Monday, December 7, 2009

Aesop Prize

Every year the Children's Folklore Section of the American Folklore Society selects books for their Aesop Prize. This award looks for great folk stories that are respectful of the culture of the people who tell the story as well as being well documented for sources and annotations.

In other words, this is a great list to share with teachers who are looking for materials to use in their classrooms with various units of study, since you know the stories on this list will be authentic, respectful, and well documented.

There are three winners this year!

Dance, Nana, Dance (Baila, Nana, Baila). By Joe Hayes, Illustrated by Mauricio Trenard Sayago. Cinco Puntos Press, 2008.

This colorful bilingual anthology of thirteen Cuban folktales has sabor, the flavor of the Caribbean, bringing the rich mixture of Spanish, African, and American influences to his readers. Cuban folkloric wisdom and wit fill these pages. There is a rhythmic quality to the linguistic expression in both the English and Spanish narratives, reminiscent of the importance of rhythm in the Cuban way of life.

The Kalevala: Tales of Magic and Adventure. Adapted by Kirsti M�kinen. Illustrated by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin. Translated by Kaarina Brooks. Simply Read Books, 2009.

The Kalevala, the national epic poem of Finland, is presented in a hefty, lavishly illustrated prose narrative of twenty chapters, interspersed with poetic sidebars providing a more literal sense of the poetic form of the original. The narrative structure closely follows the fifty cantos, or runes, of Elias Lönnrot’s 1849 edition, which he pieced together from thousands of variant folk poems into a single epic format. This new prose edition, translated from the Finnish, makes the classic work available to a new generation of English-speaking older children and young adults, recommended for ages 10 and up. The richly detailed illustrations draw heavily on authentic artifacts of traditional Finnish material culture to give visual clarity to unfamiliar details of the tale.

Naupaka. By Nona Beamer. Illustrated by Caren Ke’ala Loebel-Fried. Translation from the Hawai’ian by Kaliko Beamer-Trapp. Music by Keola Beamer. Bishop Museum Press, 2008. (Includes audio CD).

Nona Beamer, an iconic figure of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance, skillfully retells the locally well-known legend of Naupaka, artfully enhanced by Caren Loebel-Fried’s stunning block print illustrations. The picture book, presented bilingually with parallel English and Hawaiian texts on the same page, tells of two lovers kept apart by the rigid strictures of traditional pre-contact Hawaiian social structure. Naupaka, a princess or member of the ruling ali’i class, falls in love with a commoner, Kau’i. Her parents tell her to consult the kúpuna, the village elders, to determine the lovers’ fate. They refer the decision to a distant kahuna, a religious leader, who defers to the judgment of the gods. When a lightning bolt signals that the lovers must be parted, they sorrowfully concur, with Naupaka remaining in the mountains and Kau’i returning to the seashore. The tale is told to explain the origin of two varieties of scaveola, a flowering plant known in Hawai’i as naupaka. An indigenous variety grows on the coast, in Hawai’i and elsewhere, while the mountainous variety is endemic, found only in Hawai’i. Each bears a white half-blossom, signifying the parting of the lovers.

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