Sunday, October 9, 2011

Library Essentials: Touch Magic by Jane Yolen

Touch Magic by Jane Yolen is today's library essential. No, this one isn't as much for research and learning about fairy tales, although you may certainly learn something. But why I love this book is how eloquently and thoroughly Yolen discusses the power of fairy tales and folklore, why they are important. This book is for fairy tale apologists. It inspires and puts into words many of the thoughts and feelings you may have already had but couldn't get out.

After all, Yolen has been working with folklore for decades and has faced the same looks and derision and misunderstanding we all do if we work with fairy tales or children's literature, too. When people ask me what I do--such an American question--and I say fairy tales, well, the confusion and derision is often quite palatable. It's not secret and I am quite proud of it, but if the circumstances are such, I avoid the question. Most people in my circle of real world life don't understand the power and legacy of fairy tales or even folklore. I wish I could assign them all this book to read.

But as for me, it reminds me why I love this realm and why I keep doing this work. The good news is that Harry Potter and the movement he spawned have made fantasy much more acceptable and mainstream, so this book is now preaching to a larger choir. But fairy tales are still a negative term and the stuff of childish fantasy to too many. And as we know, if they only knew, they'd be banning them from children instead. So perhaps it is good they don't know....

From the publisher:

“Our children are growing up without their birthright: the myths, fairy tales, fantasies and folklore that are their proper legacy.” The essays in Touch Magic, Jane Yolen's classic call-to-arms advocating the use of fantasy and folklore in children's literature, echo that statement. Yolen argues persuasively that fantasy, folklore, and the realm of story provide children with the necessary tools for facing the world, understanding its ways and capriciousness—indeed, becoming truly human....

“I believe that culture begins in the cradle.” she writes. “To do without tales and stories and books is to lose humanity's past, is to have no star map for our future.” August House now offers a richly expanded version of this seminal volume. With six new essays that tender fresh perspectives on the morality of fairy tales, time travel, the definition of story—and of course, why such themes are essential to the development of today's children—Touch Magic heralds a new millennium of fantasy, myth, and storytelling. “Story is our wall against the dark,” Yolen contends, and as adults, we must equip our children with story in order to keep them linked with the past and ready for the future. Touch magic, and pass it on.

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