My daughter creates many emotions within me. Pride, joy, awe, frustration, are just a few of the descriptors that come to mind. Today she refused to hop in the tub and I had too much going on in my hectic schedule to really fuss with her.
The first day of our vacation in Seattle I sat downstairs watching the sunrise and basking in the quiet. An hour into the stillness I started to hear the perky voice of my four year old daughter, but no other. I stealthily walked up the stairs and found her reading aloud her alphabet book that I had read to her at the airport the day before. It left me in awe that spending 20 minutes with my daughter the day before working on alphabetic principles would have lasting affect. She has dragged that book around with her all day. She is ready and eager to learn.
Last year Chase entered Kindergarten. Pete the Cat Rocking in My School Shoes happened to be one of the books that he favored in the follow along on CD station. He insisted on buying the book at the book fair, and to get away from Thomas the Train for a day I was only too pleased. A year later he chooses to read Pete over some of his other previous favorites. For Christmas I decided that we would expand his Pete the Cat library with Pete’s Big Lunch. Tonight we snuggled on the bed and Chase and Emma helped read to Grandma’s beautiful SpringerSpanial Zoe. It became even more apparent that Emma puts many pre-literacy skills in place.
One integral aspect of reading comprehension is the ability to answer the key questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how. This is a skill that Chase struggles with at school. In his last DRA this key skill became glaringly absent. Gratitude to his teacher filled my being for sharing this bit of insight. It has become an important part of our nightly reading routine. Tonight I did most of the reading, however every once in a while I would pause and the two of them would finish the phrase. Periodically they were wrong, and I would have Chase read the word. The book is simple, it is one that for the most part he knows all of the words, and those that he doesn’t I help him sound out. One of his strengths is his ability to sound out the phonetics of a word, it is almost as strong as his ability to stretch out the words. As I read I would pause and ask one of the six essential questions of the night. I made a point of asking each child the question, otherwise they would have had a contest on who could answer the fastest, and an argument would inevitably ensue. Emma is quick to the draw. Chase struggles with expressive and receptive language and it often takes him longer to answer. I can always tell when he struggles with an answer. He taps his lip and says, “Hmmmm, Emma do you know?” She quickly chimes in, and he happily repeats her answer. I love their competitive nature, so many of Chase’s developmental progress has been egged on by this competition. I love how they lean on each other for support even more.
Chase came into the kitchen while I was working on dinner. I had planned on making a hearty stew, but put that on the back burner (literally and figuratively) as he requested a pair of scissors so that he could make his book. He had drawn six pictures in a specific order with “The End” as his only words. He cut them up and together we made his little book. I then asked him to tell me the story. He obliged. I then had him retell me the story, this time I handed him a pen and had him write the words. Oh, I can’t tell you the last time I have seen my boy light up so brightly!!!!
- “He goes out the tunnel”
I watched him as he stood thinking about the work “out” I could see the gears working hard. I stuck my tongue out at him and grabbed it as I said “ou”. The lightbulb went off and he wrote the word correctly. He utilized a strategy he had learned at school, I am so glad that he has shown it to me, because I would never have come up with something like that!
- “He sees his lamp light. He goes to sleep.”
Two things stuck out at me on this page. He had originally written light as “lit” I reminded him that the /i/ was a long vowel and how could we make it say it’s name. I did this knowing he would write an /e/ at the end. I did no correct him, but afterward I wrote /light/ and we talked about how the /gh/ was silent and made the /i/ a long vowel. The second thing that hit me was that for the word sleep Chase totally spelled it phonetically as to how it sounds when he, and others, say the word. He elongated the word and broke it up into syllables. “Ssss uuuu, Mommy that is an e” He wrote it down and continued to elongate the sounds. At the end he added an /e/ and said “to kick the /e/ and say it’s name.”
After we finished I looked at the clock. We had spent an entire hour working on reading and writing skills. I replaced the stew with grilled cheese sandwiches, had Chase get one of our wrapped books, and then sent Chase and Emma to bed. It was time, but more importantly I wanted to see what stage of spelling development he was at. His teachers are fantastic, but they don’t tell me much about the specifics of his reading and writing. I’m fine with that. I like to see where he is at in a different environments, anyways.
I have a great book gracing the shelves of my Beech Alder bookcase, Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach by Gail E. Tompkins. That is my go to book when I want to brush up on my literacy strategies. Tonight I had reason to pull it out, dust it off, and put it into practice. Gail E. Tompkins describes how children “crack the alphabetic code” as they develop the ability to understand phonemic awareness – the ability to know that words are made up of sounds, phonics – putting the sounds into letters that they recognize then blend them into words, and spelling – as they begin to learn the “sound-symbol correspondences and spelling patterns, and they can use spelling strategies to spell unfamiliar words” (pg. 146).
There are five stages to spelling development – emergent, letter name-alphabetic, within-word pattern, syllables and affixes, and derivational relations.
Emergent spellers – My four year old daughter is in this stage. She wrote me a “message” the other day which included all the letters in her repertoire. She knows the letters in her name, yet when she writes her name the letters are mostly all over the page. She can tell the difference between letters and numbers and will only write letters in her messages. I love that she knows the difference between shapes, letters, and numbers. The other day I sat down with her and did a small assessment to see which letters she knew and was stunned – she knows 12 letters just through observation and the letter chart that we go over every once in a while. She also knows some letter-sounds, she even helped spell “dad” on her gift to her father. Too cute!!! We need to work on writing in the correct direction but she is well on her way to being prepared for Kindergarten and the rigors of Common Core.
Letter Name-Alphabetic Spellers – My son Chase is definitely in this stage. He is developing the next two stages, but it is obvious that he is more entrenched in this stage. He knows that the sounds in words are represented by letters written in a particular order. He is definitely towards the end of this stage in that he is starting to use consonant blends, digraphs and writing with short vowel sounds.
Within-work Pattern spellers – Chase has begun to work in this stage as well. He is becoming comfortable writing one syllable words, and high frequency words. He is beginning to understand how long-vowels work, but is not cognoscente of the more complex patterns and exceptions. As he learns more spelling strategies he will begin to recognize and practice long-vowel spelling patterns, r-controlled vowels, complex consonant patterns, more complex vowel patterns, and diphthongs.
Syllables and Affixes spellers – Chase is NO WHERE NEAR this stage, however he is experimenting with inflectional endings (a group of letters added at the end of words to change their meaning such as -s, -es, -ed, and -ing). My oldest son Dee is well entrenched in this stage. He works hard to spell multisyllabic words, he is learning about inflectional endings and the rules for adding these endings. He understands homophones and how compound words work.
Derivational Relations spellers – While my children are not yet to this stage, this is my favorite stage. I love the etymology (history and evolution) of words. In college I played an etymology card game once which I excelled at. I wish I had taken note as to the name, because I can’t find it. Anyone know of a good one I would love to find one. Part of this stage is also learning Greek and Latin root words. It totally helps to break down unfamiliar words when you know the meanings of root words and affixes! When I taught seniors I felt giddy as I handed out grammar and spelling packets – because I was learning right along side them. My students, on the other hand, groaned and questioned the real life application of learning consonant and vowel alternations. I can always hope that ten years down the road they will unknowingly utilize the lessons that I worked arduously to prepare.
Why did I look up the stages? I wanted to know what stage Chase fell into so that I might find different activities that might aide in increasing his reading and writing.
- We are working on creating a sensory appropriate bedroom for him and one suggestion that I have next on our agenda is a “Bravo” wall which will include some of his art work, school work, and a word/phrase wall.
- Friday begins Winter break. I can’t wait to give him some holiday words and have him make words using the letters.
- Word sorts – This is one that he really can benefit from, since he struggles with expressive and receptive language disorder.
- I love the internet and coming across different ideas. Pinterest has become one of my best friends, and I giggled in excitement when I found these 75 spelling activities. I have used several of the concepts when I was teaching Chase the alphabet. Now I can move it one step further.
One thing I have learned is that children approach learning differently. There are those that pick up reading, as if it was as easy as speaking. Then there are those that struggle with all aspects of literacy. They struggle with fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. I was one of those children. Some children chafe at all aspects of education – they just don’t like being boxed in a classroom. Some of this resistance is due to boredom, others is due to the student feeling that education has no basis in their personal reality.
I once read an article by K.H. Au that made me stop and think about some of my students and how the pulled at the yoke of education. The article stated “It may be helpful for the teacher to have an understanding of the students’ cultural backgrounds and the values they bring to school” (Au, 2002, p. 397). For this purpose it is imperative that we bring multicultural literature to the table. It helps students recognize their own cultural identity and broadens the world to all students in the classroom.
A common misnomer in education is that literacy instruction stops when the reading block is over each day, or when the students’ leave language arts class. The truth is that all teachers are reading teachers, whether they teach mathematics, social studies, science, or language arts. Alvermann, Swafford and Montero explain that while teachers continue to follow traditional routes of instruction research “suggests good content teaching reflects practices similar to good literacy instruction: teacher-led class discussion, collaborative small groups, and sustained time for individual learning” (Alvermann, Swafford & Montero, 2004, p. 162). As literacy instruction is integrated in core content areas students’ are provided with a rich literacy environment that meets them individually. Well developed and balanced lesson plans incorporate the different stages of reading acquisition.
A multicultural unit using Cinderella is a perfect way to “use reading and writing for the acquisition of new content in a given discipline. Such ability includes three principal cognitive components: general literacy skills, content-specific literacy skills (such as map reading in the social studies,) and prior knowledge of content” (McKenna & Robinson 1990). Cinderella provides opportunities for teachers to touch upon themes across cultures, discuss setting, comparing and contrasting, and add some multiple intelligence activities to reach the strengths of each child. Each tale offers students and educators alike the possibilities of exploring history, culture, art, math and science. I’m sure there are others contents out there that will be discovered as I continue to root out the plethora of Cinderella stories!
Developing a unit of study is like baking a batch of peanut butter cookies. Each time I bake my prize winning cookies (I won the 4H blue ribbon at the county fair when I was in fourth grade) I start off with preparing the ingredients. When I follow the recipe by the book they turn out great, but sometimes I am flexible and I will add another ingredient or twelve. The recipe for my lesson plans include the basic elements of lesson plan design – title, objective, purpose, time allotment, materials, anticipatory set, procedure, modeling, guided practice, check for understanding, modifications/accommodations, closure, independent practice, assessment – wow lesson plans sure do have a lot of commponents!! The elements may not change (Just like peanut butter is ALWAYS part of my award winning cookies) but how I implement those elements vary.
My thematic units have a skeleton frame that includes the following:
Learning Log: a learning log is prepared by combining lined paper for journaling, unlined paper for student art work, and I like to add the worksheets the students will be working on as well so that for those students that like to work ahead they can work at their own pace. This is a great way to differentiate learning! Students use the learning logs throughout the unit. Students will journal (I like to have them do double entry journals). Students will include vocabulary lists, summaries, graphic organizers, etc.
Double-Entry Journals: These types of journals make students find quotes they like and then reflect upon WHY they chose those particular quotes. They prepare their journal entries by drawing a line through the middle of lined paper. After the students read they go back through the story and write down quotes from the text that they enjoyed, learned something new, or what they don’t understand on the right side of the lined paper. On the left part they write down a reflection. Why did they enjoy that particular part of the story? What did they learn? What questions do they have? This gives you the parent/teacher a chance to respond to their journal!
Graphic Organizers: So many of us are visual learners and graphic organizers are a staple in any unit. They provide students with a concrete way to deal with abstract ideas. They provide visual representation of ideas, concepts, information, facts, etc. This allows students to see the big picture as they are trying to piece together what they have read.
Guided Reading: Make sure you set a purpose for reading. Introduce the title, author, and illustrator. In small groups, or one on one, have the student read softly . This way you can support your students that need help with decoding unfamiliar words, help with new words they encounter.Talk about the book. Ask questions, and ask the students to ask each other questions.
Independent Reading:Have the students read it on their own.
And Tons of Other Activities: Stay tuned for more specifics!!
Alvermann, D. E., Swafford, J., & Montero, M. K. (2004) Content area literacy instruction for the elementary grades. Boston: Pearson. ISBN: 13: 9780205463671
Au, K.H. (2002). Multicultural factors and the effective instruction of students of diverse backgrounds. In S. J. Samuels & A. E. Farstrup (Eds.), What Research has to say about reading instruction (3rd ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association, Inc.
This week at Chase’s therapy session his therapist Ms. P mentioned yoga as an option. I think it would good for him in his emotional regulation.
The use of coping strategies is an evidence-based intervention that improves behavior. It is commonly used in school positive behavioral support programs and mental health interventions to improve functional skills. Coping strategies enable individuals to manage their strong feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety with out violence or other functional difficulties. Coping strategies are a proven component of school Positive Behavioral Support programs (Second Step, PATHS, DECA), Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) and CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy).
Learning to use coping strategies to manage depression, anxiety, and aggression can be particularly challenging for individuals with behavioral, mental health, developmental, trauma history, and/or sensory processing challenges. Learning to consistently implement coping strategies is a long process that can be facilitated by teachers, family members, as well as occupational, speech/language, physical, and mental health therapists. It is important when evaluating coping strategies with clients to assess their efficacy in facilitating short-term…
View original post 310 more words
Before the game I took time to prepare Chase. Chase entered the school voicing his desire to play with his brother. It didn’t matter how many times we let him know that we were there to watch, he insisted on playing with Dee. A small group of boys practiced in the hallway once we arrived. Chase immediately tried to block shots. I think he is a natural.
While Scott took Emma and Dee in for the game I sat down with Chase to write down rules. Once insidethe gym he did a great job following our rules, I attribute that to how we came up with then collaboratively. When he helps come up with them he feels more vested.
He did fantastic. He knew he had to sit on the bleachers to watch. He knew that if the echo in the gym became unbearable he could take a break. He came up with his choices – hide under a blanket, take a walk in the quiet halls, go get a drink of water.
He ended up taking a break under a blanket and then daddy gave him the smartphone. All else went to the wayside as he built his movie theater on minecraft.
Cinderella stories not only criss-cross the globe, they also cross gender lines. I encountered my first male “Cinderella” at the local bookstore on my search for a copy of Riesel’s Riddle. I found out that Silverman’s book is out of print, but I walked away with another one of Shirley Climo’s Cinderella tales (She has quite a few) – The Irish Cinderlad! In her author’s note at the back of the book she explains that she based her book on a combination of two different versions of the Irish tale, “The Bracket Bull” found in Four Irish Stories by Douglas Hyde (1898) and Sara Cone Bryant’s (1905) story “Billy Beg and His Bull”. She also explains that the male version of Cinderella is not native to Ireland. They are found in Japan, Africa, Scandinavia, England, Hungary, the Balkans, and India. I’m sure there are others – I will learn more on my journey for multicultural Cinderella stories!
I wanted to see how Climo’s book took the two different stories and made it into her own.
I wrote this story carefully down, word for word, from the telling of two men—the first, Shawn Cunningham, of Ballinphuil, and the second, Martin Brennan of Ballinlocha, in the barony of Frenchpark. They each told the same story, but Martin Brennan repeated the end of it at greater length than the other. The first half is written down word for word from the mouth of Cunningham, the second half from that of Brennan. (Hyde, 2005, pg. 98)
Hyde tells the story of a boy who after the death of his mother gains a stepmother and three stepsisters (one of which has an eye at the back of her head). They send him to herd cattle, and don’t give him anything to eat. A magical bracket bull (speckled) befriends him and the boy pulls out a banquet from the bulls horn. His stepmother doesn’t like this and ends up trying to kill the bull by telling her husband she needs the braket bull’s blood to cure her of an illness. The bull is headed towards the butchers, however he escapes, after killing the two butchers with the boy on his back. The bull ends up dying from a bullfight but tells the boy to make a belt from his hide. The boy gains employment as a cattle herder. He is warned by his employer about giants living on the land next to his, and they keep anything that goes on their land. The boy doesn’t listen, lets the cattle onto the three giants land. The giants threaten to kill him, he fights back with the belt from his bull. They each in turn beg for mercy and the boy says – sure if you give me your sword, in their own stupidity they die as the boy cleaves off their head! He then goes into town because he hears that every seven years a dragon comes out of the sea and requires a fair maiden in exchange for the village. This year the fair maiden chosen is the Kings own daughter. (Why is it that a fair maiden is the required sacrifice, hmmm). The boy takes three days to kill the dragon, but doesn’t want anyone to know. Each time he runs away, however the third and final time the princess grabs his shoe. Of course she tells the king that she will marry no other than her savior, who will fit into the shoe. Her dad has princes from other kingdoms try on the shoe first, when that doesn’t work he sends his servants and forces all men rich and poor to try it on. Of course the boy fits the shoe and he and the princess get married!
Sara Cone Bryant
Sara Cone Bryant (1905) wrote children’s stories and tried to teach “how” to tell children stories. Kind of cool that she was a reading specialist back in the beginning of the 20th century. Not much is known about her (at least not that I could find in my limited research time) except for what I found in her own words. She facinates me, so I know that a post on her book will be shortly in the works. She adapted this particular story from Seamus McManus book entitled “Donegal Fariy Stories” first published in 1900. Sara Cone Bryant’s Cinderlad has a name, Billy, and he is a prince. When his mother the queen dies she makes her husband, the King, promise that Bill and his bull never be parted. He remarries and and his new wife couldn’t stand either Billy or the bull. She feigns an illness that the only cure is that of the blood of a bull. The king will do anything for his queen (heck, he already lost one wife) and sets a date for the death of the bull – as a big old party! The bull is magical – in that it talks to Billy. Billy tells him his fears and the bull tells him not to worry, for he will not be the one to die. The bull ends up jumping over the crowd and hits the queen square in the head with his hoofs, and now she is dead. The bull and boy run off, but not to worry – Billy pulls a feast fit for a prince (hahaha, he is one) out of his ear. The bull has to fight three other bulls. He kills the first two, but the last one kills him. He knew of his fate ahead of time and told him to take out the napkin in his ear (the one that makes an everlasting meal), a stick which turns into a sword when he waves it over his head, and a piece of hide used for a belt which makes Billy invincible. Billy goes out into the world and becomes a herd boy. While herding six cows, six horses, six donkeys, and six to pasture he crosses into the neighbors land. The neighbors happens to be three Giants. Billy fights and kills all three (the first has two heads, the second has six heads, and the last has twelve heads). Each one begs for mercy, but Billy doesn’t afford it. Maybe it is because they tried to eat him, just for being on their land. Granted, he shouldn’t have been trespassing, but still!! The next day Billy goes into town and learns that the King’s daughter will be gobbled up by a dragon with many heads if her champion doesn’t kill him (the King has his own champion. Can you guess who HER champion is? Yup. Billy, but he slips off without telling anyone who he is, but he leaves his boot. As you guessed it, the Princess sets out to find the lad that can fit the boot. Billy is allowed later to try on the boot because the Princess likes his face (he is a handsome lad ya know!) and voila. He admits that he killed the dragon AND he is the son of a King, no mere peasant for this princess!
The Irish Cinderlad by Shirley Climo (1996) follows these two tales rather closely. Becan (Irish for “little one”) is a small boy with HUGE feet. He loses his mother at the age of thirteen, and soon after his father brings home a new wife and three stepsisters. Of course they don’t like Becan, and they force him to take care of the cows in hopes that the mean one will kick him. The mean speckled bull ends up befriending the hungry Becan (they starve him of course) and tells Becan to pull out a tablecloth full of food out from his ear. Just as in the other tales the stepmother wants the bull, but this time it isn’t as a cure – she just wants him in a stew. Becan and the bull run away, of course. As in the other stories the bull comes to a grisly end (of another bulls horn). As he lays dying he tells Becan to twist off his tail, and although becan doesn’t want to he does. In this story he also goes to work as a cowhand, and he once again trespasses on a giants land. Here the story diverges – there is only one giant. The giant tries to kill Becan for trespassing. Becan whips out the bulls tail and chokes the giant. Another divergance – the giant begs mercy and Becan gives it, in exchange for the giants shoes (remember Becan had HUGE feet). The story then goes back to the same pattern of boy rescues princess from dragon and because he is shy he runs away, but not without leaving his giant shoe behind. You know how the story ends! Well, except with a kiss and a becoming blush – not from the damsel in distress, but the boy!
Climo did a nice job of staying true to the this Irish Folktale. As in all of her books she incorporates the language, food, housing, and customs of the country of origin. Unlike the other tales Climo utilizes descriptive language to paint a picture in your head. Lorettta Krupinski adds to this through illustrations using small strokes to invoke texture, almost like you can reach out and touch the soft snout of the speckled bull, feel the mist from the ocean, or the rough scales from the dragon. I don’t like the idea that Becan tresspasses, and then practically steals the giants shoes (I know, the giant would have killed him, but still), kind of goes against my own moral code of ethics. I know that this is a great talking point with my children, which every good book should do – give parents/teachers an opportunity to discuss, share, teach!
Bryant, S. C. (1905). How to tell stories to children: And some stories to tell. Cambridge: The Riverside Press.
Climo, S. (1996). The irish cinderlad. New York: HarperCollins Publisher
Hyde, D. (2005). The bracket bull. In Graves, A.P. (Ed.), The irish fairy book (celtic, Irish). Dover Publications.
The Egyptian and Chinese Cinderella Stories vie for which one came first. The fact that the Egyptian Cinderella is based on a real person makes me believe that maybe this storyline is the real beginning!
In 5th Century (B.C.E.) Herodotus, the “father of history” wrote nine volumes describing the people and places that he encountered on his journey through the Mediterranean, including a snippet on Rhodopis.
Herodotus wrote that she was a Thracian Slave (a civilization that once thrived in the area now known as Bulgaria). Her fair skin and blond curly hair caught the eye of of the slave trade. Herodotus described her in Volume 2 of his history as a fellow slave of Aesop (as in Aesop’s fables. Did you know he was a slave? Neither did I!!) According to Herodotus she was a courtesan, in other words the first Cinderella was a prostitute! Interesting huh? I’m sure I will not be teaching that bit of information to my children until they are a bit older and able to understand that back in ancient times beautiful slaves ended up being used as courtesans’ or prostitutes. She eventually gained her freedom from Mytilene, who happened to be Sappho, the poets, brother. Sappho didn’t approve, but that is neither here nor there. Rhodopis ended up being very well off and there are those that believed he spearheaded the building of one of the Egyptian pyramids.
If you are anything like me the exact telling from Herodotus himself is rather intriguing and I have included a link for those that want to pore through his narrative. It is section 134-135 in Volume 2. The History of Herodotus
In the first century AD the Roman historian Strabo took Herodotus historical tidbit and created the first Cinderella story. He tells a story of a beautiful slave – Rhodopis. She is hated by the other slaves and made to do more than her fair share of the work (sound familiar?). On her own time she likes to dance and one day she is seen dancing by some guy who then makes her a beautiful pair of shoes. One day her shoes get wet and as she leaves them out to dry a falcon takes off with them. They are found by a prince who makes all the girls try it on to see if it fits. Guess who the shoe fits and marries the prince? Yup, Rhodopis.
Here is a link to Strabo’s version Rhodopis
Shirley Climo takes Starbo’s narrative and tweaks it here and there, but pretty much stays true to the storyline. She modified a few phrases to make the story her own, for example Climo describes the emotions felt by Rhodopis when she lost one of her beloved shoes. Starbo just states that she put the other shoe in her tunic, Clomo added the folowing: “Rhodopis tucked the slipper into her tunic and returned to her laundry, salting the river with her tears.” Nice imagery there!!!!
The illustrator, Ruth Heller, brought the story to life with vibrant colors. I love how the faces of each person is in profile, just as they were depicted in ancient Egypt! Incorporating words with pictures aid children not only in building comprehension as they begin to read, but also adds interest.
Climo, Shirley (1989). The Egyptian Cinderella. HarperCollins Publishers.
New World Encyclopedia – Herodotus
The History of Herodotus parallel English/Greek English translation: G. C. Macaulay, (pub. Macmillan, London and NY) 
Based on the recurrent theme o f absent or uncaring father/father figure, rivalry between women, the ability to overcome obstacles, rewards, magical assistance and mythical element Ai-Ling Louie retells the story of Yeh-Shen – A Chinese Cinderella Story. Yeh-Shen, which was first recorded in The Miscellaneous Record of Yu Yang, dating back to the T’ang dynasty (618-907 A.D) written by Tuan Ch’eng Shih . Included in Louie’s book is a copy of the original myth in Chinese transcript found in the Hsueh Chin T’ao Yun edition recorded in the Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1912). Some say that the story predates the first Italian version of Cinderella written in 1643. Who really knows – travel and trade not only produced goods but it also produced a legacy of literature!!
In 850 A.D, during the Tang dynasty, a famous poet, writer, and government official , Duan Cheng Shi, published a collection of stories he had gathered throughout his entire life. In “Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang” Duan Cheng Shi retold the story of Ye Xian (also known as Yeh-Shen). He apparently heard of this mythical legend from his servant Li Shi Yuan.
Ai-Ling Louie’s tells Yeh-Shen’s tale of woe begins as we are introduced to a cave chief somewhere in southern China. He has two wives, polygamy was widely practiced in China up until the Han Dynasty, and both wives gave him daughters. Unfortunately one of the wives died, and poor Yeh-Chen was raised by her stepmother. Her only friend happens to be her pet fish, which in Chinese culture symbolizes hope and prosperity. Take a look at each page and see if you can find the fish. The illustrator, Ed Young, incorporates a fish on each and every page. The first time I read this book to my own three children it took my oldest three pages to notice that there was a fish on each page. Even the cover art has a carp like fish hidden among Yeh-Shen’s Spring Festival dress. From the moment they realized there was a fish on each book I couldn’t read until they had found the book.
Out of spite Yeh-Shen’s stepmother kills her pet fish and in her moment of mourning an old man (her fairy godfather) tells her to bury the bones and miracles will happen. She did as she was told as in Confucian ideology men are placed at the top of a very strict hierarchy. Men, and older men in particular, were believed to be wise! Following his advice proved to be to her benefit. She prayed often to the bones of her beloved fish and found comfort, for in Chinese culture they value ancestor worship. They believed in praying to their dearly departed to overcome obstacles. For Yeh-Shen her fish was her closest friend, and became an ancestor of sorts. She benefited from her prayers, for whenever she was in dire straights she would pray to the bones and voila – her hearts desire would appear.
As in most Cinderella stories there is a ball. Okay, maybe not a ball as we think in the traditional terminology. “Festival time was approaching. It was the busiest time of the year. Such cooking and cleaning and sewing there was to be done. . . . At the spring festival young men and young women from the village hoped to meet and choose whom they would marry” (p. 8). She loses her shoe, and the king receives her shoe from a merchant. He is awe inspired by the dainty shoe and sets off on a journey to find the girl that fits into the golden shoe. In school I was always fascinated when we learned about Chinese culture and the practice of foot binding. The advent of foot binding is one of heated debate among historians. All it comes down to is that small dainty feet were considered beautiful and parents would bind the feet of their baby daughters to create this “look”. In 1915 foot binding finally became illegal in China. In 1991 a shoe factory in China still made tiny shoes meant for the older generation of women who still had tiny, delicate feet.
Back to the story: After much searching (by both the King and Yeh-Shen – for she wants her shoe back) the two meet and the King falls in love with her. They are married and live happily ever after. Her stepmother and stepsister – they don’t make out so well. They are killed by a shower of rocks!!!!
I found this gem of a book in the library about 2 years ago as I put together my first Cinderella Unit. I’m not sure what drew me to it, the cover didn’t give any hint that the book was a Cinderella story. I just opened it up and read it. My heart began to race. On accident I found a book that would fit right into my unit.
Set in Poland, “once upon a time”, Raisel lived with her Zaydeh (Yiddish word for Grandfather). He was the village Talmudic Scholar. She loved to learn along with him, and this pleased Zaydeh, as “it is written that learning is more precious than rubies, more lasting than gold. Rubies may be lost and gold stolen, but that which you learn is yours forever” (Silverman, 1999).
Her grandfather dies, and not wanting to be a burden on her village she leaves to find work in the city. Eventually she ends up knocking on the door of a local Rabbi. The housekeeper greets her rudely and starts to turn her away. The Rabbi interrupts the housekeeper and encourages the housekeeper to hire her – as there is much to do around the house and he thinks she needs the help. The housekeeper doesn’t take this kindly, as she is fearful that Raisel is there to steal her job.
Time soon approaches for the Purim celebration (Jewish holiday celebrating Esther) and the housekeeper (in keeping with the Cinderella theme) works her to the bone. Raisel is running around the morning of the celebration and ends up bumping into the Rabbi’s son. Later, at the afternoon meal, Raisel listens to the guests (okay, the girls) telling riddles to the son (he is a scholar, and they are trying to catch his eye – I see a similarity between Raisel’s Riddle and Rough-Face Girl!!!) as she serves.
Once the guests leave she continues to work, and eventually heads outside to eat her own meager meal. There she voices out loud her desire to join in the festivities. Guess who appears? Yup, her very own fairy godmother! In return for sharing her skimpy meal she receives three wishes.
Obviously she makes it to the festival and starts up a conversation with the Rabbi’s son. Can you guess what captures his attention? Her beauty? Her small feet? Nope! She quotes the Talmud and asks him the most interesting riddle. Before he learns the answer the clock strikes twelve and our Jewish Cinderella disappears. Later Raisel learns that he will marry the girl who showed “rare intelligence” at the Purim celebration by sharing a riddle. Inevitably she tells him her riddle and he asks her to marry him.
My favorite part of the book is her response. You’ll have to go to the library or buy the book on your own to find it out! My only quibble with the book is this: What happened to the housekeeper? I mean really? In Yeh-Shen her stepmother and stepsister end up crushed by rocks, the servants in The Egyptian Cinderella stay servants, etc, etc!
I think this is my second most favorite version of Cinderella that I have as of yet encountered! I loved the lifelike illustrations by Susan Gaber. I look forward to my picture walk with the kiddos, and I suspect that both kiddos will “attend” this book without needing to break it down into preschool chunks for them as I have to do for some of the other versions we are studying.
What I love, love, love about this book is that beauty is not the end all, be all! Someone with a mind is the ideal woman for the “prince” of the story. I think this has more to do with the fact that it was written after the advent of women’s suffrage and equality! I would love to hear your opinion on that fact.
Originally published in 1999, it does a wonderful job of depicting a rather unique twist to the fairy tale I grew up with, and loved. This wonderful book received quite a few awards and recognitions including:
Notable Books for a Global Society, International Reading Association;
Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English;
Wilde Awards: Best Folk and Fairy Tales