Saturday, February 23, 2008

Traditional Tales: Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys

Yolen, Jane. 2003. Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys. Illus. by Raul Colón. NY: Harcourt Books. ISBN: 0152163913.

*Winner of the 2003 Aesop Prize*

Dedicated to her sons and grandsons, Yolen has collected from around the world fourteen diverse tales that include a pure-hearted hero, excitement, magic, trickery, and humor. Coming from countries like China, Germany, Norway, Burma, Ireland, Hungary, and Israel, each tale presents a story of a hero who overcomes his problems not with force but with the virtues of intelligence and courage and even a bit of imagination. Several of the stories may be familiar to readers, like China’s “The Magic Brocade,” Germany’s “The Deveil with the Three Golden Hairs” (a Grimm tale) and the African American tale of the “Knee-High Man” but there are many new ones like Afghanistan’s “Hired Hands” and “The Young Man Protected by the River” from Angola that are just as exciting to read. For each story there is a full-page pen and ink crosshatch illustration (created by Raul Colón) that presents a moment in the narrative and accurately shows the different cultures and time periods that each tale is set in. At the end of the book Yolen provides information on the origins of each tale and how she has combined them to create her own story and a bibliography of other variants for further reading. This collection of virtuous stories is an excellent book for boys to read and, as stated in the letter from the author’s sons and grandsons in the back, for girls to enjoy too.

*Read Yolen’s companion book Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls.
*Have fun reading and doing activities from Conn and Hal Iggulden’s The Dangerous Book for Boys and, for girl readers especially, The Daring book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowirz.

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