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November 1, 2014

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Book Review: Professional Reading | February 2013

MCNEIL, Heather. Read, Rhyme, and Romp: Early Literacy Skills and Activities for Librarians, Teachers, and Parents. 230p. bibliog. further reading. index. photos. score. websites. Libraries Unlimited. 2012. pap. $45. ISBN 978-1-59884-956-1; ebook $38. ISBN 978-1-59884-957-8. LC 2012014171.
McNeil’s guide explains specific early-literacy skills, recommends a wealth of activities to foster them, and suggests appropriate children’s literature to support their development. The author discusses early brain development; learning language; the importance of reading aloud, telling stories, singing, and rhyming. She also refers to programs such as “Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library.” The literacy activities would be easy to replicate at home and in schools and libraries. Within most of the chapters, material has been divided into separate sections for parents, teachers, and librarians. A strength of the work is in the many recommended children’s books incorporated within the chapters and organized by literacy-related topics. At times, however, placement of these lists interrupts the flow of the conversational writing style. Captioned black-and-white photographs capture children engaged with books; a separate series of photos follows the author leading a “Toddlin’ Tales” session. Other professional tools cover similar topics; McNeil identifies many of them in a separate chapter that contains annotations for related works, programs, activity guides, research, and websites. This book stands out for its excellent book lists, plus the added benefit of reaching parents, teachers, and librarians all in one volume. A worthy resource.–Lynn Vanca, Freelance Librarian, Akron, OH

PULLMAN, Philip. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. 400p. bibliog. Viking. 2012. Tr $27.95. ISBN 978-0-670-02497-1; ebook $14.99. ISBN 978-1-101-60103-7.
Fifty tales are retold in this witty, fast-paced, and entertaining collection. In fairy-tale tradition, Pullman adds his own modern phraseology and an occasional event to the “originals” when he believes it will be an improvement. The conceits of the genre are respected and adhered to but the subtle changes make the stories compelling. It is charming to think of the Brave Little Tailor as “a weapon of mass destruction.” This and a few other modernisms enliven the narratives. Pullman effectively makes use of other sources to tell the stories: an Uncle Remus conclusion for the ending of “The Cat and the Mouse Set Up House” and the epigram in “The Robber Bridegroom” from “Mr. Fox,” which is similar to Much Ado About Nothing. He attributes and incorporates the original tellers and writers as collected by the Grimms as well as authors of other variants and other folktales. Each selection is referenced by type, source, and similar tale. Mention of the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim and scholars such as Maria Tatar, Jack Zipes, and Marina Warner point to varying interpretations of the stories. The introduction conveys his purpose and presents some history of the Grimms and information about the fairy-tale conventions found in their tales. Others have presented the complete tales (Zipes) and annotated tales (Tatar) and there are countless picture-book adaptations. Pullman’s collection is noteworthy for the energetic pace of the stories and the subtle adaptations that make it accessible to modern readers. This is a collection for librarians and teachers to read aloud and to encourage listeners to imagine and retell in their own words.–Jackie Gropman, formerly at Chantilly Regional Library, VA

TATAR, Maria, ed. The Annotated Brothers Grimm: Bicentennial Edition. tr. from German by editor. 576p. bibliog. further reading. illus. notes. Norton. 2012. Tr $35. ISBN 978-0-393-08886-1.
Fifty-two tales, many well-known and loved, some unfamiliar, and nine specifically for adults, are extensively illustrated with art from the works of Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, Wanda Gag, Leslie Brooke, and others. Each tale is accompanied by copious annotations that highlight the changes from one Grimm edition to another, views and translations of other scholars, and Tatar’s own historical or cultural analysis. The preface, expanded from one and a half pages in the 2004 edition to six pages here, is a discussion of the significance of fairy tales that, through many retellings, have a “shared cultural repertoire.” A.S. Byatt’s thought-provoking introduction is a personal homage to the genre and discusses the conceits found in the tales, the psychological need in all societies for “untrue stories,” and an appreciation of their magic and mystery. The section called “Reading the Grimms” is a look at the origin of the tales, including Asian and European variants, and the brothers’ method of collecting. A biographical section includes information about the men’s personal lives, their interest in law and politics, and their other literary pursuits. The last section is a delightful compilation of brief essays by fairy-tale fans about the usefulness, delight, and pervasiveness of the tales. Rounding out the collection are an extensive bibliographies of books and illustrations. Academic enough for the scholarly and thoroughly engaging enough for general readers, this browsable collection will enchant fairy-tale lovers everywhere.–Jackie Gropman, formerly at Chantilly Regional Library, VA

ZVIRIN, Stephanie. Read with Me: Best Books for Preschoolers. 184p. bibliog. further reading. illus. index. websites. ALA. 2012. pap. $18.95. ISBN 978-1-937589-03-5; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-1-937589-07-3. LC 201002405.
Zvirin has selected and annotated more than 300 books for adults to enjoy with preschoolers. She made her choices by talking to librarians as they compiled their lists of “best books” as well as by using blogs and listservs. She purposely does not suggest well-known classics such as Goodnight Moon in order to draw attention to titles published in the last decade. Her organizational plan is centered around common themes, running the gamut from books about “ME” to families, friendships, and make-believe. The annotations are thoughtful, yet casual and chatty, pointing out the reasons why children would enjoy a particular title. While Jim Trelease has long been recognized for his choices in his Read-Aloud Handbook (Peter Smith Pub., 2006), he covered a much wider age range and included many chapters with information about literacy and fostering the love of reading. Update a professional collection with Zvirin’s book or hand it to new
parents as a guide to their child’s early listening and reading adventures.–Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA

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