The Little Mermaid and Other Fishy Tales

Rather than a Friday book round-up, I must share this book with you. The Little Mermaid and Other Fishy Tales is a collection of stories and poems about fish and the sea. It's the second such collection by the wonderful illustrator Jane Ray. The first, The Emperor's Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales revolved around books. I would love to see that one, but our library doesn't have it.

The Little Mermaid and Other Fishy Tales by Jane Ray.
Boxer Books, 2014.

We happened upon this book by accident. Browsing the new release shelf at our family branch of the library, it caught my youngest daughter's eye. After reading the contents, we knew it had to come home with us.

While there are several poems, the fairy and folk tales in the book are retellings by Jane Ray, which gives the book a uniform feel. I've included links to the stories, but keep in mind, they may differ from the telling by Ray.

It opens with a famous Japanese tale, "The Kingdom Under the Sea," about a man who saves a turtle from some mean children. The turtle returns to grant the man a gift, a ride under the sea to visit the Dragon King. The turtle turns out to be the Dragon King's daughter in disguise. It's a beautiful tale with a bittersweet ending - my favorite kind.

You don't have too much time to be sad, however, because next is Lewis Carroll's "The Lobster Quadrille!"

Ray takes some liberties with her retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid." She doesn't give us a Disneyesque ending, with Ariel and Eric married and living happily ever after, but the mermaid isn't rejected to become a "spirit of the air," either. I can understand wanting to change the ending, but I'm not sure it's my favorite. The illustrations are amazing, though.

"The Fisherman and His Wife" is a retelling of a Grimm fairy tale, about a fish who grants wishes and the man's very greedy wife.

After "A Ballad of John Silver," we're treated to an African "trickster tale" called "Monkey and Shark."

There are two tales taken from Greek mythology. The first is the tale of "Arion and the Dolphins," about a musician held captive by his ship's captain, and the music-appreciating dolphin who gives her life to save him. The second is Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, "The Kraken."

The next story is Inuit in origin, "Raven and the Whale," about the creator of the world (Raven) and the cycle of life.

And then we have "The Seal Wife," because what would a book of sea tales be without a Selkie story?

The book concludes with a recent poem, "Whalesong" by Sophie Stephenson-Wright.

There is more information on the origins of some of the contents at the back of the book.

So, yes, this is a stunning book. It made me long for a seaside vacation, tasting the salt on the wind. I've added it to one of our wish lists, so perhaps a copy will make a home for itself on our shelves one day.

We begin a week of dance rehearsals tomorrow, because next weekend are recitals! I have some wonderful dance books chosen, as well as some videos to share. And maybe a photo or two...

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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Truffula Trees for Earth Day

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss is my go-to book for Earth Day. It's one of my favorite books period, in fact. I love its message and its sense of urgency, as well as the (literal) seed of hope at the end. 

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.
Random House, 1971.

There are Lorax crafts to be found all over the internet. [See Pinterest, for example.] We made our own Truffula Trees, out of leftover paper straws from our Kansas Day project and wrinkly tissue paper we'd saved from a gift bag. I think it would be cool to use actual sticks, along with paint or washi tape, but I couldn't figure out where we put the paint and washi tape. Another idea I had was to use paper towel rolls and old newspaper, but I wanted these to be colorful.

Have you ever made tissue paper pom-poms? I taught myself to make them several years ago, using the Martha Stewart tutorial.  This is a miniature version of that.

First, I cut my tissue paper into small squares, stacking the wrinkly little things as neatly as possible. I kept my stacks at only 5 or 6 each, to make them easier to work with.

Next, I accordion-folded my little stack.

Squeezing the folded stack tightly, I tied some thread around the middle. I used scissors to make the ends a bit pointy.

Finally, I pulled the paper apart, forming a little pom pom.

I used simple scotch tape to fix the pom-poms to the straws, which I bent to look a bit more like Dr. Seuss's wavy Truffula Trees.

If you use straws or popsicle sticks, the Truffula Trees could become great cake decorations, right? If I felt more ambitious, I suppose I could make an Earth Day cake.

Here's the original television adaptation from 1972. I prefer it to the feature film, although the book is still the best.

Remember my little post for Read Across America / Dr. Seuss's birthday? Well, when I put together that post, I mentioned I was impressed by the minisite for The Lorax on There are so many cool things to click. Your kids can sign a pledge to "be a friend to the environment," read about at-risk forest areas around the world and some of the animals who inhabit them, download stickers and tags, and play games. Classes can send a letter to the Lorax, telling him how they plan to help the environment. It's a pretty awesome little site!

Again, happy earth day. And remember...

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not."

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On the Wing

On the Wing by David Elliott, illustrated by Becca Stadtlander.
Candlewick Press, 2014.

I always feel a little guilty come April. It's National Poetry Month, yet I don't seem to expose my daughters to as much poetry anymore. My husband is the poetry-lover, but I'm the one checking out the books! This one, however, I did manage to grab, and it's a beauty. It's perfect for spring, too, in that it's a book of poems about birds.

Birds are another of Mr. B's loves. I'm sure he would have grabbed this one himself, if I wasn't the one visiting the library once or twice a week.

David Elliott's poems are simple, often humorous, and match Becca Stadtlander's gorgeous illustrations perfectly.

"The Hummingbird" buzzes across the page, just like the little bird.

"The Caribbean Flamingo" is more challenging, a great example of metaphor for youngsters.

I love "The Cardinal." Just when I feel bad for the Plain Jane...

And "The Puffin" made the girls giggle.

Sorry I didn't have more to recommend for National Poetry Month this year, but this one is well worth a trip to the library or bookstore! Happy Reading!

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