Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith, Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers, and Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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One of the assignments during my Spring Children’s Literature course at UCF was creating a mini-teaching guide for the books we read for book clubs. We started with picture books for practice then students created them in their book clubs each week. The course was structured by genre as were the book clubs.

Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students about fantasy novels.

Dragons in a Bag
Author: Zetta Elliott
Published October 23rd, 2018 by Random House

Summary: Jax is left by his mom to an old lady by the name of Ma. Jax later finds out that Ma is a witch who has 3 dragon eggs that hatched. They need to return the eggs because they won’t survive in the regular world due to lack of magic. They go to portals through time that takes them to the time of dinosaurs. Along the way, Jax meets his grandfather who also knows magic, and has him return two of the dragons to the magic council but accidentally left one left behind so he returns to the regular world. He forces his mom and the witch to hash out their problems.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When using fantasy in the classroom it is always a good way to spark your students’ creativity. This source could be used as a creative writing prompt to boost off their creativity of the story: Conduct an activity based upon the book like have them write a short story about what they would do if they were in Jax’s shoes and have them draw pictures of dragons, name them, and design the dragons how they would like them to be pictured.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Jax’s first impression of Ma?
  • How do you think Jax will return the last dragon to the magic council?
  • Who do agree with and why? Ma who wants to keep the world of magic separate or L. Roy who wants magic to come back to earth.
  • Why do you think Jax decided to open the window for the squirrel?
  • What were 2 things the dragons were not allowed to have?
  • When you first hear the word apprentice what comes to mind?  Did you have the same thinking as Jax?
  • How does the story tie in with real-life scenarios with the fantasy?
  • Who are the most influential character apart from Jax?
  • When do we see the change of events come in play throughout the story?
  • When reading the book your imagination goes wild,in what other circumstances does your mind go other places when reading this story?

Recommended For: 

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The Magnificent Makers: How to Test Friendship
Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19th, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books

Summary: Pablo, Violet and Deepak are three friends who get sucked into a telescope and must play science games to come back and play again. Deepak is the new kid who makes Pablo jealous with his presence. Throughout the book, the team works together and build their friendship to complete the games.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book could be used as a classroom read-aloud over the course of a few days or a week.  Due to the science elements, this book would be a good way to start off science discussions in the classroom. For example, the second chapter includes the students learning about food chains. This book is perfect to make connections back to science.

Discussion Questions: 

  •   Why do you think Pablo was jealous of Deepak?
  •   What were some of the challenges they had and what did they have to do?
  •   Why do you think Pablo, Violet, and Deepak were chosen for the Maker’s Maze?
  •    What do you know about producers, consumers, decomposers, and scavengers?
  • What were your favorite aspects of science that you learned from the book?
  • What type of emotion did the characters experience in the book?
  • When Deepak arrived to class, what did Pablo notice about him?
  • How does Pablo overcome is jealous toward Deepak?
  • Toward the end of the book why did they relate their friendship to the ecosystems?

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Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published April 22nd, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Polly Diamond is a little girl who receives a magic book that lets her bring to life the things that she writes and draws. She has a little sister who she doesn’t like very much and a brother on the way. Polly loves to write, she writes lists and stories and anything that she thinks is worth writing. When she starts writing in her magic book she realizes that the book can talk back to her. She writes to her book and comes up with lists and stories to write. She realizes that whatever she writes in the book comes to life when she writes about making a ladder to paint her room and the books on the floor magically move to make a ladder. The book tells her that is what she’s for and Polly quickly learns she can do anything she writes. She makes herself invisible and her sister into a banana. But she realizes that the book is taking everything she says literally. When she writes about eating a club sandwich the book gives her two slices of bread with a bat in between because it took the definition of a club literally. She told the house to fix up the carpet and turn her room into an aquarium. But the carpet was on the ceiling and fish were swimming around her room. She then realizes that everything she wrote was crazy and tries to put the house back to normal because she can’t even recognize it anymore. She fixes it just in time for her parents to come home with her new baby brother. At the end of the story she gives the book a name, Spell. And looks forward to writing and drawing another day with her new book, and friend Spell.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Polly uses and explains words like metaphor, affixes, alliteration, and hyperbole.  This is a great opportunity to talk about these definitions, make lists of words and phrases that relate to these words, and do activities where the students use metaphors, alliteration, homophones, homonyms etc.  It seems like a useful book to have in a first grade classroom and use with a higher level reading small group or a second grade class.    It could also be used as a read aloud, again discussing the key words and their meanings, then practicing using those skills.  There is a lot of use of imagery in this book as well as understanding literal meaning and how words matter.

After reading the text, students can respond to the story by engaging in a free write activity after they finish the reading. As a teacher, we could set a timer for five minutes and ask the students to write continuously about their thoughts on the book, good or bad, and afterwards, go over it as a small group.

Discussion Questions:

  • Polly had many favorite words throughout the book, what are some of your favorite words and why?
  • Make a list of activities you would do to have a Super-Fantastic-Day.
  • In the book, Polly writes down what her dream bedroom would look like. If you could have your dream bedroom, what would it look like?
  • When Polly writes in the magic book, she learns that she needs to write clearly and use as much detail as possible. What are some important rules to follow when writing so people can understand your message clearly?
  • When Polly is playing hide-and-seek, why does she become invisible?
  • Imagine the turquoise notebook has changed your house like Polly’s. Please write a short story explaining what your home looks like in order to get it back to normal.
  • How does Polly feel having to share a room with her little sister when her brother is born?
  • If you had a magic notebook that could bring three things you wrote about to life, what 3 things would you write or draw and why?
  • Polly loves words with double letters like “Dizzy.” List 5 words you can think of that have double letters.
  • Polly loves alliteration.  That’s when  two or more words in a row begin with the same letter.  What alliterations can you think of?

Recommended For: 

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Sisters of the Neversea
Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Published June 1st, 2021 by Heartdrum

Summary: This book is a tale about three children, Lily, Wendy, and Michael. Their parents, Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene Roberts-Darling are separating, splitting the family between two different locations.  The night before Wendy and Mr. Darling are supposed to leave, the children are visited by a boy named Peter Pan and Belle. Stories of pirates and merfolk persuade the children to follow Peter Pan and Belle off to a mystical land called Neverland.  Upon arriving the children are separated and discover once you arrive you can never leave.  The children meet merfolk, pirates, native children, the lost, and fairies in a desperate attempt to figure out how to get home.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be great for a read aloud, book club, or close reading because it involves a lot of higher level vocabulary than some students may currently be reading at and it has long sentences and dialogue which again, some children could struggle with. These classroom uses would allow for discussions.

Geography could also be tied in because students could illustrate and demonstrate caves and waterways the Merfolk might have dwelled in. They also could show their knowledge of what an island like Neverland might have, and include what trees they think the lost boys were living in.

And, of course, it could be looked at versus Peter Pan as it is a retelling.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
  • If you were to create a different ending, How would it go?
  • Why do you think Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene wanted to separate?
  • What was your favorite part of the book?
  • What were some challenges that the children had to face or overcome?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan and Belle appeared?
  • Why do you think it was hard for the lost boys to remember who they are?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan never wanted to grow up?
  • Why do you think Belle brought Peter Pan to the island?
  • Why do you think the crocodile made a TikTok sound?
  • Does this book remind you of any other children’s stories?  If so why?

Recommended For: 

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Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings! by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Dan Santat

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Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings!
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published

Summary: This funny, original choose-your-path picture book of fractured fairy tales will charm any young fan of the genre, putting the power of storytelling right in the reader’s hands!

Grab your basket and your coat. Put on some walking shoes.
Turn the page and begin: Which story will you choose?

Award-winning creators Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat transform a crowd of classic tales into an ever-changing, fascinating, laugh-out-loud choose-your-path picture book, in which you may find a sleeping maiden, waste away in a sticky licorice cage, discover the gold at the end of a wild goose chase, or maybe (just maybe) save yourself―and the day!

GIVES YOUNG READERS THE POWER OF CHOICE: Where do you want to take the story next? Choice and autonomy are essential concepts for children to learn at a young age, and this choose-your-path picture book puts the decision-making power right in their hands.

FUNNY TWISTS ON CLASSIC FAIRY TALES: “The Three Little Pigs,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and more—characters and settings from these classic fairy tales take on hilarious new life in a brand-new story, just right for the youngest fairy tale fans.

TEACHES STORYTELLING BY EXAMPLE: This playful picture book offers young readers the chance to build their own narratives out of the decisions they make each step of the way, powerfully illustrating how a story is created and how it proceeds from beginning to middle to end. Both a teaching tool and an exciting adventure in its own right, this book is a great resource for learning storytelling.

FABULOUS AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR TEAM: Laurel Snyder is the author of the Geisel Award–winning Charlie & Mouse early chapter book series. Her books have earned numerous starred reviews and Best Book designations, and her middle grade novel Orphan Island was longlisted for the National Book Award. Acclaimed artist Dan Santat has illustrated over 50 books for children, earning a Caldecott Medal for his picture book The Adventures of Beekle and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Drawn Together.

Perfect for:

  • Teachers and librarians
  • Lovers of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings
  • Readers who enjoy choose-your-path stories
  • Parents and caregivers seeking a story that will continue to surprise and delight, even after the 100th time through
  • Gift-givers looking for a beautiful present that can be read again and again
  • Anyone who appreciates clever, hilarious takes on classic fairy tales

Praise:

“Invoking myriad fairy tale scenarios throughout a cascading choose-one’s-path format, Snyder (the Charlie and Mouse series) builds a fairy story with logic gates. . . . Santat (The Aquanaut) romps lushly through this fairy tale universe, giving the folklore mainstays . . . an exaggerated, kinetic quality. . . . Readers accustomed to video game–style endings won’t be bothered by Rosie’s many demises; turning the page resumes the action and leads to more choices, and employing frenetic action right through to the end—er, ends.”
Publishers Weekly

“Grab your favorite outerwear (cozy coat or riding hood?) and your sense of adventure because Snyder and Santat have created a fun-filled fairy-tale mashup that puts kids in the driver’s seat. . . . [Endlessly Ever After’s] interactive nature, large trim size, and bold, full-bleed illustrations make it an excellent candidate for group sharing. There is also a fractured-fairy tale aspect to the stories featured, which ensures there are surprises around every corner. A highly entertaining read, full of possibilities.”
Booklist Reviews

“Multiple reader options give the woodsy road to Grandma’s house any number of surprise twists and diversions. . . . Some choices are hard but not this one: Pick it up!”
Kirkus Reviews

“[G]et comfortable; kids will insist on multiple readings . . . The humorously grim text is well matched with amusing illustrations that keep even the darker story elements lighthearted . . . Both text and art are endlessly clever.”
The Horn Book Magazine

About the Creators: 

Laurel Snyder is the author of many children’s books, including Swan, Hungry Jim, and Charlie & Mouse, which won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. A graduate of the Iowa Writers? Workshop, Laurel teaches creative writing at Hamline University and lives with her family in Atlanta, GA.

Dan Santat is a Caldecott-Medal-winning author-illustrator of many children’s books. An honors graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, in Pasadena, he is also the creator of the Disney animated hit The Replacements. Dan lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, and various pets.

Review: Jim and I were just telling Trent about Choose Your Own Adventure books when this arrived, so I was very excited to see this book arrive, and it does not disappoint. If anything, it blew my description of the original series out of the water because of its cleverness, humor, suspense, fairy tale fracturing, and brilliant illustrations.

Snyder and Santat were the perfect team for this book! Snyder’s writing is lyrical and has amazing rhythm which makes the book a delight to read aloud. She also adds perfect twists to well known stories, giving them a new life! I was always so impressed at an author who can craft a book with multiple paths because the actual text structure must be so complicated, and there is no room for flaws; Snyder shows that she has the chops for this! Santat’s art brings it to life through modernized illustrations of our favorite fairy tale characters as well as some new characters, and as always his art is brilliantly crafted and just so much fun to look at!

All in all, a must pick up for any person who reads aloud to students–these 85 pages of adventure will reel them in!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to some reading analyses that will work perfectly with the text (prediction, cause/effect relationships, etc.), I would also love to see students work to create their own choose your own adventure stories. It gives them a chance to problem solve how to structure the story in addition to write the story. Chronicle’s activity kit has a great start for this activity.

Activity Kit: 

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Endlessly Ever After compare to the original fairy tales?
  • What other fairy tale would you have liked to see get twisted in?
  • Were there any indications of the effects of your decisions before you chose what Rosie should do?
  • Before choosing the next page, predict what you think is going to happen.
  • How did the choice of illustrator add to the experience of reading the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Choose Your Own Adventure books, Fractured Fairy Tales

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**Thank you to Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!!**

Author Guest Post: “There’s No Wrong Way” by Adam Lehrhaupt, Author of There Was a Hole

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“There’s No Wrong Way”

At it’s heart, There Was a Hole is a book about loss and helping readers learn a way to manage the complex emotions that come with it. These emotions can be BIG, scary, uncontrollable, and even unwanted. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And it definitely doesn’t mean they should be ignored.

Everyone experiences loss in their lives. Even children’s book authors. Several years ago, I went through my own time of loss. As an author, my natural inclination in times like that is to look for books that deal with what I’m experiencing. Unfortunately, sometimes you just can’t find a book that lines up. When that happens, a good author takes matters in their own hands. They ask themselves; can I write a story that acknowledges the feelings I have. That shows they are valid, normal feelings everyone has? And most importantly, that there are things you can do to help yourself feel better?

It turns out that you don’t have to be a children’s book author to do this. Anyone can write a story for themselves. And the cool thing about writing for yourself, is that YOU get to choose what you write about. My path to writing this book is a long and winding one, but I’m going to lay out a few things that should help you write your own. Hopefully, writing your own story about loss, or fear, or whatever, helps you better understand how you are feeling and might even start you down the path of recovery.

First, and most important, there’s NO WRONG WAY to write a story for yourself. Writing the story doesn’t commit you to letting anyone read it. Remember, this exercise is for you and you alone. When, and to whom, you show your work is completely at your discretion. That said, here’s the steps I take when writing for myself.

  1. Come up with a great character name.
    We’re going to put this character through the ringer. It’s probably best not to give them your name. you don’t want to run yourself through the events we’re going to plan below. Pick a different name. Something cool. Something unique. Something fun to write about. Maybe Cleo, or Duke, or Ephemeralia. Any name you want.
  2. Decide what the big event should be.
    The main plot of our story will hinge on what this event is. It should be something extremely important to our main character. The bigger the event is to them the better. Maybe Cleo is a skiing champion who moves to a town with no snow. Or Duke’s pet gerbil passes away. Perhaps Ephemeralia has to start at a new school…with none of her best friends. These might not be huge issues to me, or even you, but they are MASSIVE for Cleo, Duke and Ephemeralia.
  3. Pick three bad things that our main character can do in response to this event.
    This is where the fun begins. What terrible, horrible actions can our main character take because of what happened to them? Do they yell? Do they scream? Are they scared to meet new people? Can they break something accidentally? Pick something you think might be scary, or would get you into A LOT of trouble. Once you have three, or more, put them in order from least bad, to most horrible.
  4. Think of something our character can do to atone for their actions.
    Sure, we’re talking about causing all kinds of trouble, but that doesn’t mean our character can get away with their behavior. In fact, until they acknowledge their actions, they will never be able to recover from the effects of the original event. So, how do they overcome, or at least address, the mess they’ve become making? They don’t need to make everything better, but it would help if they start down the path.
  5. Find a good place to sit and start writing.
    Now’s the moment we’ve been waiting for…writing. Don’t worry about making it perfect, or even good. Just get words down on paper. There’s plenty of time to revise and edit later. If that’s what you want. Remember, this is a story just for us. The key thing is to get it out. To write it. Once that’s done, you’ll already be on the path to recovery. The next steps are up to you.

Published March 15th, 2022 by Sleeping Bear Press

About the Book: Lily has a hole. It eats her joy, makes her angry, and–no matter what Daddy does to try to help–it just keeps growing. So Lily retreats. But a friend lets her in on a secret (he has a hole too!) and shows her the best way to repair holes: spend time on friends, family, the things you love, yourself, and kindness. Those patches don’t make the hole go away, but they help. A lyrical and age-appropriate story for learning to cope with grief and loss.

About the Author: Adam Lehrhaupt is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for children, including Warning: Do Not Open This Book!Chicken in SpaceI Will Not Eat YouWordplayThis is a Good Story, and Sloth Went. He has traveled to six continents, performed on Broadway, and lived on a communal farm. He currently lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, with his wife and two sons. Follow Adam on Twitter and Instagram @Lehrhaupt, Facebook @adamlehrhaupt, and at adamlehrhaupt.com

Thank you, Adam, for this great guidance for writers!

Educators’ Guide for Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers: A Story Inspired by Loujain Alhathloul by Lina AlHathloul & Uma Mishra-Newbery, Illustrated by Rebecca Green

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Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers
Authors: Lina AlHathloul & Uma Mishra-Newbery
Illustrator: Rebecca Green
Published: February 8, 2022 by Astra Publishing

Summary: A courageous girl follows her dream of learning to fly in this beautifully illustrated story inspired by imprisoned human rights activist Loujain AlHathloul.

Loujain watches her beloved baba attach his feather wings and fly each morning, but her own dreams of flying face a big obstacle: only boys, not girls, are allowed to fly in her country. Yet despite the taunts of her classmates, she is determined that some day, she too will learn to do it–especially because Loujain loves colors, and only by flying will she be able to see the color-filled field of sunflowers her baba has told her about. Eventually, he agrees to teach her, and Loujain’s impossible dream becomes reality–inspiring other girls to dare to learn to fly. Inspired by co-author Lina al-Hathloul’s sister, formerly imprisoned Saudi women’s rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Loujain al-Hathloul, who led the successful campaign to lift Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving. This gorgeously illustrated story is lyrical and moving.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I co-created for Astra Publishing for Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers on Astra Publishing’s page.

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Wave by Diana Farid, Illustrated by Kris Goto

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Wave
Author: Diana Farid
Illustrator: Kris Goto
Published March 29th, 2022 by Cameron Kids

Summary: A coming-of-age novel in verse set in 1980s Southern California, about a Persian American girl who rides the waves, falls, and finds her way back to the shore.

Thirteen-year-old Ava loves to surf and to sing. Singing and reading Rumi poems settle her mild OCD, and catching waves with her best friend, Phoenix, lets her fit in—her olive skin looks tan, not foreign. But then Ava has to spend the summer before ninth grade volunteering at the hospital, to follow in her single mother’s footsteps to become a doctor. And when Phoenix’s past lymphoma surges back, not even surfing, singing, or poetry can keep them afloat, threatening Ava’s hold on the one place and the one person that make her feel like she belongs. With ocean-like rhythm and lyricism, Wave is about a girl who rides the waves, tumbles, and finds her way back to the shore.

Praise: 

“Processing her feelings through music empowers Ava and gives her a new understanding of home and the connections she shares with others. Raw and powerful, this free verse novel honestly explores issues of identity, culture, grief, and hope… Rich, layered, and heart-rending.”―Kirkus Reviews

“Farid’s poetry rides the page like a wave, charting the ups and downs of Ava’s emotions. . .The verse format makes this text extremely accessible, and readers will be delighted to find elements of Ava’s Persian heritage and 1980s childhood also woven throughout.” ―School Library Journal

“Farid brings her expertise as an MD to Ava’s story, simplifying the complexity of lymphoma while packing an emotional punch with the musical references that Ava uses to cope.” ―Booklist

About the Creators: 

Diana Farid is the author of When You Breathe, published by Cameron Kids. She is a poet and a physician at Stanford University. She lives in the Bay Area.

Honolulu-based fine artist Kris Goto was born in Japan. She spent most of her adolescence in Hong Kong and New Zealand, where she became inspired by the outside world and a passion for manga.

Review: This book is actually hard for me to write about because it is just so beautiful in all the right ways. It is full of so many emotions, beautiful writing, important topics, characterization, and 80s references. The author’s inclusion of such a specific setting and pop culture references could have easily turned off a reader, but Farid seamlessly blends it into Ava’s story to where it is all part of one amazing package. A package that includes a lot but that is because a 14 year old Persian girl growing up in California would have dealt with a lot: identity, self-love vs. loathing, immigrant experience, expectations, friendship, hobbies, school, racism, family… and on top of that Ava has Phoenix’s and (my favorite character) Room 509’s health to think about, her own broken leg, surfing, music, and a single parent. Add to all of this plot poetry that is robust in its rhythm and variety in a way that makes reading the book an experience, a wonderful reading experience.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to all of the reading discussion that can happen with this book, it is also a wonderful poetry writing mentor text. Each poem has its own format, personality, mood, tone, etc. so students have so many choices about which they would want to be inspired by. Goto’s illustrations show how art can add to poems as well, so students could create their own drawings to accompany their poems. Also, with the inclusion of music, students could turn their poems into songs.

Students could also make their own mix tapes for different characters in the book using Ava’s and Phoenix’s as examples. Students could then explain why they chose the songs they did for the characters.

The inclusion of Rumi’s poetry could also lead to a poetry study of his poetry which could include historical instruction as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the author format __[poem]__ the way she did?
  • How did music influence Ava’s time during this point in her life?
  • How do you think Ava’s summer would have been different if she hadn’t broken her leg?
  • How did Phoenix and Ava’s friendship change over time? What caused their friendship to evolve?
  • Why does Ava blow up at Phoenix and Naz at the beach?
  • How does Room 509 play a part in Ava’s summer? What do you think the purpose of this character is?
  • How did Ava’s mother’s decision to leave Iran to go to medical school transform her life?
  • Farid included instances of racism in the book. Why is it important that she includes these? What does it show us about our country?
  • Do you believe Ava has OCD? What parts in the story show you this?
  • How does Ava both embrace her Persian culture but also resent the pressure it holds?
  • The author included Farsi throughout the book. Why is this translanguaging important to include when telling Ava’s story.
  • Find an example of when Farid captured the rhythm of the ocean in her poetry.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar, Starfish by Lisa Fipps, Benbee and the Teacher Griefer by KA Holt, Open Mic edited by Mitali Perkins

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review**

Gender Swapped Fairy Tales by Karrie Fransman & Jonathan Plackett

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Gender Swapped Fairy Tales
Creators: Karrie Fransman & Jonathan Plackett
Published October 19, 2021 by Faber & Faber

Summary: Discover a collection of fairy tales unlike the ones you’ve read before . . .

Once upon a time, in the middle of winter, a King sat at a window and sewed. As he sewed and gazed out onto the landscape, he pricked his finger with the needle, and three drops of blood fell onto the snow outside.

People have been telling fairy tales to their children for hundreds of years. And for almost as long, people have been rewriting those fairy tales – to help their children imagine a world where they are the heroes. Karrie and Jon were reading their child these stories when they hit upon a dilemma, something previous versions of these stories were missing, and so they decided to make one vital change . . .

They haven’t rewritten the stories in this book. They haven’t reimagined endings, or reinvented characters. What they have done is switch all the genders.

It might not sound like that much of a change, but you’ll be dazzled by the world this swap creates – and amazed by the new characters you’re about to discover.

Hear from the Creators: 

Review: This one does some really wonderful things. I love how it pushes the reader to reexamine assumptions we have around the social construct of gender. The author of an article in The Guardian about the book said it best about what truly made this book for me:

Plainly, the core audience is the malleable young mind, a child at the age of such innocence that they haven’t yet internalised the gender prejudice all around them, and who will head into the world thinking of women as adventurers and men as very much in touch with their emotions. But more fascinating – particularly if your children are too old and cynical for such an enterprise – is to read it yourself for what jars, what surprises, what seems implausible, what repels.

While in life I have no problem with a female chief executive, for some reason I can’t get my head around a lady miller. Dads who cook? Sure, I had one of those myself. Yet when “One day [Little Red Riding Hood’s] father, having made some custards, said to him …” I couldn’t even concentrate on the instruction (which is “take these to your grandfather”, obviously) for the din of my interior monologue, saying: “DADS DON’T COOK CUSTARD”.

The obvious and persistent bias – and I wonder whether, also, the most life-defining – is the beauty standard, the fact that a woman is judged by her appearance in a way a man is not, that her ugliness or beauty both inform the world’s view of her and become the whole of her, excluding all other traits. It’s revealed in a fact as simple as “beauty” functioning as a noun where “handsome” does not. How could a handsome man contract into “a handsome”? How would we know how daring he also was? “The Sleeping Handsome in the Wood”, “Handsome and the Beast”, all ram home, with a light, rueful humour, the timeless message to a woman in fiction: be beautiful, or be evil, or go home.

Also, I do want to note that the authors do a great job in their introduction explaining how they wanted to swap the “two dominant gender constructs to disrupt the binary” and that there is definitely a multitude of genders and that their book is not disputing that.

My one downfall for the book is that even though the authors tried really hard to make this as mathematical as possible and with no bias on their part, it still shown through in some ways: why does Rapunzel have to have a long beard instead of long hair? Why does the big bad wolf have on lipstick and heels just because she’s female? I would have loved to see gender norms pushed even more.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What a fun classroom experience this book would be! Students can take their favorite traditional literature and gender swap it to see how it changes assumptions.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did changing the gendering words in the book push your thinking while reading?
  • What stereotypes were pushed in the book just by switching the words?
  • How did the illustrations add to the story?
  • Do you think the authors should have changed other aspects of the stories as well?
  • What purpose did the authors hope to meet by changing these stories in this way?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Fairy Tales

Recommended For: 

 

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**Thank you to Katie Halata for providing a copy for review!**

Author Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s Visit to Kellee’s School

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Having authors visit my school will NEVER get old! It is such an amazing experience for my students (and me)!

For Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s visit, she was at our school for half a day (we were splitting with another middle school), but we were able to fit in 2 presentations and book signings during this time.

The first presentation was to our two-way dual language students, and Christina gave the presentation completely in Spanish! It was awesome to support the magnet program and literacy! For this presentation, she talked a bit more about Red Umbrella because my Spanish Honors teacher plans to teach the book.

The second presentation was to our Student Literacy Leaders, 7th grade Latinos in Action, Lunch Book Club members, and several students who signed up to fill in the last of the 75 available spots. This presentation was focused on promoting her newest book, Concealed, which we were able to give a copy to each student who attended! After the presentation, Christina signed each students book and chatted with each student.

It was a whirlwind of an visit, but it was wonderful! I highly recommend Christina Diaz Gonzalez for visits–she was engaging, interesting, and the students loved her! I asked my Student Literacy Leaders to reflect on the visit, and here are some of their responses:

  • I really liked the author and she seemed like a great person and learning about her secret dream of being an author and her becoming one was honestly really inspirational.
  • It was very inspirational! I also loved how passionate she seemed about writing and reading books.
  • My favorite part was when she was talking about her idea process and how she got the idea for Concealed.
  • I learned that being an author doesn’t mean you need to have your whole book planned out from chapter to chapter, as long as you have a start and finish, you could write a book.
  • I learned that anyone can be an author if they enjoy it.
  • The visit was important to me because I love meeting an author and seeing what they are like outside of what is written in their books.
  • The visit was important because she was a Latina author, and I haven’t met that many female authors of color.
  • The visit was important to me because it was a new experience for me when it comes to visiting authors and getting a little sneak peek of their life. I enjoyed every second of it and getting a signed book for free just seemed like a huge honor.
  • It was important because it was my first time meeting an author!
  • The visit was important to me because it gave me (alongside others) a chance to take things in from an author’s perspective; it really was refreshing to hear and gain a sense of.
  • I learned that even if there’s no motivation left is to always push through the matter/problem.

Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s Books

Concealed
Concealed

The Red Umbrella
The Red Umbrella

Moving Target (Moving Targe... Return Fire (Moving Target,...
Moving TargetReturn Fire

A Thunderous Whisper
A Thunderous Whisper

Stormspeaker (Spirit Animal...
Stormspeaker

Hope Nation: YA Authors Sha...
Hope Nation

Thank you so much, Christina, for this wonderful visit!

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