Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie and Folklore in the Literature of Childhood


Our children are growing up without their birthright: the myths, fairy tales, fantasies and folklore that are their proper legacy.

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Our children are growing up without their birthright: the myths, fairy tales, fantasies and folklore that are their proper legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
The magic in the title refers to the magic of myth and folk and fairy tales. Author Jane Yolen urges us all to touch that magic and pass it on. Pass it on to children in the younger generation who aren't learning the classic tales, those legends that do more than simply amuse and entertain. Ms. Yolen calls them the birthright of children and that to do without them is to "lose humanity's past and to have no star map for our future." Touch Magic, a book of essays advocating the protection and preservation of traditional folk and fairy tales, was originally published in 1981. This new edition includes six additional essays. It is a book to be read slowly, savored, pondered. Phrases cry out to be underlined. Margins are generous enough to allow the reader to star passages and make brief notes, because it is a book that once read, will be returned to. Ms. Yolen, who has been called "the Hans Christian Andersen of America," has written more than 200 books for children, young adults and adults. Her books reflect her love of myth and legend. 2000 (orig. 1981), August House Publishers, $11.95. Ages Adult. Reviewer: Janet Crane Barley AGES: Adult
Library Journal
This revision of a classic collection of historical and analytical essays explores the use of fantasy and fairytales in children's literature. The compilation of 16 perceptive essays includes six new entries and updates others from the original 1981 publication. Yolen, winner of the National Book Award and the Caldecott Medal, among other honors, is a renowned storyteller and author of more than 200 books for children and adults. Authoritative, eloquent, and fetching, her observations focus on traditional tales that have passed down through generations and been altered in the process. Folklore and fantasy have, she asserts, endured as basic learning tools to introduce young readers to the world around them, and the stories are a uniquely appropriate guide to day-to-day realities and culture. The definition and impact of these stories is couched in the wonder of fantasy and themes essential to today's young readers. As Yolen poetically observes, "To do without tales and stories and books is to lose humanity's past, is to have no star map for the future." This book will be prized by teachers, authors, students, and all readers who value the use of folklore, mythology, and the familiar stories of youth. A pleasure to read; highly recommended.--Richard K. Burns, MSLS, Hatboro, PA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874835915
  • Publisher: August House Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2003
  • Edition description: Expanded
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Yolen
Jane Yolen
JaneYolen lives in Massachusetts.

John Schoenherr lives in New Jersey.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2001

    Helpful Perspective on Folk and Legendary Tales for Children

    This book will touch on deep and meaningful experiences that you have had while reading as a child and reading to children. By reading those perspectives organized into a series of short essays, you will better be able to read and enjoy the classic tales and bring the most meaning to them for yourself and others. Although I spend a great deal of time thinking about children's literature, this book greatly extended by ability to conceptualize the context for benefiting from these stories. Ms. Yolen begins strongly by pointing out many of the most important distinctions between oral and written literature. Most of our classic children's stories began in the former, and have been migrating into the latter. The story teller plays a great role in the oral tradition, by adjusting the way the story is told to fit the audience. As parents, I think we all do this instinctively with young children, but gradually abdicate that role as the children learn to read silently to themselves. As story tellers, we can help point out the interesting and challenging parts of the stories. In so doing, we increase the likelihood that the child will learn more about what it means to be human. Many people are concerned because classic folk tales, like Little Red Riding Hood, have many layers of meaning and can be interpreted in some pretty fightening ways. Ms. Yolen cites research showing that children actually like the punishments to be extreme in such stories, as a reflection of their sense of justice. But when should we be able to treat the outsider harshly? Stories like Rumplestiltskin nicely raise that issue. Whenever I review children's books, I try to point out these opportunities for exploring moral issues. One of the strengths of the folk tales is that they are full of moral issues, and questions of choice. For example, even when you take on the powers of magic, there is often a price to be paid. At another level, these stories capture parts of ourselves. By focusing in an imaginary world, they allow us to concentrate on that little sliver of ourselves. For example, anyone reading Peter Pan will remember sometimes feeling like Wendy and wanting to grow up, and sometimes feeling like Peter Pan and never wanting to grow up. By being poised with a choice on that ambivalence, a person can make a more successful determination about growing up and in what ways. No child would sit still for such a discussion without Barrie's powerful story. I was also impressed by the argument that we have many concepts that adults do not usually discuss in public company, like death, good, evil, God, and love. The folk and fairy tales are full of such subjects, and the 'disbelief' that we suspend helps make us comfortable with dealing in these semi-taboo subjects. One of the best arguments in the essays is that by going through Alice's Looking Glass these stories must be very true about human nature, or we will reject them. They will simply be too remote and disconnected otherwise. So the more absurd the setting, the higher the potential for touching the universal. Naturally, there are things that are regrettable in these stories . . . but there are things that are

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