This palm-size anthology gathers 10 traditional European folk- and fairy tales that have been transplanted to Latin America and retold here by storytellers who have "Criollo" (Creole) roots. "Ocelot, Jaguar and Lion," for example, is a Venezuelan version of Hansel and Gretel, while "Maria Tolete" offers a south-of-the-border spin on Cinderella, and "Crooked Foot the Dwarf" bears echoes of The Brave Little Tailor. The stories are smoothly rendered despite an occasional lapse in tone (" `Wow!' thought the giant. `This darned dwarf could kill me any minute' "). However, the most receptive audience may be adults and folklorists rather than children in the suggested age range. A foreword that takes a cursory look at the roots of the stories, for instance, assumes some prior knowledge of folklore, and though the book will likely be effective as a read-aloud, the small typeface and somewhat dense prose may raise the bar too high for independent young readers. Full-color artwork, while reflecting a variety of styles, does not expand on the stories' cultural motifs, and thus misses an opportunity to set a distinctively Latin mood. Ages 6-9. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Traditional European tales can be found in many places and cultures all over the world. In their "new" versions, the stories, though recognizable, are often very different, having been changed by the experiences and understandings of the people hearing and telling them. The authors of the stories in this anthology all tell stories with their origins in European tales, but which have been deeply influenced by the Criollo (Creole) culture. Readers will be taken in by the familiar tales in their new form and should enjoy the humor, tropical setting, and tone that is characteristic of Creole storytelling. These stories are sure to fit right in with Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and the rest of the Grimm Brothers' canon as beloved childhood tales. 2003, Groundwood Book/Douglas & McIntyre,
Heidi Hauser Green
Gr 4-6-Using familiar European folktale motifs, six Latin American storytellers retell their versions of stories such as "Cinderella" ("Mar'a Tolete"), "The Flying Boa" ("Juan Cenizo"), "Hansel and Gretel" ("Ocelot, Jaguar and Lion"), and seven other equally familiar tales. Each story has its own author and is illustrated by one of three artists, yet the tellings are remarkably uniform in being somewhat bland. Despite the assertion in the introduction that the tales are imbued with a particular humorous slant and have a distinctive Criollo (Creole) flavor that results from the transfer from European to Latin American culture, these traits do not come through clearly. The illustrations, a full-page color plate and a decorative ink drawing each, sometimes augmented by a spread, are workmanlike, but uninspired. The introduction and notes to the stories that precede the tales and the "About the Authors" section at the end give some much-needed depth and background. The book's diminutive size is in its favor, as it fits comfortably into small hands. John Bierhorst's Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions (Pantheon, 2001) gives 115 tales in more clearly fleshed-out cultural context. Definitely the superior work, it is dauntingly long at almost 400 pages, and is best aimed at slightly older readers. Little Book could then be used as an introduction, moving on subsequently to Bierhorst's more difficult work.-Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Translated from the Spanish Libro de oro de los abuelos, this marvelous collection, first published in Venezuela, contains ten tales gathered from the work of various Latin American authors and folklorists. Blending motifs and plotlines from different sources, chiefly European, with settings and attitudes more typical of the tropical Americas, the tales are both familiar and strange. In "Ocelot, Jaguar and Lion," for example, an unloving stepmother insists that her husband take his children into the forest to lose them, á la Hansel and Gretel. But when they push the witch who wants to cook them into her own oven, they use her ashes to form three magic dogs, and the tale enters its second phase with echoes of both Perseus and Andromeda and Hercules and the Hydra. Cinderella motifs likewise abound, along with the tradition of the foolish or underestimated youngest child. What sets these versions apart from most familiar American retellings is not simply the detail of the settings-yucca plants, chitlings-but also the more European (and more authentic) fairy-tale worldview, with its casual cruelty, its black-and-white approach to evil, and its rather tribal idea of who deserves to be treated as a human being. The full-color, full-page illustrations are necessarily small (the book itself measures only 6 x 4.5 inches), but they are also moody, exultant, even tender, as the story demands. Beautifully produced and appropriate for all children's folktales collections, not just those serving Latino populations, this complements Olga Loya's earlier bilingual Momentos Mágicos/Magic Moments (1997), a likewise wonderful assemblage of 15 stories from similar sources. (Folktale. All ages)