Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Pumpkin Heads

The Pumpkin Heads by A.K. Roche (Prentice-Hall, 1968). 

I found this while searching online for books that take place in my state of Connecticut. This story takes place in my city of New Haven so I had to check it out.  It's presented as a story explaining why people in New Haven are calling "pumpkin heads" (which is not a real thing), but there is a note in the back that explains the truth.  The author was inspired by  reading an anecdote in a General History of Connecticut by Revered Samuel Peters, a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War who made up stories exaggerating the conditions in Connecticut to get back at the people who drove him out and back to England. This makes a lot of sense, as the story definitely makes the people of New Haven seem pretty foolish!

In the story, men of New Haven would line up to get their haircut which was cut while wearing a special cap so that they all had the same length hair. When the cap is lost, they try using various bowls and baskets, but nothing is the right size.  That is, until a wise old woman suggests a pumpkin cut in half. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave by Marianna Mayer, illustrated by K.Y. Craft (HarperCollins, 1994). 

This Russian folktale, which is a variation of Cinderella, was a favorite of mine as a kid and I especially loved this version, which changes the traditional title for the heroine from the Beautiful to the Brave. Vasilisa's cruel stepmother sends her to borrow a light from the horrible witch Baba Yaga, who lives in a house of bones.  The witch gives her a series of seemingly impossible trials, but Vasilia has a magic doll that her late mother made for her, and the doll completes the tasks for her. The illustrations are both beautiful and creepy, without being too scary for young kids. This is a good story for Halloween season.