Author Veronika Martenova Charles has a new series of five easy reader books featuring multicultural fairy tales. Here is the series description from the publisher:
Here are five first books for fledgling readers that offer the enjoyment of a good story along with the thrill of accomplishment that comes from independent reading. Written in short, easy phrases with carefully selected vocabulary and plentiful illustrations, each book helps youngsters achieve success as they have fun. The series follows three friends who love to share stories. In each book, one is reminded of a well-known story: Little Red Riding Hood in It's Not About the Hunter!, Beauty and the Beast in It's Not About the Rose!, Snow White in It's Not About the Apple!, Cinderella in It's Not About the Pumpkin!, and Hansel and Gretel in It's Not About the Crumbs! As one friend starts, the others are reminded of versions they know so each volume has three stories within one framework. The stories come from around the world, and Veronika Martenova Charles provides a note at the end of each book to describe the origins.I received review copies of the books so I will provide a little more information for each title than can be found elsewhere online so far, especially the tales featured within. First, however, my overall review is that these are great books for beginning readers. There are several easy reader fairy tale titles around, but few that range beyond the most familiar European texts we know in North America. These titles provide those tales with some comparisons from other cultures. The frame story of the friends sharing the stories they know might seem silly or pointless to some adults, but kids will love the series feel of the titles even if those characters are not overly developed. The elementary school classroom so far has been confined to picture books of multicultural fairy tales so this series helps to fill a gap that Charles noticed and hopes to fill at least a little. Kudos to her and her publisher.
I know the biggest concern for so many parents, librarians and teachers is reading level. I am not an expert at this and few publishers claim to be either since it's a tricky issue. My advice to parents when I worked at the library was to let the child look at the books and determine if they looked too hard to read. I know, not very helpful especially if you are ordering online, but I found marked levels to be just about worthless most of the time. So I will dare to state that these books are at least a Level 2. (You can view the inside of the books on Amazon and on the publisher website.) My sister was a first grade teacher before retiring to full-time motherhood earlier this year. She would have found these books to be great for her end-of-the-year fairy tale unit when most of her kids would have attained at least this reading level.
These would make great gifts for any young readers in your life or their teachers.
And now on to the books:
It's Not about the Pumpkin!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales by Veronika Martenova Charles
Cinderella tales featuring:
Ash Girl is based on Joseph Jacobs' The Cinder Maid
Fish Bones is based on the Chinese Cinderella, most familiarly Yeh-hsien
The Black Cow is based on tales from India featuring a Cinderlad, such as The Boy and His Stepmother
It's Not about the Rose!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales
Beauty and the Beast tales featuring:
Bella and the Beast is based on Joseph Jacobs' version
The Lizard is based on The Lizard Husband from Indonesia
White Bear is based on East of the Sun and West of the Moon
It's Not about the Apple!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales
Snow White tales featuring:
Three Sisters is based on Myrsina (or Myrtle) from Greece
The Stone of Patience is based on Nourie Hadig from Armenia
Bianca and the Six Robbers is based on Bella Venezia from Italy
It's Not about the Crumbs!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales
Hansel and Gretel tales featuring:
The Children in the Woods based on The Two Lost Babes and similar European tales
Zahni and Binti draws from Fatma the Beautiful from Sudan, Africa
The Ogre is based on The Oni and the Three Children from Japan
It's Not about the Hunter!: Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales
Little Red Riding Hood tales featuring:
The Little Red Hood is based on The True Story of Little Golden Hood by Charles Marelle
False Grandmother is based on the early French and Italian versions
Grandmother Wolf is derived from the Chinese tale, Grandaunt Tiger
Finally, another reminder of Charles' other book, Fairy Tales in the Classroom: Teaching Students to Write Stories with Meaning Through Traditional Tales.
And to reiterate for full disclosure, as I mentioned above, these books were sent to me for review consideration.