnia and Harry Potter Lord of the Rings all fit so
nicely into these other fantasies, they would be added as additional resources.
Students could watch one of the films from these series while watching for the
elements of fantasy.
G. Teachers could do a whole unit on fantasy, or assign group the different genres so
that the class could be exposed to multiple genres.
**All of the books that I chose to read for this section address the quest. Students
could discuss the quest that these characters go on and how that quest changes them
as characters. Students could complete a writing assignment that has them write in a
cameo appearance of someone who offers additional help or insight in solving their
problems or the appearance of a much needed tool/item. The students would need to
be able to explain what/who they chose to add.