40 Comments

[Monday Reading] Her Stories, Mother Sky and Little Night

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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

I have also written a post about my thoughts on the Accelerated Reader Program.

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I am inviting fellow teachers, teacher educators, writers, librarians, authors, artists, parents, fellow book enthusiasts to share their own experiences and ideas about the AR program.

Does the Accelerated Reader Program help develop Lifelong Readers?

Widget courtesy of the ever-talented Iphigene.

These two beautiful picture books celebrate female strengths, legacies of love, and moonlit heavens.

IMG_9751Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales and True Tales

Written by: Virginia Hamilton Illustrated by: Leo & Diane Dillon
Published by: The Blue Sky Press: An Imprint of Scholastic, Inc. 1995.
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Virginia Hamilton describes this book to be a compilation of female narratives culled from a vast and far-reaching repository of African American folklore. Hamilton also shares her creative process of transforming what was once part of oral tradition (described as soundings of a tale) which generally differ from one retelling to the next, to a written transcript that is now ingeniously fashioned for “younger readers and their older allies.” As the author noted:

They are composed anew in my own written-down style of telling from the forms in which they were told in the past by other tellers and collectors. I have stayed as close as possible to the style of stories told in a particular region.

The book is divided into five sections in all. Her Animal Tales has four stories which include a prince turning into a fish in Marie and Redfish and a mean old tiger who turned himself into a young man to give the vainglorious Lena a lesson in Lena and Big One Tiger.

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Her Fairy Tales include African-American retellings of Cinderella in the strange tale of Catskinella

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There is also a story of faeries as could be seen in Mom Bett and the Little Ones A-Glowing.

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What is particularly interesting about this book is that it also comes with an author commentary after each story. In the story above, Hamilton related that “tales of fairies are few and mostly fragmentary in black folklore.” Even this tale is said to be lacking in evidence. What is usually more common in African American stories would be Her Supernatural where Hamilton shared stories of boo hags, and little devils.

In the section Her Folkways and Legends, I was intrigued by the portrayal of The Mer-Woman out of the Sea

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and a female John Lester in the presence of Annie Christmas, also believed to be legendary and “larger than life.”

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Her True Tales is a celebration of real-life narratives of African American women who have left an indelible mark in history through their wisdom, courageous spirit, and womanity. The lyrical text of Hamilton is matched by portrait-like paintings of the Dillons in a no-frill golden-brown frame. This is such a gorgeous book, well-researched, beautifully illustrated, and with the linguistic nuances captured perfectly. Such a treasure.

Little NightIMG_9680

Written and Illustrated By: Yuyi Morales 
Published by: A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Book Press, 2007
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This is a book that has made me gasp aloud in all its dark beauty. The expansive nature of a mother’s love and a little child’s gleeful mischief have been painted in shades of pink amidst a blue-violet-starry-night background echoing with clouds of sheer joy.

What is amazing about this book is how everyday things between Mother Sky and Little Night have been carefully narrated with a poetic eye and a taste for exquisite grandeur that simply knows no boundaries. This is a book that fills the senses. Even Little Night’s bath tub is filled with falling stars:

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Little Night’s sparkling white dress is crocheted from clouds, her tiny hairpins plucked from the stars, and a moon ball tossed high into the air to play with. Mother Sky was ever patient as Little Night would mischievously hide from her, in a never-ending play of peekaboo that begins with “Where could my little night be?” and ends with “I found you, I found my Little Night.”

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The images show the tenderness in which Mother Sky attends to radiant Little Night, the comfort in each towel spread and face scrub, and the gentle hum of mother’s cooking. And while Little Night hides in little nooks and crannies, Mother Sky’s love is ever-present and reaches into hidden corners of the earth to always hold Little Night in Mother Sky’s adoring gaze. Yuyi Morales has captured something otherworldly in this book, and it shall live and breathe on in these pages.

For those who wish to know more about Yuyi Morales and her creative process in crafting this gorgeous book, here is a downloadable pdf file from teachingbooks.net which contains an in-depth interview with the author-illustrator not only about Little Night but her other published picture books as well.

Currently Reading…

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This is the book that I need to be reading for our adult book club (Saturday Night Out for Book-Geeks). I’ve read the first few chapters – it’s slow going for me, it has quite a distinctive voice, there’s a sense of build-up, but I haven’t gotten to where the narrator is supposedly taking me yet.

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Her Stories: Coretta Scott King Award Winner, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Children, Storytelling World Award

Little Night: 2008 ALA Notable Children’s Book

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 55, 56 (35)

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Read-a-Latte Challenge Update:  246, 247 (150)

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40 comments on “[Monday Reading] Her Stories, Mother Sky and Little Night

  1. Beautiful books! So glad you joined in on the meme!

  2. I enjoyed When You Reach Me. I stayed up all night reading it. But I don’t mean to hype it up since it didn’t even make my favorites list!

  3. I forgot that When You Reach Me was a slow start, but it really did wow me later, Myra! Love your other two books. The Hamilton book seems so familiar, like that mer-woman, maybe I’ve seen it sometime or other. Little Night is one I’ll look for! Thank you!

  4. Those are gorgeous images, thanks for sharing them :)

  5. Oh, how I love When You Reach Me. Such a great book, give it time, I don’t remember it starting slowly, but I do remember loving it. It’s amazing by the time you get to the end. I actually need to think about adding that to my rereading in April (I always reread in April). Journey is beautiful…and lots of people are picking it for Caldecott but I’m holding out for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. :)

    • Hi Jen. I haven’t read Mr Tiger Goes Wild yet, it does sound like a contender! :) Will let you know how I find When You Reach Me once I’m finished with it. I’m one-third done with the book, I think. :)

  6. I’m only familiar with AR in passing, but your post is very interesting.

  7. Thank you for an interesting post.

  8. Ah, JOURNEY will always have my heart. It’s an amazing, magical book *sigh*

    Still waiting to get THE BOY AND THE MOON from the library. Looking forward to it!

    And I read WHEN YOU REACH ME when it won the Newbery. I loved it! I hope you do, too! :D

    • Hi Donna, I’m glad to hear that you borrowed the boy and the moon, haven’t read that one yet myself, but I’m sure it’s beautiful from Fats’ review. Good to know you enjoyed When You Reach Me. It makes a lot of reference to one of my favourite books of all time, A Wrinkle in Time. :)

      • It’s funny, but years ago I caught a bit of the “A Wrinkle in Time” movie on (I think) HBO and I hated what I saw, so I never read the book! Just recently I finally gave into buying the paperback, but have yet to read it. Too many books vying for my attention! lol

  9. Catskinella sounds like an intriguing version of Cinderella. I love the colors and overall vibe of the book.

    Take a look at what I’m reading this week.

  10. The illustrations in the books you shared are stunning! I was not a huge fan of When You Reach Me, and it won the Newbery! Oh well. Happy reading this week!

  11. When you reach me is really good, it took me a while to get into it, though.
    And I really like those illustrations.

  12. Hope you enjoy When you reach me, took me two reads to really enjoy it…

    • Hmmm…surprised to hear a couple of you gals not being crazy about WHEN YOU REACH ME. I actually liked it straight off! lol

      • Hi Donna, I like that the setting is in New York, and there is that latchkey-kid feel to the entire narrative. The voice also sounds authentic. And there is a great deal of build up, but slow-moving to that place where the narrator is taking the reader. I think I’d be getting to it soon though.

        • Yes, I agree. I guess I didn’t feel it was too slow ’cause I liked the MC right away—certainly her humor. Also, it was reminiscent of when I was actually a kid (yes, I’m that old lol). I know I thoroughly enjoyed the way it played out, and expect I’ll read LIAR AND SPY at some point to :)

    • Thanks for sharing this Debbie. I think I’d have to settle on just one reading with this one. We shall see how it goes.

  13. Like you, I needed to stick with”When You Reach Me” to truly get into it. Thanks for suggesting Her Stories, Myra. That’s one I simply must have!

  14. I loved When You Reach Me, but like Linda, I had forgotten it was a slow start! I think I liked Liar & Spy even more, though. Yuyi Morales is one of my favorite illustrators. Have you read her newest book, Nino Wrestles the World? Loved it so much!

    • Hi Elisabeth, I’ve been seeing a lot of Niño Wrestles the World but haven’t read it yet. I’m excited to find it in our libraries. Haven’t read Liar & Spy yet. My reading another Stead novel is contingent on whether I enjoy this one.

  15. The first book looks good. I like the ideas! :)

  16. I enjoyed When You Reach Me but found it a challenging book for my students for Lit. circles – I think it was hard for them to get “into” the book. Little Night looks beautiful – the illustrations remind me of Lynn Plourde’s book Wild Child. Thanks for your post!

    • Hi Adrienne, I think a lot of it depends on how much time they’re given for the Lit Circles – it is a book that requires commitment. PLUS If the kids have not read A Wrinkle In Time, I doubt if they’d really get to appreciate the allusions to that novel, they would be lost.

  17. Her Stories looks wonderful. I would love to add that to my Traditional Literature collection! Thanks for sharing, it’s so nice to see the inside illustrations too :) Have a wonderful reading week. And hopefully When You Reach Me goes well. At the ending I thought: Oh man, what just happened! But in a good way!

  18. What a great week.

    The illustrations are FABULOUS!!

    Have a good week this week too…thanks for sharing.

    Elizabeth
    Silver’s Reviews
    My It’s Monday, What Are You Reading

  19. I have really loved the Yuyi Morales books that I have read. I need to find this one too. Thanks for highlighting it!

  20. SO MANY BOOKS! and now i need to find the time to read them all..
    When You Reach Me needs to be on my list soon..
    here is mine http://myrandrspace.blogspot.com/2013/12/magic-monday-misplaced-words-missing.html

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