Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mythology and Fairytales

I'd like to tell you about two books that I've recently finished.  The first is The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt. This book was a Newbery Honor book for 2009.  It is the story of a hound dog who is chained to the porch of his sociopath owner's run down shack and befriends and protects a cat and her newborn kittens.  Alongside this story, we learn the mythology of Grandmother Moccasin who lies imprisoned in a clay jar for 1000 years.  The stories intertwine throughout the book and finally intersect at the end.  I don't want to give too much away because the unfolding of Grandmother Moccasin's story is far more interesting than the story of the animals under the porch.  The story of tragedy of the pets of cruel masters has been told and retold but here, with the added flavor of myth, the story is given more depth.  I thought the book was good, though I didn't love it.  It seems like the kind of book that librarians would want kids to read.  Even I want kids to read it but I fear it will have little appeal for most kids.
This next book I finished this morning.  It's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin and it was a Newbery Honor book for 2010.  As The Underneath was steeped in mythology, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is steeped in fairytales.  This is a wonderful book about a girl who seeks the Old Man of the Moon to ask him how she can change the fortune of her family.  Along the way, she meets a variety of people and creatures, all of whom share their stories with her.  Each story she is told provides her with important information to help her on her quest.  In fact, it is the stories her father tells her that propel her on her journey in the first place.  As in fairytales, her cleverness, kindness, selflessness, and thankfulness earn her her good fortune in the end. I enjoyed this book very much.

Mythology and fairytales are very important to fiction, which is like saying water is very important to fish.  It's pretty obvious.  And while I didn't love The Underneath, I do appreciate the way that mythology was used to tell the story, to create parallels and symbolism.  I love that in fairytales, kindness, cleverness, and bravery are always rewarded and this holds true in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

In other news, some author appearances of note: Kevin Henkes will be at Hicklebees on February 28th and Jon Klassen (I Want My Hat Back) and Mac Barnett (The Brixton Brothers Mysteries) will be at Hicklebees on March 6 for their new collaboration Extra Yarn.  The library will be getting a copy of Extra Yarn from Junior Library Guild in about a month or so, but I plan to have a signed copy for the library before then!  (Squeeee!  I'm so excited!)

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