Classics Reimagined

Here are five fantastic books that explore some classic Greek tales many of us know, touching upon many centralized themes of classic Greek mythology but in unexpected and innovative ways. All are an illuminating read!

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

This fine rendition of a classic tale, the Odyssey by Homer, rejects the standard canon and explores Penelope’s story through her voice and the song of her twelve murdered maidens.  Atwood draws upon extant sources to create her story, drawing out the inconsistencies of a story that would originally have been told orally thus showcasing the myriad interpretations that can arise from a single story.  Mysterious and intriguing, this tale is a must read for anyone interested in the Odyssey. Continue reading “Classics Reimagined”

October Literary Holidays

 October is known for its spooky holiday themes, but the literary holidays are less spooky and a whole lot of fun.

If you are familiar with the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, then this day might be for you. On October 6th, it is Mad Hatter day due to the number he wears in his hat. It’s a perfect time to explore the world of Wonderland again or check out some books on tea. The Mad Hatter is the host of probably one of the most famous tea parties in the literary world.


Mad Hatters and March Hares 
All new stories from the world
of Alice in Wonderland.

A Literary Tea Party
Tea and books… the perfect pairing.

Continue reading “October Literary Holidays”

Bird Week: Mythology and Birds

The Seattle Public Library is partnering with the Seward Park Audubon Center for the first ever Seattle Bird Week, April 23-30, in celebration of the center’s tenth anniversary.

Throughout human mythology, birds fly with us, inspire us, sing to us, and explain the natural world to us.

Image from the British Museum.

Consider the ancient Greeks using the idea of a bird to teach moral lessons. Imagine you are Icarus, that legendary character, who wearing wings made of wax and bird feathers, are leaping off a tower of imprisonment in sunny Crete. Free, you soar higher and higher into the clear blue skies, despite being warned not to do that by Daedalus, your famously clever father, who designed the wings after he studied birds in flight. Unbound from constraint, gravity, and the plodding limits of your own nature, you are rapturous with the joy of flight, and ignore his admonitions, to your peril. View the full story in this streamed video from our website. Continue reading “Bird Week: Mythology and Birds”

Rabbits in myth and legend

rabbit photo courtesy epicnom at flickrThanks to its sweet face and impish nature, the rabbit has enchanted animal lovers, tormented farmers, and inspired legends and cautionary tales in cultures around the world since time immemorial. If you like rabbits, know someone who does, or are looking for a multicultural storytime idea, these traditional folktales available from The Seattle Public Library may be perfect for you. Each of the stories listed below features a witty, wise, or slightly wicked rabbit and introduces readers to a region and culture they might not have known before.

tale of rabbit and coyote book coverThe Tale of Rabbit and Coyote  by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Tomie dePaola
In this Zapotec trickster tale from Central America, Rabbit repeatedly outsmarts Coyote and we learn why Coyote howls at the moon. Illustrated with vibrant colors. Spanish words are easy to understand in context.

Rabbit: American Indian Legends, retold by D.L. Birchfield
Three Native American folktales featuring the wily rabbit are presented with colorful illustrations. A fact sheet about rabbits and a glossary of terms provide background on both the animal and the native people whose stories are shared.

How Rabbit Tricked Otter and Other Cherokee Trickster Stories by Gayle Ross
Stories of this Cherokee trickster include variations of the well-known tales “Brer Rabbit and the tar Baby” and “The Tortoise and the Hare.” (The tortoise in this variation is exceptionally clever.)

Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl  by Virginia Hamilton
Critics speak very highly of this rendition of the story of Bruh (Brer) Rabbit, who must outsmart Bruh Wolf in order to steal from his garden. Text appears in the dialect of the Gullah people of the Southwest United States and is accompanied by realistic watercolor pictures.

Bo Rabbit Smart for True: Tall Tales from the Gullah, retold by Priscilla Jaquith
In 1946 the Library of Congress made audio recordings to document the oral tradition of the Gullah people. Four such stories, featuring the famous Brer Rabbit, are retold in this collection in the original Gullah dialect.  

Tales of Nanabozho by Dorothy M. Reid
The Ojibwa people of North America tell of a trickster spirit named Nanabozho who often takes the form of a rabbit. He was sent to Earth to teach the people skills such as fishing and to name the plants and animals.

Rabbit Makes a Monkey of Lion: A Swahili Tale by Verna Aardema
Rabbit and his friends play tricks on the regal but somewhat dim-witted lion, King of the Forest, in an attempt to steal his honey. Watercolor illustrations portray the rich colors of the African wilds. Other tales of African rabbit tricksters from Verna Aardema include This for That: A Tonga Tale and Who’s in Rabbit’s House: A Masai Tale.

zomo the rabbit a trickster tale book coverZomo the Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa, told by Gerald McDermott
A small but clever rabbit asks the sky god for wisdom and is challenged to three tasks that pit him against bigger and more powerful adversaries. Ever the comedian, Zomo soon finds that the joke is on him.

Ho-limlim: A Rabbit Tale from Japan by Tejima
A tale from the indigenous Ainu people of Northern Japan, this story features an elderly rabbit who is losing his sight. Colorful wood block prints depict the beauty of the Japanese countryside and offer a gentle view of the world as it can look through failing eyes.

Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka by Tomie de Paola
In this Irish story, a lazy man promises to keep the house clean while his wife is away but makes a big mess, instead. Then a pooka (a strange creature resembling a rabbit) appears and cleans up for him. Why has the pooka come? What price will he ask for his services?

(Prefer DVDs? Last year’s Rascally Rabbits blog post features famous lagomorphs in film and television.)   ~ Anne, Greenwood Branch

Retelling timeless tales

Did you know that there is a series of amazing books which are rpenelopiad-book-cveretellings of mythical tales, each by a famous author?  I didn’t either!  But I came across the “Myth Series” while looking for something else, and was blown away.   The story of Penelope by Margaret Atwood?  The story of Atlas and Heracles by Jeanette Winterson?  COOL!  The authors are international in scope, and were given the charge to tell the story any way they wanted to.  The publisher, Canongate Books, calls it “the most ambitious simultaneous worldwide publication ever undertaken,” but I just call it a really great idea with riveting (and well-reviewed) results. Here are just a few of the titles:

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood: This is the imagined Continue reading “Retelling timeless tales”