Magical Tales from Many Lands Retold by Margaret Mayo. Illustrated by Jane Ray I’m always on the lookout for good stories to read curled up with my son. Key features would include stories that work well read aloud, hopefully short enough to read at bedtime or before little sister becomes indistractable, and good pictures. I’ve loved Jane Ray’s work in Berlie Doherty’s Fairy Tales for years, but only recently found this earlier work. I still love Jane Ray’s style, folk-art like with lots of gold highlights. In this book, she blends her disctinctive style with elements of the art of the culture she’s representing to create work that’s both cohesive throughout the book and reflective of the culture each story is from. The stories are Arabic (“The Lemon Princess”), Japanese, Chinese, Russian (a slightly less frightening “Baba Yaga Bony-Legs” than I’m used to), African (a version of “Unanana and the Elephant,” a story I remember from one of my favorite childhood storybooks of feminist folk tales.), African-American, Native American, French and more. It’s a good mix of cultures, and while the collection doesn’t feature all women, there are enough stories of strong women that the collection never feels bogged down with outdated attitudes about women. They are well told, with lots of the repetitive language that works so well for story-telling. Although perhaps less interesting to children, I really appreciated her notes on each tale, explaining the source or sources and her deviations from that version. It’s from 1993, so currently out of print, but still available used for reasonable prices and of course free from libraries.
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