Category Archives: Mythology/folklore/fairy tales

Once Upon a Time, IX


(Beautiful art by Kim Kincaid. Visit her site at

Spring has arrived and with it comes my favorite reading event of the year: Carl V’s Once Upon a Time challenge. This is the 9th year he has hosted this fun event. I’m very fond of it because it was the first reading challenge I participated in when I first started blogging, and it inspired me to expand my reading choices to genres I’d seldom tried. Each time I participate, I find new reading friends, new favorite authors, and many new favorite books. Now it has become a rite of Spring for me and the year doesn’t seem right unless anchored by Carl’s wonderful OUaT.

If you haven’t tried a reading challenge before, this is an enjoyable way to start. Choose books from four different genres, read short stories, watch films, or play a game. No pressure, just fun and celebration of the fanciful!

The Once Upon a Time IX Challenge has a few rules:

Rule #1: Have fun.

Rule #2: HAVE FUN.

Rule #3: Don’t keep the fun to yourself, share it with us, please!

Rule #4: Do not be put off by the word “challenge”.

Set goals that fit your reading wish list and available time. Carl has many different options to choose from. This year I’m keeping my choice simple and choosing “The Journey” for my goal. I will read [at least] one book from any of the four genres between now and June 21st. I will write a post for each book I read and will update my list in the Challenges tab on my menu bar.


Thank you, once again, Carl, for hosting this delightful reading event! I know I’m going to love my reading in the next few months and enjoy reading the posts of the other participants!

Once Upon a Time VIII: The Joy of the Genre


Carl V’s Once Upon a Time reading challenges always end too soon! I enjoyed reading a number of books this time around, but didn’t post about each of them. For me, this time, my participation in this challenge was simply all about the joy of the genre. So here are the books I read, or re-read, and thoroughly enjoyed for Once Upon a Time VIII.  Thank you, Carl, for hosting this special annual celebration of the magical!

And some wise words from one of my favorites, Roald Dahl, as a fond farewell to this year’s Once Upon a Time…



The Once and Future King, Part 2


The second book of The Once and Future King, by T.H. White, is called Queen of Air and Darkness and it is, indeed, a much darker part of this story. Unlike the first book, The Sword in the Stone, this section is not a story for children. It is full of the brutality and evil of the Medieval world young King Arthur enters as he begins his reign.

Everything is set into motion in this section. The idealistic and innocent youth become a man, and we watch his development as both leader and philosopher as he experiences his power as king and comes to understand what that power means and how it can be used for Right.

At the same time, the ultimate tragedy of King Arthur and his dream is set in motion by a sinful, though unknowing, act. Using trickery and witchcraft, Queen Morgause seduces Arthur (her half-brother). His son, Mordred, is conceived…

It is why Sir Thomas Malory called his very long book the Death of Arthur….It is the tragedy…of sin coming home to roost . That is why we have to take note of the parentage of Arthur’s son Mordred, and to remember, when the time comes, that the king had slept with his own sister. He did not know he was doing so, and perhaps it may have been due to her, but it seems, in tragedy, that innocence is not enough.

In this book, I found the brutality of Morgause and her sons quite disturbing. It was a stark contrast to the upbringing and education of Arthur, and I had trouble with the images Mr. White painted. I also had trouble with how often he inserted his own opinions, and the happenings of his own time period, into the story. Perhaps, if I just wanted the story of King Arthur without editorializing, I should have been reading Le Morte d’Arthur!

At any rate, it’s a complex story, not one that can be ready lightly or quickly. Although there were humorous elements in this section, it was overall a very dark book. So now I’m on to the next section: The Ill-Made Knight.


Queen Guinevere, by William Morris

I am reading this book for Carl V’s annual Once Upon a Time-VIII reading challenge.


The Once and Future King, part 1


Painting by Alan Lee…

The stories of King Arthur have long captured my imagination. I’ve read many different versions and enjoyed each one. Many years ago, (to be truthful, it’s been 41 years!), I read T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I loved it! So for Carl V’s annual Once Upon a Time reading challenge this year, I decided to listen to the audiobook version of this wonderful classic, and revisit an old friend, so to speak.

It’s a very long book, divided into four parts which were written and published at different times. The Sword in the Stone tells of the boyhood of Arthur, called “Wart” by his family, and of his education by the wizard, Merlin. And what a wonderful education! –full of nature and folklore and imagination! It was a very enjoyable “listen,” and, if I were still teaching 6th grade, I would consider reading it aloud to my students as a stand-alone book.

The Sword in the Stone is very much about learning and about the relationship between this special student and his teacher. I retired last year after 27 years of teaching, and one reason I chose to become a teacher in the first place was because I love to learn, so this quote from the book speaks a particular truth for me about the joy of becoming a lifelong learner.

“The best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then–to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

Other hidden pleasures in this section of the book were the many quotes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and also the inclusion of Robin Hood in the story. What fun! This part of The Once and Future King was written for the child in all of us.


Painting by N.C. Wyeth…

OUaT #2: Flower Fables


THE summer moon shone brightly down upon the sleeping earth, while far away from mortal eyes danced the Fairy folk. Fire-flies hung in bright clusters on the dewy leaves, that waved in the cool night-wind; and the flowers stood gazing, in very wonder, at the little Elves, who lay among the fern-leaves, swung in the vine-boughs, sailed on the lake in lily cups, or danced on the mossy ground, to the music of the hare-bells, who rung out their merriest peal in honor of the night.

Under the shade of a wild rose sat the Queen and her little Maids of Honor, beside the silvery mushroom where the feast was spread.

“Now, my friends,” said she, “to wile away the time till the bright moon goes down, let us each tell a tale, or relate what we have done or learned this day.

Flower Fables was Louisa May Alcott’s first book, published in 1854. She invented these stories as a young teenager and told them to the children of friends and neighbors — the book was dedicated to Ellen Emerson, the daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a family friend. Each story was a fable with the intent of teaching good moral choices to young children. They were fanciful and full of imagination and beautiful description of flowers and fairy folk (LMA had the heart of a gardener!), which is what I enjoyed about this book. She was a wonderful writer, even at that early age.

The stories, however, were  too long and they really labored at the moral. It was definitely a genre from another time period and I found myself ‘skim reading.’  Realizing that the slowness of this genre, and the length of descriptions, required a slower approach (as readers, and as the culture of our own time period, it seems we are always in a terrible rush). I slowed myself down and appreciated more the beauty of her language. Perhaps that would have been easier had I been reading it aloud?

flower_fables_cov_frt__64458.1300411922.1280.1280Suddenly the music grew louder and sweeter, and the Fairies knelt, and bowed their heads, as on through the crowd of loving subjects came the Queen, while the air was filled with gay voices singing to welcome her.

She placed the child beside her, saying, “Little Eva, you shall see now how the flowers on your great earth bloom so brightly. A band of loving little gardeners go daily forth from Fairy-Land, to tend and watch them, that no harm may befall the gentle spirits that dwell beneath their leaves. This is never known, for like all good it is unseen by mortal eyes, and unto only pure hearts like yours do we make known our secret.

Despite the old-fashioned-ness of the stories, I enjoyed Alcott’s fanciful imagination and her world of the fairy folk. It was a very appropriate (although not easy) reading choice for Carl V’s Once Upon a Time VII challenge.


Once Upon a Time, VII


Seven years ago, when this blog was brand new, Carl V. started his Once Upon a Time reading challenge. It was the first challenge I’d ever heard of, and I was excited to sign up and try out this new way of reading. I loved my reading during that first “OUaT,” and I repeated the experience for three more years. Now, after my recent extended hiatus from blogging, I again hear the call of Carl’s elegantly designed challenge.


So, once again, I’m going to choose “Quest the first,” which means that I will read five books from the 4 genres of this challenge: fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, or mythology.

I will also follow the four rules of Carl’s challenge:

Rule #1: Have fun.
Rule #2: HAVE FUN.
Rule #3: Don’t keep the fun to yourself, share it with us, please!
Rule #4: Do not be put off by the word “challenge”.

Here is my starting list for this challenge, and I will keep adding to it as I go .  And here, also, are links to my previous years’ wrap-up posts for this delightful reading challenge. If you are participating this year, I hope you enjoy this reading experience as much as I have and will! Happy reading!

My reading for OUAT-VII:

  1. The Changeling Sea, by Patricia McKillip
  2. Arabian Nights and Days, by Naguib Mahfouz
  3. The Sea Fairies, by L. Frank Baum

Links to my previous reads for this challenge:

Once Upon a Time – I
Once Upon a Time – II
Once Upon a Time – III
Once Upon a Time – IV  (I read four books for this challenge but didn’t do a wrap-up post which would have made it a lot easier to link to..!)

“Books may well be the only true magic.” ~Alice Hoffman


Sleeping Beauty

My second graders are deep into our spring Fairy Tale Unit and love listening to these tales.  Because we are reading as many of them as possible, it has required numerous trips back and forth to the library, where we have found some real treasures.  Many of the fairy tales are retold in picturebook format with wonderful illustrations, but I think that this particular retelling of Sleeping Beauty has the most beautiful illustrations of all!  The absolutely gorgeous artwork is by Christian Birmingham. The artwork, combined with such a beautiful retelling by Adèle Geras, makes it one of our favorites so far.

A perfect book to read for Carl V’s Once Upon a Time IV reading challenge.

Once Upon a Time IV

I am so excited that Carl V. has announced the fourth annual Once Upon a Time reading challenge.  This will be my fourth time participating…it was the first challenge I joined when I first started my book blog, (he calls me a “founding participant” :)) and it has become favorite way for me to welcome Spring each year.

Here’s how he describes this Challenge:

The fourth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge officially begins on Sunday, March 21st and ends June 20th. In addition to the usual goings on over here at Stainless Steel Droppings, the next three months will see features on art, music, film and of course literature of a fantastical, mythical nature. The purpose of the challenges that I host is always to first and foremost have fun and secondly to promote a sense of community across the blogosphere, so I encourage you to become involved in any way that feels comfortable for you.

The Challenge is designed so that you can choose your level of participation by signing up for a Quest.  I have chosen Quest the First: Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time IV criteria. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

This year I decided that I would choose my books from the list of the Mythopoetic Finalists and Award Winners. There are so many great choices from that extended list!  But I may also read more fairy tales, mythology, and folklore simply because those are things I love to read at any time!

So let the fun begin!  And a huge THANK YOU to Carl V. for hosting this amazing Challenge again this year.  HAPPY SPRING to each of you!

The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey

A graphic novel for readers young and old, The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, is a lot of fun to read.  The research that author, Steve Sheinkin, did for this book was to read as many Jewish folktales/stories for children as he could find. Then he combined those stories with his childhood love for comics and for the “wild west” and created Rabbi Harvey.

The stories are delightful, and are indeed full of wisdom. And the book will make you smile and laugh. Click here to see a sample of one of the stories.  Click here to read an interview with author, Steve Sheinkin.

I read this book (and am looking forward to reading the sequel, Rabbi Harvey Rides Again) for Callista’s Jewish Literature Challenge 2010, and Chris and Nymeth’s Graphic Novels Challenge 2010. Great fun!

The King’s Equal


“Once upon a time, a dying king names his son, selfish Prince Raphael, ruler of the kingdom–on one condition: Raphael cannot wear the crown until he marries a woman who equals him in beauty, intelligence, and wealth. Raphael is so arrogant he believes that he never will be able to find a woman who is as smart or good-looking as himself, so he focuses on expanding his wealth and soon his greed makes him the richest person in the whole kingdom. But one thing he wants most is the thing he hasn’t earned–the crown to the kingdom.”

The King’s Equal is a delightful, original fairy tale written by Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia.  It’s nice to find a new book for my class library (it was written for children in grades 2-5) that has a strong and wise female character, that is filled with kindness and intelligence, and that tells a tale about learning what is really important in life.


1993 Teachers’ Choices (IRA)

1992 Irma Simonton Black Award (Bank Street College of Education)

1993 Children’s Booksellers’ Choices (Association of Booksellers for Children)

Silver on the Tree


I finished Silver on the Tree, by Susan Cooper, a few weeks ago but have certainly taken a long time to write about it. This book, the last in The Dark is Rising Sequence, brought together all the different characters and storylines from the other books in the series in an exciting final conflict between the Dark and the Light.  It wasn’t my favorite book of the five, but it was a very satisfying conclusion to the series.

Listening to the audiobooks was an enjoyable experience for me, and all the way through I found myself asking why on earth I hadn’t read this series aloud to my son as he was growing up since we read just about everything else together!  What happened? How did we miss this one? I’m baffled.  At any rate, it would be a wonderful experience to share this 5-book series as a family read aloud or a family audiobook listen on a long road trip this summer!

Two of my blogging friends wrote very nice reviews and answered questions for each other about this book,  so I urge you to visit their blogs and read Nymeth’s and Susan’s discussion on Silver on the Tree.

I chose the Dark is Rising Sequence for Becky’s Arthurian Challenge, so with this book, I have officially finished this challenge. However, I’m sure I’ll continue to read and enjoy other Arthurian books before the year is up!

The Grey King


The Grey King, which is the fourth book in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence, won the Newbery Medal in 1976.  I have been listening to the audiobook versions of the Sequence, and am enjoying this Arthurian fantasy.

 This book had a different narrator than the others books in the series. I couldn’t understand why that would happen until I started listening, and then I understood — this part of the story takes place in Wales, and there’s a small section of the book where Susan Cooper, through her characters, explains Welsh pronunciation. That was fun! 

 The Grey King, like The Dark is Rising (book two), is darker in tone and more complex than Over Sea, Under Stone (book one), or Greenwitch (book three). The main character, once again is 12-year-old, Will Stanton, but a new, and very important character to the overall story is introduced in this volume. I love Susan Cooper’s settings and wonderful descriptions of place and mood. In this book, the Arthurian myths are finally brought more to the forefront. The series is building to a final confrontation between the light and the dark.  All the characters are in place and ready for that final battle. And in this book, the dark is indeed rising … most ominously.