Request: Hockey Books

GoalieI need some help and I’m hoping that will all the combined knowledge out there in the kidlitosphere this will be easy! I work in a bookstore in Wisconsin and I get at least six requests for kids’ hockey books a day. Any kind of hockey books and all ages are asked for. I know of some, but not nearly enough and I can’t think of hardly any fiction for anyone past the early chapter book level (and beginning readers are scarce too). Good biographies of players would be great, nonfiction on hockey, picture books, beginning readers, middle grade, I even need some fiction for teenagers if it’s out there! Basically, anything beyond Matt Christopher as far as chapter books would be great. I’ve found some suggestions online, but I’d love to hear about any good ones people know of or have read or have heard about. Anything. Even if it’s only available in Canada, it’ll give me something to recommend! Thank you for any suggestions you come up with!

Picture Books:

- That’s Hockey by David Bouchard, illustrated by Dean Griffiths
- Franklin Plays Hockey by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Brenda Clark
- The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier, illustrated by Sheldon Cohen
- The Kid Line by Teddy Jam, illustrated by Ange Zhang
- The Goalie Mask by Mike Leonetti, illustrated by Shayne Letain
- Gretzky’s Game (Hockey Heroes Series) by Mike Leonetti, illustrated by Greg Banning
- Number Four, Bobby Orr! by Mike Leonetti, illustrated by Shayne Letain
- The Magic Hockey Stick by Peter Maloney and Felicia Zekauskas
- The Magic Hockey Skates by Allen Morgan, illustrated by Michael Martchenko
- Hat Tricks Count: A Hockey Number Book by Matt Napier, illustrated by Melanie Rose
- Z Is For Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet by Matt Napier, illustrated by Melanie Rose
- When I Grow Up I’m Going to Be a Hockey Star by Kimberly Jo Simac

Easy Chapter Books:

- Arthur and the Goalie Ghost by Marc Brown
- The Hockey Machine by Matt Christopher
- Ice Magic by Matt Christopher
- Penalty Shot by Matt Christopher
- Frankenstein Doesn’t Slam Hockey Pucks by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones, illustrated by John Steven Gurney

Middle Grade Chapter Books:

- The Screech Owl Series by Roy MacGregor
- The Mystery of the Morphing Hockey Stick by P. J. McMahon, illustrated by John Manders
- The Hockey Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Nonfiction:

- How Hockey Works by Keltie Thomas

Gender-Flipped Tales: Rumpelstiltskin

RumpelstiltskinThe Tale:

There was once upon a time a poor miller who had a very handsome son. Now it happened one day that she had an audience with the Queen, and in order to appear a person of some importance she told her that she had a son who could spin straw into gold. “Now that’s a talent worth having,” said the Queen to the miller; “if your son is as clever as you say, bring him to my palace to-morrow, and I’ll put him to the test.” When the boy was brought to her she led him into a room full of straw, gave him a spinning-wheel and spindle, and said: “Now set to work and spin all night till early dawn, and if by that time you haven’t spun the straw into gold you shall die.” Then she closed the door behind her and left him alone inside.

So the poor miller’s son sat down, and didn’t know what in the world he was to do. He hadn’t the least idea of how to spin straw into gold, and became at last so miserable that he began to cry. Suddenly the door opened, and in stepped a tiny little woman and said: “Good-evening, Master Miller-lad; why are you crying so bitterly?” “Oh!” answered the boy, “I have to spin straw into gold, and haven’t a notion how it’s done.” “What will you give me if I spin it for you?” asked the manikin. “My chain,” replied the boy. The little woman took the necklace, sat herself down at the wheel, and whir, whir, whir, the wheel went round three times, and the bobbin was full. Then she put on another, and whir, whir, whir, the wheel went round three times, and the second too was full; and so it went on till the morning, when all the straw was spun away, and all the bobbins were full of gold. As soon as the sun rose the Queen came, and when she perceived the gold she was astonished and delighted, but her heart only lusted more than ever after the precious metal. She had the miller’s son put into another room full of straw, much bigger than the first, and bade him, if he valued his life, spin it all into gold before the following morning. The boy didn’t know what to do, and began to cry; then the door opened as before, and the tiny little woman appeared and said: “What’ll you give me if I spin the straw into gold for you?” “The ring from my finger,” answered the boy. The manikin took the ring, and whir! round went the spinning-wheel again, and when morning broke she had spun all the straw into glittering gold. The Queen was pleased beyond measure at the sights but her greed for gold was still not satisfied, and she had the miller’s son brought into a yet bigger room full of straw, and said: “You must spin all this away in the night; but if you succeed this time you shall become my husband.” “He’s only a miller’s son, it’s true,” she thought; “but I couldn’t find a richer husband if I were to search the whole world over.” When the boy was alone the little woman appeared for the third time, and said: “What’ll you give me if I spin the straw for you once again?” “I’ve nothing more to give,” answered the boy. “Then promise me when you are King to give me your first child.” “Who knows what may not happen before that?” thought the miller’s son; and besides, he saw no other way out of it, so he promised the manikin what she demanded, and she set to work once more and spun the straw into gold. When the Queen came in the morning, and found everything as she had desired, she straightway made him her husband, and the miller’s son became a king.

Spinning WheelWhen a year had passed a beautiful daughter was born to him, and he thought no more of the little woman, till all of a sudden one day she stepped into his room and said: “Now give me what you promised.” The King was in a great state, and offered the little woman all the riches in his kingdom if she would only leave him the child. But the manikin said: “No, a living creature is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.” Then the King began to cry and sob so bitterly that the little woman was sorry for him, and said: “I’ll give you three days to guess my name, and if you find it out in that time you may keep your child.”

Then the King pondered the whole night over all the names he had ever heard, and sent a messenger to scour the land, and to pick up far and near any names she could come across. When the little woman arrived on the following day he began with Kaspa, Melanie, Bella, and all the other names he knew, in a string, but at each one the manikin called out: “That’s not my name.” The next day he sent to inquire the names of all the people in the neighborhood, and had a long list of the most uncommon and extraordinary for the little woman when she made her appearance. “Is your name, perhaps, Sheepshanks Cruickshanks, Spindleshanks?” but she always replied: “That’s not my name.” On the third day the messenger returned and announced: “I have not been able to find any new names, but as I came upon a high hill round the corner of the wood, where the foxes and hares bid each other good night, I saw a little house, and in front of the house burned a fire, and round the fire sprang the most grotesque little woman, hopping on one leg and crying:

“To-morrow I brew, to-day I bake,
And then the child away I’ll take;
For little deems my royal game
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name!”

Rumpelstiltskin BowingYou may imagine the King’s delight at hearing the name, and when the little woman stepped in shortly afterward and asked: “Now, my lord King, what’s my name?” he asked first: “Is your name Cora?” “No.” “Is your name Hattie?” “No.” “Is your name perhaps, Rumpelstiltskin?” “Some demon has told you that, some demon has told you that!” screamed the little woman, and in her rage drove her right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to her waist; then in a passion she seized the left foot with both hands and tore herself in two.

by The Brothers Grimm (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)

Thoughts:

I’m actually really pleased with the flipped version of this story. I actually like Rumpelstiltskin as a woman far more than as a man – spinning has always been a woman’s art, so it’s only fitting that a woman should know the secret of spinning straw into gold while a man should not. The other characters don’t change a whole lot in the flipping. The Queen doesn’t seem odd for the greed just as the King didn’t (repulsive, maybe, but not odd). Women boast as often as men do, so the Miller’s flip doesn’t seem out of place at all either. Why she would boast that her son excelled at something really only women usually do, who knows, but maybe she spoke before she really had time to think about it. As for the boy himself, well, who wouldn’t be distraught in that situation? I think he’s perfectly realistic. More than the girl, even, since he likely wouldn’t even know how to begin when put in front of a spinning wheel, whereas she would almost certainly know at least how it usually works and in her desperation try to spin the straw. Yes, I think this story works wonderfully well as a gender-flipped tale! This may even be the best one so far!

Women in Videogame Promotional Art: NCsoft’s Game Girls

Tabula Rasa Promo ArtI’m always on the lookout for gaming art with images of women that make me want to play the game or, even better, play that particular female character. I was a kid in the era when Ms. Pac-Man and Princess Peach were about the only female characters that were terribly prominent in the video game world. This led me to believe for a long time that video games weren’t really for me. I didn’t really want to be a princess in a pink frilly dress who constantly needed rescuing (What is up with that anyway? Somebody needs to buy Peach some books on how to be self-reliant!). Anyway, we’re beyond that now. These days, women are everywhere in the world of video games. Unfortunately, they still have a ways to go when it comes to being attractive as avatar images for women.

Not too long ago I got an email from NCsoft advertising their various Massive games (I play one of their games, so I get emails from them periodically). For each game there was an accompanying piece of promotional art. The art did not please me very much. At the top of the email was an image for the game Tabula Rasa featuring a man and a woman (it’s the top image in this post). The man is fully armored, is wearing a helmet, and is holding a large weapon out in front of him. He looks ready for action, if maybe not as well protected in the facial area as one might wish. The woman, on the other hand, wears no protective gear on her head at all (except for the stylin’ shades that appear to really be goggles of some kind) and her “armor” is skin-tight leather. Skin-tight to the point where even her nipples are showing. She’s also in a really dumb pose entirely designed to throw her breasts forward. It’s actually pretty uncomfortable to stand that way in real life (I tried it before writing this post). It also looks stupid in real life. So, to recap on this image – the man is armored and looks ready to fight the ‘Bane’ while the woman is dressed and posed like a sex object. Presumably they are both in situations where bullets are flying at them. Yeah, that makes sense.

Guild Wars Promo ArtThe next game in the email was Guild Wars, specifically an ad for the Eye of the North expansion. The expansion’s promo art so far has given me the impression that it has sort of a Norse theme. That’s pretty cool. I would have loved to have seen a Valkyrie or something in the ad, but instead I get this girl (see the image to the left). She’s standing in what appears to be a pretty cold place (whites and blues and frosty effects) and she’s in front of a bear-like creature. You’d think she’d be wearing armor or fur or something to protect her from the cold. She’d need protection when she goes out fighting scary ice creatures with her cool bear companion or whatever he is, right? Instead she’s dressed like a stripper in a gold bra, connected by the thinnest strip to a tiny swimsuit bottom of thin straps that seems designed to expose every bit of flesh possible. Her arms are completely covered by cool sleeves, but those sleeves connect to absolutely nothing. Nevertheless, they’re probably the only thing keeping her warm at all. Not that it would help, since she’s still going to die of frostbite long before she even finds the ice creatures, bear companion or no. This is not encouraging, and makes me wonder how that picture can represent the same game as this one. I actually really like some of the promotional art for this game, but it seems like for every empowering piece there are two like this.

City of Heroes/City of Villains Promo ArtNext up are the paired games City of Heroes and City of Villains. There are three people in this image – two men and a woman. This time all three are equally armed with swords of various types (see image to the right). The men, however, are fully covered. One even has serious shoulder armor to protect him, while the other sports more of a corporate-samurai look. On one of the men you can’t see a scrap of skin below the neck while on the other only the thinnest strip around the elbows is visible. The woman, on the other hand, is not so well protected. She’s in a short, pleated skirt (really practical for fighting crime, I’m sure) and a halter top. Her knee-high boots leave much of her legs exposed and her cute little wrist-length gloves aren’t really any protection for her arms. But she’s a superhero, right? Maybe she’s invulnerable. I’ll buy that. It’s that kind of game (although why girls who are invulnerable run around wearing very little and guys still cover up is a mystery to me). The problem still stands that she looks like an overdeveloped schoolgirl while the guys look like grown-men to be taken seriously. I’m not saying that overgrown schoolgirl superheroes shouldn’t exist, I’m just saying maybe this isn’t the best image for NCsoft to have chosen to represent female characters in the game. If you’re going for a bad-ass look to the image (and the weapons, poses and two of the figures’ outfits suggest you are), don’t decide to go with an infantalized image for the one woman – make her bad-ass too.

Dungeon Runners Promo ArtThe fourth game discussed in the email is one I’d not previously heard of – Dungeon Runners. The image in the email (see left) shows a tall, thin redhead wearing a skin-tight cat suit of sorts. It’s cut out from her neck to below her navel and only held shut by a small gold clip. The cat suit is sleeveless, but the woman wears separate three-quarter sleeves, apparently for style since her shoulders are completely bare. A belt that clearly carries nothing hangs stylishly at her hips. Since the game description suggested a D&D-style dungeon-crawling game, I wondered about this outfit. It’s useless as armor, the woman bears no weapon, has no equipment or even a backpack, and generally appears more ready for an evening in a nightclub than a dungeon-crawl of any kind. The few screenshots I could find of this game suggest that the in-game characters appear nothing like this – they look more squashed, cartoony and (shocker, here) armored. So where this piece of art came from and who decided it was good promo art for the game I have no idea. I do know that this particular piece of art does not make me want to play. It makes me wonder if the game follows the classic fantasy gaming rule of inverse armor (where the higher your level, the less skin you cover if you play a female character), which definitely doesn’t make me want to play. If I’m going to be fighting someone with claws or a sword, I’m going to be doing it with a breastplate (or something, anyway) on, thank you very much!

Lineage II Promo ArtThe last game discussed in the email was Lineage II. Now, this game’s primary market is Korea and other parts of Asia and the art is very Anime-like. I realize that asking for non-striper, non-infantalized women is a stretch, but this image still bothered me (see right). The girl in this image is so stupidly dressed that it’s actually really hard for me not to laugh at her. The bodice looks just like a rubber one I saw on a booth babe at Gen Con a few years back. And what’s with the ridiculously armored panties? Seriously, armored panties are about the dumbest thing ever and these ones look like they’ll stab her with their pointy decorative bits. Of course, not as badly as her shoulder piece will if she happens to tilt her head a little too far. And again, what’s with covering up her arm completely and leaving her torso nearly naked? What, arms aren’t sexy so they can be used to kind of suggest armor, but heaven forbid we cover up anything with sex appeal to it! This outfit just doesn’t make any sense at all. I just want to wrap her in a towel and tell her it’s going to be ok.

Seriously, I like videogames. I even like NCsoft’s games. I just can’t figure out what’s up with the art that is used to promote games. I could as easily have picked just about any other major game company to pick on for this post (and the idea for the post had been in my head long before I got this particular email). NCsoft just happened to send me the perfect set of sample images all in one place. The thing is, SOE’s images are just as bad (check out any of the Everquest or EQII promo art). So are Blizzard’s (I’ve even talked about their avatars before). By and large, the art that’s out there is just awful when it comes to portraying women. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions because there are. NCsoft has even made some of those exceptions. The problem is that if so much of it is bad, it doesn’t exactly draw women to play.

Like I said, I already like videogames. I play them. But I pick up a videogame magazine and generally find myself feeling sick. Flipping through the ads in a typical gaming magazine generally makes me not want to play anything – except maybe Viva Pinata – for several days. This is clearly a problem. And it’s not just a problem with me. There are mountains of articles out there talking about how the gaming industry isn’t reaching out to women, how it isn’t making them feel welcome, asking where all the women gamers are and how to create more of them. Maybe rather than making “girl games”, which pretty much everyone agrees generally suck, the industry could try to better brand the games they have so that women felt invited to play them like men did. I know it’s kind of a radical concept, but we know there are women who like to play these games already. Why not advertise them in such a way that is going to make them appear appealing to other women?

Hint number one: half-clothed women and chest-thrusting poses that look really dumb when tried by real women are not the way to do that.

Movie: Aladdin

Aladdin PosterDisney’s movie version of the tale of “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” from the Arabian Nights stories has become something of a modern classic in animated movies. It is a cinematic masterpiece with sweeping views of a fabulous city plucked directly out of an Arabian fantasy and soaring music that gives an epic feel to what is not a particularly epic story. It is not, however, terribly reminiscent of the original tale. I really like this movie, but not because it in any way resembles the original story (in fact, the changes made to the princess bothered me enormously at first – westernizing her so much seemed just wrong). I think that this is a fun movie and Carpet is just one of the must fun animated characters to watch, but I think this is the perfect example of how Disney takes stories and twists them to be what they want, forever changing how popular culture sees them. Nearly every kid I meet today knows the Disney version of the Aladdin story, but I doubt many of them know the Arabian Nights version. And that’s kind of a shame, even if the movie is awesome.

Book: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic NovelArtemis Fowl
Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
illustrated by Giovanni Figano and Paolo Lamanna
2007 (Hyperion)

If you’ve read the first “Artemis Fowl” novel, you know the plot of this book already. I hadn’t read it, so this graphic novel version was new to me. Artemis is a twelve-year-old boy, the youngest of the Fowl family which is a centuries-old Irish family known for being not so honorable. He lives on his family’s amazing estate with his mother, his bodyguard and his bodyguard’s sister. He’s also a genius. Through much digging and correlating of stories he has discovered that fairies are, in fact, very real and each one carries a book with the key to their undoing (among other things, because why would you carry a book that just says how to disable you?). Artemis tracks down a fairy and manages to procure a copy of the book (photographs of all the pages, anyway), which he then carefully translates using his aforementioned genius. Then he sets out to capture an actual fairy. Once this is done, he demands a ransom for her. Understandably, she and her superiors in the elite fairy police force she works for are not at all pleased.

The art in this book was, for the most part, fantastic. I was especially impressed with the characters themselves. Each one was completely distinct. It is so common for art with fairies to fall into the pattern where all fairies look essentially interchangeable, but that was definitely on the case here. Every member of the fairy world was just as detailed and distinct as each of the humans. The character designs themselves were also well done. You could tell a lot about each person just by how they looked (which is important for a book like this where a lot of that information is almost certainly given in the novel, but would be out of place if expostulated on in the book). The one quibble I had with the art was Fowl Manor itself. The text describes how it was built hundreds of years ago as a castle and has been remodeled over and over through the years by the family until it became more of a manor house and less of a castle. What we see in the art, however, is a meticulously planned manor house that shows no trace of castle or, really, even character. It could be the manor house in any Hollywood movie. Even the interior is an unremarkable stereotypical British manor. With this medium they could have gone all-out and shown us an amazing house, but instead we got a fairly boring Victorian-looking one. It was a little disappointing, especially considering the obvious talent of the artists.

The story was well suited to the medium. I can’t speak to the adaption from the original, though. There was a good balance of action, conversation and introspection. It was never weighed down and it clipped along at a good pace. I really liked how much personality was allowed to show through in just the text alone. The bureaucracy of the fairy police forces and the strange plot with Artemis’ mother were both really nice touches to the story. The position and treatment of most of the female characters in the story bothered me a bit, though. And I couldn’t help wondering why fairy society, which is supposedly considerably older and more advanced than ours, is so incredibly far behind in terms of gender equity. Even one strong female character who didn’t spend most of the book locked up by the male ones would have been nice, but it wasn’t there. That was really my one major squabble with the plot.

Overall I thought this book was extremely well done. The art was, by and large, wonderful. The writing was smooth and interesting and the plot well-suited to the format. I would recommend this to people who are already fans of the series and those who like interesting new graphic novels.

This book has been nominated for a Cybil in the graphic novel category.

- Publisher’s Description
- The Official Artemis Fowl Website
- Eoin Colfer’s Website
- Andrew Donkin’s Website
- Giovanni Rigano’s Blog
- Buy it from Amazon

Gender-Flipped Tales: Jill and the Beanstalk

Milky-WhiteThe Tale:

There was once upon a time a poor widower who had an only daughter named Jill, and a cow named Milky-white. And all they had to live on was the milk the cow gave every morning, which they carried to the market and sold. But one morning Milky-white gave no milk and they didn’t know what to do.

“What shall we do, what shall we do?” said the widower, wringing his hands.

“Cheer up, father, I’ll go and get work somewhere,” said Jill.

“We’ve tried that before, and nobody would take you,” said her father; “we must sell Milky-white and with the money, start shop, or something.”

“All right, father,” says Jill; “it’s market-day today, and I’ll soon sell Milky-white, and then we’ll see what we can do.”

So she took the cow’s halter in her hand, and off she started. She hadn’t gone far when she met a funny-looking old woman, who said to her: “Good morning, Jill.”

“Good morning to you,” said Jill, and wondered how she knew her name.

“Well, Jill, and where are you off to?” said the woman.

“I’m going to market to sell our cow here.”

“Oh, you look the proper sort of maid to sell cows,” said the woman; “I wonder if you know how many beans make five.”

“Two in each hand and one in your mouth,” says Jill, as sharp as a needle.

“Right you are,” said the woman, “and here they are, the very beans themselves,” she went on, pulling out of her pocket a number of strange-looking beans. “As you are so sharp,” says she, “I don’t mind doing a swap with you — your cow for these beans.”

“Walker!” says Jill; “wouldn’t you like it?”

“Ah! you don’t know what these beans are,” said the woman; “if you plant them overnight, by morning they grow right up to the sky.”

“Really?” says Jill; “you don’t say so.”

“Yes, that is so, and if it doesn’t turn out to be true you can have your cow back.”

“Right,” says Jill, and hands her over Milky-white’s halter and pockets the beans.

Back goes Jill home, and as she hadn’t gone very far it wasn’t dusk by the time she got to her door.

“Back already, Jill?” said her father; “I see you haven’t got Milky-white, so you’ve sold her. How much did you get for her?”

“You’ll never guess, father,” says Jill.

“No, you don’t say so. Good girl! Five pounds, ten, fifteen, no, it can’t be twenty.”

“I told you you couldn’t guess. What do you say to these beans; they’re magical, plant them overnight and —”

Beanstalk“What!” says Jill’s father, “have you been such a fool, such a dolt, such an idiot, as to give away my Milky-white, the best milker in the parish, and prime beef to boot, for a set of paltry beans? Take that! Take that! Take that! And as for your precious beans here they go out of the window. And now off with you to bed. Not a sup shall you drink, and not a bit shall you swallow this very night.”

So Jill went upstairs to her little room in the attic, and sad and sorry she was, to be sure, as much for her father’s sake, as for the loss of her supper.

At last she dropped off to sleep.

When she woke up, the room looked so funny. The sun was shining into part of it, and yet all the rest was quite dark and shady. So Jill jumped up and dressed herself and went to the window. And what do you think she saw? Why, the beans her father had thrown out of the window into the garden had sprung up into a big beanstalk which went up and up and up till it reached the sky. So the woman spoke truth after all.

The beanstalk grew up quite close past Jill’s window, so all she had to do was to open it and give a jump on to the beanstalk which ran up just like a big plaited ladder. So Jill climbed, and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed till at last she reached the sky. And when she got there she found a long broad road going as straight as a dart. So she walked along and she walked along and she walked along till she came to a great big tall house, and on the doorstep there was a great big tall man.

“Good morning, sir,” says Jill, quite polite-like. “Could you be so kind as to give me some breakfast?” For she hadn’t had anything to eat, you know, the night before and was as hungry as a hunter.

“It’s breakfast you want, is it?” says the great big tall man, “it’s breakfast you’ll be if you don’t move off from here. My woman is an ogress and there’s nothing she likes better than girls broiled on toast. You’d better be moving on or she’ll soon be coming.”

“Oh! please, sir, do give me something to eat, sir. I’ve had nothing to eat since yesterday morning, really and truly, sir,” says Jill. “I may as well be broiled as die of hunger.”

Well, the ogress’ husband wasn’t such a bad sort after all. So he took Jill into the kitchen, and gave her a hunk of bread and cheese and a jug of milk. But Jill hadn’t half finished these when thump! thump! thump! the whole house began to tremble with the noise of someone coming.

“Goodness gracious me! It’s my old woman,” said the ogress’ husband, “what on earth shall I do? Come along quick and jump in here.” And he bundled Jill into the oven just as the ogress came in.

She was a big one, to be sure. At her belt she had three calves strung up by the heels, and she unhooked them and threw them down on the table and said: “Here, husband, broil me a couple of these for breakfast. Ah! what’s this I smell?

Fee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishwoman,
Be she alive, or be she dead,
I’ll have her bones to grind my bread.”

“Nonsense, dear,” said her husband, “you’re dreaming. Or perhaps you smell the scraps of that little girl you liked so much for yesterday’s dinner. Here, you go and have a wash and tidy up, and by the time you come back your breakfast’ll be ready for you.”

So off the ogress went, and Jill was just going to jump out of the oven and run away when the man told her not. “Wait till she’s asleep,” says he; “she always has a snooze after breakfast.”

Well, the ogress had her breakfast, and after that she goes to a big chest and takes out of it a couple of bags of gold, and sits down counting them till at last her head began to nod and she began to snore till the whole house shook again.

Then Jill crept out on tiptoe from her oven, and as she was passing the ogress she took one of the bags of gold under his arm, and off she pelters till she came to the beanstalk, and then she threw down the bag of gold, which, of course, fell into her father’s garden, and then she climbed down and climbed down till at last she got home and told her father and showed him the gold and said: “Well, father, wasn’t I right about the beans? They are really magical, you see.”

So they lived on the bag of gold for some time, but at last they came to the end of that so Jill made up her mind to try her luck once more up at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning she rose up early, and got on to the beanstalk, and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed till at last she got on the road again and came the great big tall house she had been to before. There, sure enough, was the great tall man a-standing on the doorstep.

“Good morning, sir,” says Jill, as bold as brass, “could you be so good as to give me something to eat?”

“Go away, my girl,” said the big, tall man, “or else my woman will eat you up for breakfast. But aren’t you the youngster who came here once before? Do you know, that very day my man missed one of his bags of gold.”

“That’s strange, sir,” said Jill, “I dare say I could tell you something about that but I’m so hungry I can’t speak till I’ve had something to eat.”

Well, the big tall man was that curious that he took her in and gave her something to eat. But she had scarcely begun munching it as slowly as he could when thump! thump! they heard the giant’s footstep, and her husband hid Jill away in the oven.

All happened as it did before. In came the ogress as she did before, said: “Fee-fi-fo-fum,” and had her breakfast off three broiled oxen. Then she said: “Husband, bring me the hen that lays the golden eggs.” So he brought it, and the ogress said: “Lay,” and it laid an egg all of gold. And then the ogress began to nod her head, and to snore till the house shook.

Golden EggsThen Jill crept out of the oven on tiptoe and caught hold of the golden hen, and was off before you could say “Jill Robinson.” But this time the hen gave a cackle which woke the ogress, and just as Jill got out of the house she heard her calling:

“Husband, husband, what have you done with my golden hen?”

And the husband said: “Why, my dear?”

But that was all Jill heard, for she rushed off to the beanstalk and climbed down like a house on fire. And when he got home she showed her father the wonderful hen, and said “Lay” to it; and it laid a golden egg every time she said ‘Lay.”

Well, Jill was not content, and it wasn’t long before she determined to have another try at her luck up there at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning, she rose up early, and went on to the beanstalk, and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed till he got to the top. But this time she knew better than to go straight to the ogress’ house. And when she got near it, she waited behind a bush till she saw the ogress’ husband come out with a pail to get some water, and then she crept into the house and got into the copper. She hadn’t been there long when she heard thump! thump! thump! as before, and in came the ogress and her husband.

“Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishwoman,” cried out the ogress. “I smell her, husband, I smell her.”

“Do you, my dearie?” says the ogress’ husband. “Then if it’s that little rogue that stole your gold and the hen that laid the golden eggs she’s sure to have got into the oven.” And they both rushed to the oven. But Jill wasn’t there, luckily, and the ogress’ husband said: “There you are again with your fee-fi-fo-fum. Why, of course, it’s the lassie you caught last night that I’ve broiled for your breakfast. How forgetful I am, and how careless you are not to know the difference between live un and a dead un.”

So the ogress sat down to the breakfast and ate it, but every now and then she would mutter: “Well, I could have sworn —” and she’d get up and search the larder and the cupboards, and everything, only, luckily, she didn’t think of the copper.

After breakfast was over, the ogress called out: “Husband, husband, bring me my golden harp.” So he brought it and put it on the table before her. Then she said: “Sing!” and the golden harp sang most beautifully. And it went on singing till the ogress fell asleep, and commenced to snore like thunder.

Then Jill lifted up the copper-lid very quietly and got down like a mouse and crept on hands and knees till she came to the table when she got up and caught hold of the golden harp and dashed with it towards the door. But the harp called out quite loud: “Mistress! Mistress!” and the ogress woke up just in time to see Jill running off with his harp.

Singing HarpJill ran as fast as she could, and the ogress came rushing after, and would soon have caught her only Jill had a start and dodged her a bit and knew where she was going. When she got to the beanstalk the ogress was not more than twenty yards away when suddenly she saw Jill disappear like, and when she came to the end of the road she saw Jill underneath climbing down for dear life. Well, the ogress didn’t like trusting herself to such a ladder, and she stood and waited, so Jill got another start. But just then the harp cried out: “Mistress! Mistress!” and the ogress swung herself down on to the beanstalk, which shook with her weight. Down climbs Jill, and after her climbed the ogress. By this time Jill had climbed down and climbed down and climbed down till she was very nearly home. So she called out: “Father! Father! bring me an axe, bring me an axe.” And her father came rushing out with the axe in his hand, but when he came to the beanstalk he stood stock still with fright, for there he saw the ogress just coming down below the clouds.

But Jill jumped down and got hold of the axe and gave a chop at the beanstalk which cut it half in two. The ogress felt the beanstalk shake and quiver so she stopped to see what was the matter. Then Jill gave another chop with the axe, and the beanstalk was cut in two and began to topple over. Then the ogress fell down and broke her crown, and the beanstalk came toppling after.

Then Jill showed her father her golden harp, and what with showing that and selling the golden eggs, Jill and her father became very rich, and she married a great prince, and they lived happy ever after.

By Joseph Jacobs (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)

Thoughts:

I actually think that this story flipped really well. The relationship between the ogress and her husband is a little strange (we don’t imagine giants being house-husbands very often), but really, if you were married to an ogre, wouldn’t you do the cooking too? I would, even if I were a guy. Jack/Jill is still basically a freeloading rogue and the parent figure largely just lets her be that way. That works equally well with the genders flipped as it did originally (now the protagonist more like the daughter in “Diamonds and Toads” who ended up with toads, but Jack would have been that kid anyway). I think this worked really well overall. Oh, and I decided for the first time to leave something the way it was. The cow and the hen both retained their original sexes (I just couldn’t write about milking a bull or a rooster who laid eggs, it doesn’t make sense). Since their identities isn’t at all vital to the story, I decided to bend the rules for them in the interests of the story maintaining logical biology (magic beanstalks and golden eggs notwithstanding).

Book: The Qwikpick Adventure Society

The Qwikpick Adventure SocietyThe Qwikpick Adventure Society
Sam Riddleburger
2007 (Dial/Penguin)

What is there to do on Christmas Day if you don’t have celebrating to do? That’s the problem faced by the Qwikpick Society (Lyle, Marilla and Dave). They decide that rather than sit around in the Qwikpick (where Lyle’s parents work) watching movies in the break room, they’re going to go on an adventure. The best thing they can come up with for an adventure is to go visit the local Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is about to be completely renovated. The renovation will remove the “poop fountain” that is part of the workings of the plant and the fountain is going to be turned off in just a few days, so the kids decide to go visit it before it gets shut off for good and no one ever gets to see it again. What follows is a very eventful series of events involving a lot of trouble and a big mess!

I really didn’t think I was going to enjoy this book nearly as much as I did. I mean, it’s about a poop fountain. Normally, things like that don’t entertain me that much. This book, however, had me entertained from the first page all the way through the last. I still maintain that I never want to see a poop fountain, but I did love the adventure and it would have been seriously missing something without the poop.

Part of the charm of this book was in the format. It’s written as if the kids wrote it themselves, recording their adventure right after it happened in an effort to make sure it gets remembered. The pages are laid out in a font that looks like a typewriter font, which fits, since they supposedly wrote this out using an old typewriter in the Qwikpick break room, and there are “photographs” throughout as well as notebook pages with various types of handwriting adding in bits and pieces from each kid’s individual point of view. It’s a great piece of work, even just looking at the layout. I loved the addition of the lined notebook paper. That was perfect.

This is a really fun, funny, and surprisingly smart book (you don’t expect “smart” from a book where you can’t describe the plot without using the phrase “poop fountain”). I really enjoyed this book. Everything from the kids’ relationships to the origami section to the maps and poems were wonderful. It was just really fun to read! I highly recommend this book! It’s a blast to read and just a lot of fun! Don’t eat while you read it, though!

- Publisher’s Description
- Sam Riddleburger’s Blog
- The Qwikpick Adventure Society

Gender-Flipped Tales: The Shepherd and the Sweep

ShepherdTale:

Have you ever seen an old wooden cupboard quite black with age, and ornamented with carved foliage and curious figures? Well, just such a cupboard stood in a parlor, and had been left to the family as a legacy by the great-grandfather. It was covered from top to bottom with carved roses and tulips; the most curious scrolls were drawn upon it, and out of them peeped little stags’ heads, with antlers. In the middle of the cupboard door was the carved figure of a woman most ridiculous to look at. She grinned at you, for no one could call it laughing. She had goat’s legs, little horns on her head, and long hair; the children in the room always called her, “Major general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs.” It was certainly a very difficult name to pronounce, and there are very few who ever receive such a title, but then it seemed wonderful how she came to be carved at all; yet there she was, always looking at the table under the looking-glass, where stood a very handsome little shepherd made of china. His shoes were gilt, and his suit had a red rose or an ornament. He wore a hat, and carried a crook, that were both gilded, and looked very bright and pretty. Close by his side stood a little chimney-sweep, as black as coal, and also made of china. She was, however, quite as clean and neat as any other china figure; she only represented a black chimney-sweep, and the china workers might just as well have made her a princess, had they felt inclined to do so. She stood holding her ladder quite handily, and her face was as fair and rosy as a boy’s; indeed, that was rather a mistake, it should have had some black marks on it. She and the shepherd had been placed close together, side by side; and, being so placed, they became engaged to each other, for they were very well suited, being both made of the same sort of china, and being equally fragile. Close to them stood another figure, three times as large as they were, and also made of china. She was an old Chinawoman, who could nod her head, and used to pretend that she was the grandmother of the shepherd, although she could not prove it. She however assumed authority over him, and therefore when “Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs” asked for the little shepherd to be her husband, she nodded her head to show that she consented. “You will have a wife,” said the old Chinawoman to him, “who I really believe is made of mahogany. She will make you a gentleman of Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs. She has the whole cupboard full of silver plate, which she keeps locked up in secret drawers.”

“I won’t go into the dark cupboard,” said the little shepherd. “I have heard that she has eleven china husbands there already.”
“Then you shall be the twelfth,” said the old Chinawoman. “To-night as soon as you hear a rattling in the old cupboard, you shall be married, as true as I am a Chinawoman;” and then she nodded her head and fell asleep.

Then the little shepherd cried, and looked at his sweetheart, the china chimney-sweep. “I must entreat you,” said he, “to go out with me into the wide world, for we cannot stay here.”

“I will do whatever you wish,” said the little chimney-sweep; “let us go immediately: I think I shall be able to maintain you with my profession.”

“If we were but safely down from the table!” said he; “I shall not be happy till we are really out in the world.”

Then she comforted him, and showed him how to place his little foot on the carved edge and gilt-leaf ornaments of the table. She brought her little ladder to help him, and so they contrived to reach the floor. But when they looked at the old cupboard, they saw it was all in an uproar. The carved stags pushed out their heads, raised their antlers, and twisted their necks. The major-general sprung up in the air; and cried out to the old Chinawoman, “They are running away! they are running away!” The two were rather frightened at this, so they jumped into the drawer of the window-seat. Here were three or four packs of cards not quite complete, and a doll’s theater, which had been built up very neatly. A comedy was being performed in it, and all the kings of diamonds, clubs, and hearts, and spades, sat in the first row fanning themselves with tulips, and behind them stood all the knaves, showing that they had heads above and below as playing cards generally have. The play was about two lovers, who were not allowed to marry, and the shepherd wept because it was so like his own story. “I cannot bear it,” said he, “I must get out of the drawer;” but when they reached the floor, and cast their eyes on the table, there was the old Chinawoman awake and shaking her whole body, till all at once down she came on the floor, “plump.” “The old Chinawoman is coming,” cried the little shepherd in a fright, and down he fell on one knee.

Toy Theater“I have thought of something,” said the chimney-sweep; “let us get into the great potpourri jar which stands in the corner; there we can lie on rose-leaves and lavender, and throw salt in her eyes if she comes near us.”

“No, that will never do,” said he, “because I know that the Chinawoman and the potpourri jar were lovers once, and there always remains behind a feeling of good-will between those who have been so intimate as that. No, there is nothing left for us but to go out into the wide world.”

“Have you really courage enough to go out into the wide world with me?” said the chimney-sweep; “have you thought how large it is, and that we can never come back here again?”

“Yes, I have,” he replied.

When the chimney-sweep saw that he was quite firm, she said, “My way is through the stove and up the chimney. Have you courage to creep with me through the fire-box, and the iron pipe? When we get to the chimney I shall know how to manage very well. We shall soon climb too high for any one to reach us, and we shall come through a hole in the top out into the wide world.” So she led him to the door of the stove.

“It looks very dark,” said he; still he went in with her through the stove and through the pipe, where it was as dark as pitch.
“Now we are in the chimney,” said she; “and look, there is a beautiful star shining above it.” It was a real star shining down upon them as if it would show them the way. So they clambered, and crept on, and a frightful steep place it was; but the chimney-sweep helped him and supported him, till they got higher and higher. She showed him the best places on which to set his little china foot, so at last they reached the top of the chimney, and sat themselves down, for they were very tired, as may be supposed. The sky, with all its stars, was over their heads, and below were the roofs of the town. They could see for a very long distance out into the wide world, and the poor little shepherd leaned his head on his chimney-sweep’s shoulder, and wept till he washed the gilt off his sash; the world was so different to what he expected. “This is too much,” he said; “I cannot bear it, the world is too large. Oh, I wish I were safe back on the table. again, under the looking glass; I shall never be happy till I am safe back again. Now I have followed you out into the wide world, you will take me back, if you love me.”

Broken ChinaThen the chimney-sweep tried to reason with him, and spoke of the old Chinawoman, and of the Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s legs; but he sobbed so bitterly, and kissed his little chimney-sweep till she was obliged to do all he asked, foolish as it was. And so, with a great deal of trouble, they climbed down the chimney, and then crept through the pipe and stove, which were certainly not very pleasant places. Then they stood in the dark fire-box, and listened behind the door, to hear what was going on in the room. As it was all quiet, they peeped out. Alas! there lay the old Chinawoman on the floor; she had fallen down from the table as she attempted to run after them, and was broken into three pieces; her back had separated entirely, and her head had rolled into a corner of the room. The major-general stood in her old place, and appeared lost in thought.

“This is terrible,” said the little shepherd. “My poor old grandmother is broken to pieces, and it is our fault. I shall never live after this;” and he wrung his little hands.

“She can be riveted,” said the chimney-sweep; “she can be riveted. Do not be so hasty. If they cement her back, and put a good rivet in it, she will be as good as new, and be able to say as many disagreeable things to us as ever.”

“Do you think so?” said he; and then they climbed up to the table, and stood in their old places.

“As we have done no good,” said the chimney-sweep, “we might as well have remained here, instead of taking so much trouble.”

“I wish grandmother was riveted,” said the shepherd. “Will it cost much, I wonder?”

And he had her wish. The family had the Chinawoman’s back mended, and a strong rivet put through her neck; she looked as good as new, but she could no longer nod her head.

“You have become proud since your fall broke you to pieces,” said Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs. “You have no reason to give yourself such airs. Am I to have him or not?”

The chimney-sweep and the little shepherd looked piteously at the old Chinawoman, for they were afraid she might nod; but she was not able: besides, it was so tiresome to be always telling strangers she had a rivet in the back of her neck.

And so the little china people remained together, and were glad of the grandmother’s rivet, and continued to love each other till they were broken to pieces.

by Hans Christian Andersen (available in its original form at Hans Christian Andersen: Fairy Tales and Stories)

Thoughts:

This story flipped fairly painlessly, but I’m not sure that it works as well as some of the others have. The shepherd’s weepiness doesn’t seem as appropriate in a man as it did in a woman (now, I never thought it very appropriate or appealing, but still…). The cupboard’s title (Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs) also seems a little odd now. There is nothing inherently gendered in there (I thought about flipping Billy, but since the phrase “billy-goat” gets used for both genders of goats indiscriminately, I decided against it), but it feels like something should change about it. Still, I left it as it was. I liked the meddling grandparent figure just as well as a grandmother, even if the word “chinawoman” is a little more cumbersome than “chinaman”. Neither is a great word anyway, if you ask me. Overall, I think the story works ok. Suggestions and comments are welcome, as always!

Television: Sleeping Bassoon

Sleeping BassoonThe Little Einsteins seem to read the oddest versions of fairy tales. This time, Quincy reads them his favorite story – “Sleeping Bassoon”. In the story a princess Bassoon (complete with pointy princess hat) makes everyone happy by playing a happy song, but the grumpy wizard doesn’t want to be happy or see anyone else happy, so he casts a spell to put the princess in a deep sleep. If no one can wake her up before all the purple pebbles fall in an hourglass, she’ll never wake up. None of the instruments in the kingdom seem able to replicate the bassoon’s happy song (the wedding march) to wake her up. The Little Einsteins rush to the rescue, since Quincy can play the song on his trumpet. After much searching, aided by a fish and hampered by the grumpy wizard, they reach the castle and Quincy manages to awaken the princess. Everyone is happy, even the grumpy wizard (go figure).

Although this was a rather interesting telling of the “Sleeping Beauty” story, I actually found it rather unsatisfying. I think part of the problem was that in changing the focus of the story from the princess to the questing rescuers, the writers ended up kind of removing both the impetus for the action in the first place and the repercussions afterwards. Why did the grumpy wizard suddenly become not grumpy at the end? It really didn’t make any sense. The use of the song to wake her up and everyone else trying to play it (in sort of a more genuine version of everyone trying on the glass slipper) was really interesting and well done. I would have liked to know what was special about the song that made it impossible for any other instrument to play (part of the spell, maybe?), but I liked the element of them trying to awaken her.

I find the fluidness of stories really interesting in Little Einsteins. They enter the books they read as easily as they encounter “real” things, which is very much the way children are able to interact with books and stories. It’s like the fairy tales are games to them, rather than books, and that’s perfect. I love how they’ve made that the case and yet haven’t felt the need to explain or qualify it at all. It just is. This is definitely an interesting series!

Book: Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress

Confessions of a Part-Time SorceressConfessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the Dungeons and Dragons Game
Shelly Mazzanoble
illustrated by Craig Phillips
2007 (Wizards of the Coast)

Full confession: I’ve been a table-top gamer since I was eleven. This is not typical, particularly since I’m a girl. There are many, many women gamers out there. Many more than is typically believed. However, we’re still vastly outnumbered by the guys and we tend not to talk about our hobby because there is a lot of stigma attached to it. Shelly Mazzanoble gets all that. She gets the stereotypes, the typical responses, the dubious reactions to the whole thing typical from non-gamers (especially non-gamer women) when the subject is brought up. But she also gets that gaming is fun and that it has a huge appeal for women in particular (you get to hang out with your friends, hit or blow up people that annoy you, and pretend you’re way cooler than you are with no one laughing at you for it – all in a safe, consequence-free environment – what’s not to like?).

In this very funny, very witty, very readable book Shelly Mazzanoble discusses how she got into playing Dungeons and Dragons, what she thought before she started, the reactions of her friends, and even the basics of how the game works (for those many people who aren’t actually familiar with it). She does a great job of covering all those basics in a way that makes sense and makes the fun of the game really stand out. This is most evident in her descriptions of game sessions, but the fact that she enjoys playing the game comes out on every single page of the book. The best thing about this book is that she explains why gaming is fun.

My husband and I laughed through this entire book. It brought up memories of games, memories of how we got into gaming, and even fostered discussions about all sorts of things (from what “Jimmy Choos” are to why most women say they are “gamers” as opposed to “roleplayers”). This is a book I’ve already found myself recommending to people, both gamers and non-gamers, and a book that I honestly found myself wondering if I should give to my mother, if for no other reason than to explain to her what the appeal of all this gaming stuff is to me. It’s a very entertaining, approachable book. I’d happily give this to a teenage girl, although maybe not to a ten-year-old. It did make me wish that someone would write something similar for that age group though!

I, obviously, very much recommend this book. It’s a fast, fun read. Even if you’ve never played a roleplaying game in your life, I’d recommend checking out at least the first chapter. Games are everywhere. Literally millions of people play World of Warcraft, and that’s really only a poor imitation of what a real tabletop gaming experience with friends and complicated characters you care about can be like. Shelly Mazzanoble clearly gets it and she’s written a fun book that explains the appeal and shows how very easy the game can really be to play. This is a totally fun read. It made me wish there were books like this aimed at kids and families now!

- Publisher’s Description
- The Official Dungeons and Dragons Website
- Shelly Mazzanoble’s Website
- Buy it from Amazon

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