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
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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.
I thought that it would be wonderful to begin our new bimonthly theme with a fairly-old classic written in 1841 by John Ruskin, one of the most influential critics and celebrated scholar of his century. This story is his only fairy tale and was written supposedly “at the request of a very young lady [twelve year old Euphemia Gray] and solely for her amusement, without any idea of publication.” Clearly, Ruskin’s stellar reputation and the lyrical beauty of the narrative are sufficient to immortalize his work as illustrated by two outstanding illustrators.
The King of the Golden River
Written by: John Ruskin Illustrated by: Juan Wijngaard
Published by: Walker Books, 2000
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.
This book is not like the standard picturebooks with its fairly large pages and full-spread illustrations. It’s a small book in comparison, pocket-size even, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard, born in Argentina of Dutch parents. Illustrator Wijngaard was recipient of the Mother Goose Award and the Kate Greenaway Medal.
The narrative is simple and reminiscent of traditional tales with a touch of fantastical elements and clear moral lessons without being too utterly didactic. The story revolves around three brothers named Schwartz, Hans, and Gluck. The two older brothers (Schwartz and Hans) are predictably cruel, mean-spirited and selfish creatures who would often bully the youngest, better-looking, kind-hearted Gluck into doing menial tasks.
Things took a turn for the strange when a little gentleman turned up at the brothers’ doorstep unannounced. While he was treated hospitably by youngest brother Gluck, the older ones treated him abominably. It turns out that he is none other than South West Wind – Esquire, the King of the Golden River himself. As punishment, he made sure that no rain fell in the brothers’ valley, turning their once-abundant farm to a veritable desert. And so the brothers decided to become goldsmiths instead. Once again, the King of the Golden River reappeared when Gluck’s favourite golden mug was melted as part of their new trade:
Since the act of melting the mug has essentially freed the King of the Golden River from an enchantment, he gave Gluck a very interesting quest:
Whoever shall climb to the top of that mountain from which you see the Golden River issue, and shall cast into the stream at its source three drops of holy water, for him, and for him only, the river shall turn to gold. But no one failing in his first, can succeed in his second attempt; and if anyone shall cast unholy water into the river, it will overwhelm him, and he will become a black stone. (p. 51)
As can be discerned from the small quote above, the original language was pretty much preserved, so this is best read aloud to younger children who would no doubt be quite unfamiliar with the nuances and the vocabulary of an earlier period. Which one of the three brothers would succeed in this quest, I shall leave for you to discover.
The King of the Golden River
Written By: John Ruskin Artwork by: Iassen Ghiuselev
Published by: Simply Read Books, 2005
Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
This version of the book has a different illustrator, but with the exact same narrative found in the pages. Another major distinction is this book is much bigger in size as compared to the one above.
I have to admit that I preferred the illustrations in this book. I loved that there were full-page spreads that made me re-imagine the story altogether, providing me with a different level of experience through the mostly black-and-white artwork.
There were a few illustrations with very subtle colours that also provided the reader with a feel of the story’s timeline and what life could have been like during this period in history:
For hardcore scholars of children’s literature, this is definitely a must-read. Provides one with an idea of Ruskin’s sensibilities. It was Ruskin’s introduction to the Brothers Grimm new edition of their tales in 1868 which eventually persuaded parents to rethink the acceptability of these stories for their children’s delectation. He was that well-regarded. The story, in itself, is a fairly straightforward magic quest where good men are justly-rewarded and evil people get exactly what they deserve.
I am halfway through The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen and I find it riveting. I plan to read Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief afterwards, since it’s been sitting idly in my bookshelf waiting for some booklove. A lot of the critics claim that Nielsen’s work is derivative of Turner’s The Thief. It got me sufficiently intrigued to read through the book. It’s perfect for our theme and two items off my reading list, if ever.
I am enjoying the tome of a book entitled Stories from Hans Christian Andersen with illustrations by Edmund Dulac, collection of fairy stories during the Golden Age of Illustration in Children’s books, perfect for our current theme with queens and princes. I paired it with Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett and it provided me with an idea of just how far children’s artwork has evolved over the centuries. From golden age of illustration to librarian’s nightmare indeed.
I hunted this book down in our library immediately after I saw it in Brainpickings.org yesterday morning. I am so glad this book found me. Quite possibly one of my most ingenious book finds over the past months (and that’s saying a lot). As Sophie Blackall says: “I like a happy ending as well as the next person, but I love the mystery and uncertainty and the electric current of possibility.” Not surprisingly, my 12 year old loves it. Gorgeous artwork. Click here to know more.
Reading Challenge Update: 1 and 2 of 25