Noodleheads See the Future. By Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss. Illustrated by Tedd Arnold. Published by Holiday House, New York, 2017. ISBN 9780823436736
Mac and Mac are a couple of noodleheads, and the stars of Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss’s delightful collaboration Noodleheads See the Future. What is a noodlehead? A noodlehead is a fool, and as the authors explain, “tales of fools, also called ‘noodles’ or ‘noodleheads,’ have been told for as long as people have told stories.” Noodlehead stories appear in the traditions of many countries around the world, and the characters are often well known and beloved of the children in those cultures. They frequently share common traits across cultures too: an illogical view of the world, a tendency to take things literally to the point of absurdity, and a general good nature so that things always work out for the best for them.
In Noodleheads See the Future, the stories are presented in a brief introduction and 3 chapters, each one corresponding to specific traditional motifs, as noted at the end of the book. Mac and Mac are literally portrayed as noodle-heads, elbow macaroni to be exact. In an overarching quest for their favorite food — cake — Mac and Mac cut firewood, have what may or may not be a near death experience, and inadvertently dig a garden for their mother. Along the way they have an encounter with a trickster Meatball who trades them some “magic” seeds … with unexpected results.
Arnold, Hamilton, and Weiss make sure that Noodleheads See the Future is firmly rooted in traditional tales, evidenced in the substantial source notes at the end of the book. The real magic, however, is the enormously child-friendly graphic novel format, illustrated in Tedd Arnold’s signature style, that makes these timeless tales accessible to the very youngest readers. Children love stories in which they are smarter than the protagonist. The Noodleheads are going to be a hit!
The Secret of the Kelpie. Retold by Lari Don, Illustrated by Philip Longson. Published by Floris Books, 2016. ISBN: 9781782502531
The Secret of the Kelpie is inspired by Scottish folklore surrounding the shape-shifting kelpies, or water horses, said to haunt many Scottish lakes and rivers. In this tale, siblings discover a beautiful white horse wandering the shores of the loch. The oldest climb aboard for an adventure, but the youngest, Flora, is not so sure. How can one horse hold her five brothers and sisters? And why are the horse’s footprints filled with water. When the horse transforms into a monster, dragging her family into the loch to drown, Flora must rely on her wits, and her knowledge of the old stories, to save them all.
The Secret of the Kelpie is a gentle story about family dynamics, the power of knowledge, and the wisdom of thinking before you act. Flora is a sweet and clever heroine in the vein of Lucy Pevensie, while carefully chosen details make each of her siblings distinct. The illustrations are soft and painterly, with a misty moodiness appropriate to both the hidden menace of the kelpie and the climate of the Scottish Highlands in which it lives. The last glimpse that Longson gives us of the character also provides a subtle nod to another lake dwelling beast – the Loch Ness Monster.
Margaret Read MacDonald. The Wishing Foxes. Illustrated by Kitty Harvill with Jen Whitman and Nat Whitman. Plum Street Publishers, 2017. ISBN: 9781945268014
Experienced author Margaret Read MacDonald joins storyteller/educators Nat and Jen Whitman to retell this Appalachian variant of the Kind and Unkind Girls. The Wishing Foxes is designed to be read aloud, with suggestions for a tune for singing the interactions between the sisters and the many creatures they meet, as well as good source notes for the origin of the story.
Bright, paper cut collages and watercolors by Kitty Harvill give the gumdrop good girl extra sunshine as she warmly interacts with forest creatures, and amusingly depict the rude sister’s flight from each wild animal she’s offended. If you can’t learn not to sass a bear, maybe a stronger lesson about consequences is required?
Kids will pick up on the theme quickly, but it’s a good lesson for every age: everyone and everything deserves respect.
Yokki and the Parno Gry. by Richard O’Neill and Katherine Quarmby. Illustrated by Miarieke Nelissen. Child’s Play, 2017. ISBN: 9781846439278
Yokki and the Parno Gry is a traditional Romani tale retold by English Traveller Richard O’Neill, a sixth generation storyteller of that tradition, written by Katherine Quarmby and illustrated by Marieke Nelissen. The story centers around Yokki, a young Traveler who makes spoons and tells stories. Yokki and the Parno Gry is about the sustaining power of stories as we see the Romani family suffer setback after setback in a harsh and changing world. As trade dries up and the snows begin to fall, Yokki’s stories and the magical Parno Gry, or white horse, bring hope and transport Yokki’s family to a better, safer world.
The tale gives a good picture of the Romani’s nomadic life with language well seasoned with enough Romani vocabulary to flavor the tale without impeding understanding. Nelissen’s illustrations do a great job of evoking European folk art even as it depicts both the rustic idylls and rigorous realities of Romani life. All in all, Yokki and the Parno Gry is a great example of and testament to the importance of stories to face life’s ills.