Books such as these can be perfect frames for great stories providing just enough plot, character development and art. Here are three highly recommended titles providing unforgettable stories and characters. As in On the Wings of the Swan, the combination of themes dealing with generosity of heart and unintended consequences give great value to the stories being present in the lives of children.
1. The Story of Jumping Mouse
, A Native American Legend by John Steptoe – Cultures wanting the world to be a better place would certainly use this tale with their children.
True Anecdote: A third grade boy once asked me if I told Native American stories. I answered that I tell one Native American story and it is The Story of Jumping Mouse. He told me how much that story meant to him by saying he had spent one week in a school, which was near a homeless shelter where he was and I was there at that school telling this story. He said that it was the thought of having a dream that helped him so much. A year and a half had transpired between those two occasions.
Related poetry using The Dream Keeper by Langston Hughes:
Try using the poem, “Dreams” by Langston Hughes as a rhythmic call response poem before working with this story. The importance of having a dream is central to this story. After the story, try working with the poem again and adding a quatrain or two.
Hold fast to dreams
For Jumping Mouse knew
It’s dreams that take you
Where you want them to.
||Secondary repeating voice
Hold fast to dreams
And grow your own wings
Fly high and greet
Life’s beautiful things.
Try using another Langston Hughes’ poem, Mother to Son, as a resonating poem to the part when the gravelly voice of Magic Frog is heard to say: “Jump high, Jumping Mouse,” commanded Magic Frog.
2. The Changeling, by Selma Lagerlof – Swedish storytelling bringing the Golden Rule to life within the story. The scenes with the father’s harshness are balanced by the exquisite ending.
After The Story of Jumping Mouse, this story layers nicely.
Locating Sweden on a map gives the orientation of a place
where the author Selma Lagerlof is so highly valued that her
likeness is on Swedish money. Here is another example of
story providing desirable thinking for a civilization. The
folklore of trolls can be explored as well.
True Anecdote: A fifth grader once excitedly jumped out of
his seat the instant I finished telling this story to tell me, “I got
it. I got it.” He was a vocal guy with a lot of energy and this
was a great way to channel his gifts. He told the entire story
while the rest of the class just smiled at me and at him for
how well he did it.
Related Poetry: Since the Dream Keeper has been used
already, try using the title poem in connection with this story.
Set the rhythm with the words “Bring me, bring me, bring me,
bring me” much like the beat of a drum.
3. Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave as told by Marianna Mayer and illustrated by K. Y. Craft – Russian Cinderella fairytale rich in characters and opportunities for storytelling. The light and power of love shines through despite the dark nature of Baba Yaga.
There are two scenes in this book that can really come to life. Scene #1 is when the girls are sewing by the light of a single flame. The mother is rocking and you can feel the ticking of a clock to the way she may be rocking on a squeaky wooden floor. Scene #2 is when Vasilisa goes to the creepy house of Baba Yaga and in her mortar and pestle, Baba Yaga swoops down into the scene. Try playing a bit of music to help with the atmosphere. There is a part of the Russian composer, Alexander Borodin’s Polotsvian Dances that works beautifully here.
It is fun to explore alternate endings to this story.
True Anecdote: A first grader walked right up to me when I had finished telling the story. I wore a longer skirt with pockets and used a doll not unlike the doll as pictured in the story. I put the doll into my pocket when it was time to leave and she reached into my pocket to get the doll. She stood spellbound looking at this little doll. Without taking her eyes off of the doll, she asked, “Is it true?” Her reality had her own mother in prison for drug dealing. My answer reflected the reality that what was true was the love so many people had for her. Sometimes we can hardly fathom the needs children have for stories.
Related Poetry: “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson as well as, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost apply to this story in a way. A connection can certainly be made. Rachel Field’s poem, “Some People” would be another poem to explore in association with this story and it just might lead you to another book.
4. Journal pages