[Monday Reading] Elfin Queen, Princes on a Quest, and Enchanted Woods

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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.

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Click here to sign up. If you have already signed up, here is the January-March linky where you can link up your reviews or updates from your reading list.

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.

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These two picture books are essentially fairy tales that would have fit quite snugly as well into our previous theme on Faeries, Spirit-Stars, Goddesses and Celestial Beings. Just goes to show how everything is infinitely interwoven into some magical cosmic pattern of sorts.

IMG_0482The Enchanted Wood

Written and Illustrated by: Ruth Sanderson
Published by: Little Brown and Company, 1991
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This picture book follows the age-old formula of classic traditional tales with a king heartbroken by the death of his queen, an ailing Kingdom on the verge of starvation, and three princes who are provided with the quest to restore the kingdom’s bounty to prove who among them is worthy to be King. Throw in the Heart of the World found inside an Enchanted Forest, a peasant lady, white stag, and a silent black knight, and you have a timeless fairy tale in your hands.

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As can be seen from the illustration above, this story captures the elegance of royalty and the need for valiant, heroic deeds to heal a broken heart and restore an entire Kingdom. Just like Ruskin’s The King of the Golden River which I reviewed last week, the two elder brothers in this story are haughty, arrogant, and seem to have grown up with a precious sense of entitlement about who they are and their place in the world.

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Not that you can blame them, really, they are princes after all. The youngest however, is pure of spirit and with a refreshing sense of humility and selflessness. All three brothers were specifically warned by the gatekeeper of the enchanted forest never to stray from their path or sense of purpose. However, the eldest who thought of himself as a master huntsman, was ensnared by the sight of a perfect white stag. The second son who thought of himself as a great warrior was distracted by the sight of the black knight above.

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I loved how the presence of this simple, peasant girl named Rose, daughter of the enchanted forest’s gatekeeper, changed everything for the youngest son, Galen. With his two older brothers missing, Galen went to the Forest to find them and the Heart of the World to save his father’s kingdom. I see now that what attracts me to fairy tales most of all is how simple things can be with goodness of heart prevailing over greed, avarice, and pride.

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Written and Illustrated By: Robin Muller
Published by: Tundra Books, 1991
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

After I have finished reading this book, I realized that we have actually featured a different version of this tale in Tam Lin by Susan Cooper and illustrated by Warwick Hutton.

The story begins with an ordinary forest being transformed into a dark, tangled, impenetrable Nightwood, the home of the much-feared Elfin Queen.

Children, who played beneath the forest’s boughs, were never seen again. Even brave knights, daring to explore the secrets of the wood, vanished. Only their empty armor was ever found, broken and pierced by thorns.

This part of the forest is actually owned by the Earl of March who had a wilful daughter named Elaine. For some reason, she was drawn to the Nightwood even though she was repeatedly warned by her nurse that it was folly to test the Elfin Queen’s patience and wander into the forest lest she be swallowed by it.

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When she was not allowed by her father to join the ball in their castle because she was too young, she defied her father by sneaking out to the Nightwood so that she can attend the Elfin Queen’s Ball instead. This is where she met Tamlynne, the Elfin Queen’s Knight. I recalled using Susan Cooper’s version as one of our featured stories for our Girl Power theme sometime in 2012. This story, however, while more gorgeously illustrated, did not appeal as much to me, primarily because I thought of Elaine as a spoiled and self-absorbed daughter of an Earl who is merely used to getting her own way.

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Even the supposedly heroic act of freeing the Knight Tamlynne from the enchantment of the Elfin Queen struck me as self-serving. For teachers who may be interested to use this in their classrooms, it would be good to pair this with other versions of the stories and see how the children would respond to them. In my original review of Tam Lin, I included a list of Teacher Resources which I will copy and paste here:

This incisive and scholarly post by Ginger Mullen entitled Transformations of “Tam Lin”: An Analysis of Folktale Picture Books talks about illustrative techniques, traditional motifs, and accuracy of cultural images across two versions of Tam Lin written by Susan Cooper and another by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak.

This website on the other hand has a great deal of links to anything that is Tam Lin related – including music links (recall that this is originally a Scottish ballad), a link to related tales for closer examination of myths, information about Scotland and so much more.

Currently Reading…

I have just finished reading The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. I scheduled a review sometime in the next few days, so do watch out for it. I am now reading Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief as the two books are frequently being compared. I have only read the first few chapteres of The Thief and I could already see the stark similarities.

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I would also be starting with The Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen. Excited to see what Sage would be up to this time around.

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***!! Geeky News !!***

I am also very happy to share with everyone that my new course entitled Using Multicultural Children’s Books to Promote Socio-emotional Learning is a go! Our class begins tomorrow evening. This is a course module being offered in our institution (National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University) to higher degree students who are taking their Masters Degree or PhD. This is an elective course offered across all specializations, mostly teacher-practitioners who are teaching in local schools here in Singapore. I am glad to note that I have around 17-18 students enrolled as of today.

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Tomorrow evening, we would be discussing the importance of literature (specifically multicultural children’s book titles) in facilitating socio-emotional learning in the classroom. We have what is known as the SEL (Socio-Emotional Learning) Framework being practiced in schools here in Singapore, and we will unpack its components and link it to relevant children’s book titles.

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This is the text-set that I will be using for my first classroom workshop that would look into how reading, libraries, and a love for words, can be essentially life-changing (I would love to hear more recommendations from you, dear friends, if you have any that you’d like to add). I am especially grateful to our extremely-helpful librarians in our institution who have helped me in the acquisition of over 60 picturebooks for this course. The library would also generously compile my reading list each week in time for my class, as there are occasions when I would be using more than 20 picturebooks during one session. I just wanted to share these acts of kindness. Love Magnified.

*** Video ads other readers may find at the bottom of this post are NOT endorsed by GatheringBooks but are randomly included by WordPress to maintain their site. ***

12 Comments on [Monday Reading] Elfin Queen, Princes on a Quest, and Enchanted Woods

  1. Again – more beautiful books! Enjoy them all! You make me want to read more children’s books :)

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  2. Love all the books! Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed The Runaway King! I can’t wait for the next one!

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  3. Congratulations on the class being a go! Happy teaching! Interesting, Ruth Sanderson illustrated a book that I was obsessed with as a child. I never explored her other books, not sure why, so I’m grateful for your sharing of The Enchanted Wood… Happy reading week to you!

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  4. WOW those are very interesting books.

    These are the books we are reading this week.

    Leydy @ OUaT & Redcarpetendings

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  5. The Thief has been a big success in my classroom, Myra – great book. Thank you for this magical reading focus – I don’t usually gravitate towards this genre, but you certainly are tempting me with the books you review!

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  6. I love that CS Lewis image. You read some GORGEOUS books last week. I hope you enjoy The Thief and The Runaway King.

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  7. So glad your course is a go! I hope you’ll write about what you’re doing each week in class. I love peeks into other people’s courses! It helps me improve my own. For my text set on this topic, I also include Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile, Miss Brooks Love Books and I Don’t, and I want to add Miss Moore Thought Otherwise. Your set introduces me to several books I’m unfamiliar with and a couple that I just hadn’t thought to use in this context (Dave the Potter–love that book!) Looking forward to your thoughts on The Thief. That series is one that I do not ever include in my Children’s Lit or Adolescent Lit courses because I love those books too much and it hurts my feelings when others don’t like them too, LOL. So I hope you like The Thief, because otherwise I might have to cry!

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  8. bluestockingthinking // January 14, 2014 at 7:46 am // Reply

    You’re reading The Runway King! I am taking this as a good sign that you loved The False Prince :) Congrats on your course news!

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  9. The Enchanted Wood looks fantastic, thanks for sharing it!

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  10. Enjoy The Runaway King! Love the books for your course. A few titles I might also suggest: The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting and Mr George Baker by Amy Hest.

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  11. I’m excited to start The Runaway King . . . it’s been waiting for me on my bookshelf! The illustrations for The Enchanted Wood look amazing; thanks for sharing that title!

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  12. Exciting news about your course! I’ve enjoyed reading the books in that image you shared. And some I’ll have to go and look for! Have a great reading week and class!

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