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The Children's Bookshelf: Treasury of Magical Tales from Around the World - May 2, 2022


Treasury of MAGICAL TALES from Around the World told by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Christina Balit is an outstanding collection of 29 stories originally from the oral tradition. These stories are not myths but rather stories from many cultures about “people and the human spirit” as discussed in the Author’s Introduction. In this fine collection the reader will meet colorful people in lively situations from Italy, England and Angola to Korea, Japan and China to Vietnam, Chile, Mexico and the Arctic to name just a few.

In the magical tale from Inuit, Arctic entitled The Woman and Her Bear Child a childless woman sees a baby polar bear alone and hungry out on a tip of ice. She determines that it is an orphan and decides to take care of him---he would be her son. This touching story about love and survival is beautifully illustrated especially the final picture of the woman, older now, and the bear, bigger now, hugging each other.

The Poor Boy and the Golden Lamb, a funny Hungarian tale about a boy who played a flute as he drove sheep forward, a dancing lamb and those who became literally stuck to the flute and each other is very entertaining.

The stories and accompanying illustrations are filled with delightful details and colors. Author Napoli and artist Balit, a winning team, have again created a book full of verbal delights and visual treats. There is also a fine Afterword, Bibliography and Index.

Treasury of MAGICAL TALES from Around the World told by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Christina Balit will capture the imaginations of middle grade readers 9-12 years of age and up (National Geographic, 2021).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for Magical Tales

Christina Balit’s illustrations are full of eye-popping details. Turn to the magical tale from Ecuador entitled The Mundopuma. Study the first illustrative spread and find the following life forms: a jaguar, a monkey, a snake, a parrot, a sloth, a pelican, a tapir and a peccary. Now with crayons or colored pencils draw your own picture of this colorful scene. Give your picture a name that is somehow connected to this storyline.

This book could be read over several reading sessions so that you can enjoy each of the detailed magical stories to their fullest. Which magical story is your favorite so far? Why? If you could give that story your own title what would it be? Why? Have you ever heard any of these storylines in a different format before?

Reread author Donna Jo Napoli’s Introduction to remind yourself of the difference between myths and magical stories and what role the oral tradition plays in the later. When was the last time you told a story using oral tradition characteristics? Do your recall the story? To whom did you tell the story?

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.