Category Archives: Multi-Cultural

Tell A Fairy Tale Day

For centuries fairy tales have captivated readers with their magic and mystery.   If pressed, nearly early everyone could share at least one traditional story from memory.  They are part of cultural heritage, tradition and identity.  However, what is so fascinating about fairy tales is their universality.  The number of tellings and re-tellings of traditional stories across the ages have transcended physical and cultural boundaries.  In honor of “Tell A Fairy Tale Day”, take time to discover new interpretations of old tales from cultures across the globe or read a new fairy tale from a culture that isn’t familiar to you.  This is a great opportunity to compare and contrast versions.   “Once upon a time…” is the gateway for travel to far away lands, without having to stray too far from what you already know.


The Princess and the Peaprincess and pea by Rachel Isadora.   The traditional story of a prince in search of a wife is brought to East Africa with vibrant illustrations that place the classic tale in a new location.  Isadora, a Caldecott award winner, also re-imagines the classic stories of The Twelve Dancing PrincessesRapunzel, and Hansel and Gretel in an African setting.  PB

cendrillionCendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci.  The enduring tale of Cinderella as told through the eyes of a West Indian washerwoman who discovers she possesses a magic wand that can grant her goddaughter happiness.  Other wonderful interpretations of the classic Cinderella story include Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from ChinaThe Egyptian CinderellaAdelitaThe Rough-Face GirlThe Irish Cinderlad The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella StoryThe Korean Cinderella , and The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece.   Enjoy them all!  PB

red riding hoodLittle Red Riding Hood Stories Around the World: 3 Beloved Tales (Multicultural Fairy Tales) by Jessica Gunderson.   There isn’t just one story about a little girl and her sick grandmother – discover how the traditional tale of Little Red Riding Hood plays out in Germany, Italy and Taiwan.   Finding all three stories in one book is perfect for young readers to investigate the similarities and differences between re-tellings.  Recommended as a read-aloud with a grown-up for younger readers-  some versions are a little intense.   Available in the series is Snow White Stories Around the World: 4 Beloved Tales, also by Gunderson, and Cinderella Stories Around the World: 4 Beloved Tales and Rapunzel Stories Around the World: 3 Beloved Tales, both by Cari Meister.  RA/ER-1/2

russianRussian Fairy Tales  compiled by Aleksandr Afanasev.  The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore library has a large collection of classic tales from around the world.  These editions contain traditional cultural stories known for generations, filled with witches, princes, and other unique characters.  Reading these stories, originally from the oral storytelling tradition, provides a window into the beautiful culture of Russia.  Also recommended are the other editions in the extensive Pantheon library, including Folktales from India Japanese Tales Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies African Folktales Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions Norwegian Folktales Yiddish Folktales African American Folktales: Stories from Black Traditions in the New World American Indian Myths and Legends  and their compilation book Favorite Folktales from Around the World , edited by renowned author Jane Yolen.  RA/MR- 5/ YA

blue fairy bookThe Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang.  The first of Lang’s fairy books contains 37 enduring classic fairy tales.  A staple for generations, this is a good start for anyone looking to revisit the stories as they were originally compiled into an English language collection.  Lang pulled from a variety of sources including the Grimm brothers and Charles Perrault, as well as from the oral storytelling tradition.  The fairy tales continue in his many additional volumes.  MR-5   

hcandersenHans Christian Andersen’s Complete Fairy Tales translated by Jean P. Hersholt.   Recommended reading for those older readers who are looking for the most recognized versions of classic fairly tales like “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Little Mermaid”.   The bulk of Andersen’s work is from the mid-1800’s and his stories can be more intense than the well-known, softer versions we are familiar with today.  MR/YA

brothers grimmThe Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.  Containing all 156 tales from the 1812 and 1815 original publications of the Grimm brothers stories, this is where you’ll find the dark and gritty fairy tales when magic isn’t always nice and happy endings aren’t guaranteed.  Without doubt it is a classic, but also not necessarily the best place to start with young children.   Another recommendation to broaden your knowledge of the where the modern day re-tellings got their start.  MR/YA 

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Filed under classics, fairy tale, Multi-Cultural

Easy as A, B, C…..

This weekend marks the unofficial end of summer.  As my husband and I are both educators, this upcoming week means that all five people in our house head back to school within days of each other.  The lazy, hazy days of summer (which alternated with crazy, busy days) are behind us and we are returning to the welcome routine and rhythm of the fall.

This return to school also means a return to homework.  My girls in elementary school are asked to read 15 minutes per night, any material of their choosing, as part of their ELA homework.  That means making sure that reading material is readily available.   We start with trips to the library to get a variety of choices, or visit Barnes & Noble to get the latest “must-have” in a series, and check Amazon for ideas to help us prepare.

As we embark on another school year I thought it would be great for the Paperback Pigeon to get back to basics…so, for the foreseeable future, each week I will be posting a suggestion for a book or series to excite your reader about travel – and their independent reading requirements for school – from A to Z.

A is for Agatha: Girl of Mystery by Sir Steve Stevenson

Twelve year-old Agatha Mistery is called on by her cousin Dash to help him solve mysteries and complete assignments from his prestigious academy – the Eye International Spy School.  Jet-setting around the world, Agatha uses her remarkable photographic memory, Dash’s cool spy school gadgets, and the help of her intrepid former-boxer butler, Watson to gather clues and solve crimes.  Exploring locations across the globe – from Egypt to Scotland to Niagara Falls – Agatha tackles curses, heists, treasures and murder.  This exciting series keeps readers turning the pages while introducing diverse and exciting locales around the world. ER/3-RA

agathamystery1The Curse of the Pharaoh #1   In this debut story Agatha is off to Egypt to recover a missing artifact from an archaeological dig in the Valley of the Kings.

agathamystery2The Pearl of Bengal #2  Agatha heads to India to discover the truth behind the theft of the Pearl of Bengal.  With the help of Dash, Watson and her Uncle Raymond, a wildlife photographer, Agatha is sure to solve the crime.

agathamystery3The King of Scotland’s Sword #3  A missing sword leads Agatha to Scotland where she tackles mysterious curses and frightening ghosts to solve the mystery.

agathamystery4The Heist at Niagara Falls #4  A jewel heist takes Agatha to Niagara Falls where she and Dash encounter Canada’s most notorious thief.  Can they take on this mastermind criminal and return the jewels to their rightful owner?

agathamystery5The Eiffel Tower Incident #5 The stakes are higher in the city of lights….this time it’s murder.  Agatha and Dash rush to Paris to solve the mysterious murder of a Russian Diplomat.  As they travel the streets they only have the clue “Red Rose” to guide them in catching the culprit.

agathamystery6The Treasure of the Bermuda Triangle #6  A missing gold Mayan calendar leads Agatha on another adventure, but this time solving the mystery isn’t the only challenge- the Bermuda Triangle has it’s own mysteries and dangers that Agatha and Dash must contend with.

agathamystery7The Crown of Venice #7  Publication date Nov 13, 2014 – The Crown of Venice is missing!  This famous ancient artifact was stolen during carnival and everyone is a suspect!

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Filed under A to Z, Africa, Asia, Early Reader, Early Readers, europe, Multi-Cultural, mystery, North America, series, travel

Summertime and the Reading is Easy!

Time to kick back, relax, enjoy the sunshine, pool time and inhale the aromas of sunscreen, sweat and chlorine.  It is officially summer! Today is the last day of the school year for my kids.  Ahead of us stretch the promise of endless days filled with outdoor adventures in sun and sand, on foot and on bike.  Late nights promise stargazing by a campfire and drive-in movies.  Of course the best part to them is no school – no required learning based on curriculum and tests.  They can spend the next eight weeks focused on whatever they want.

However, an organized Pigeon like myself, who wants to fit as much into a busy summer as possible, needs to know what my kids want.  So each summer we make a giant posterboard that hangs in our kitchen and says,

“This Summer I Want To…..”

They fill in the rest.  Ideas range from “go strawberry picking” to “have a no sock day” (which was debated as valid since hardly anyone around here wears socks in summer anyway).  We try to limit the ridiculous (skydiving, pie-in-the-face day) but encourage big and small ideas (ice cream for breakfast, trip to California).  Often what they write says more than they realize.  “Enjoy camp” showed up this year.   I thought the wording of that was interesting – not “go to camp” but “enjoy camp”.  It is going to require a bit more investigating to figure out what that means.  This board, while a depository for the kids summer dreams, is open to the entire family.  I put down my suggestions for fun summer activities, too.  Some of which are embraced (Renaissance Festival) and others derided or ignored (clean your room day).  When we do an activity on the board we check it off. By September we are amazed at everything we’ve done with our summer, which is full and busy (biking, hiking, camping, swimming) and surprisingly laid back (“do nothing day” had 3 checks last summer).

A must-do on our list every year is the summer reading program at our local library. It encourages kids to read over the summer, but without specific requirements.  They are rewarded for reading what they want to read. And there is no discussion, comprehension assessment or test after.  Just a prize.  They go in a”secret room” and pick their prize each week – cute nick-nacks that clutter my house, but to them are a source of pride and accomplishment.  Teen readers earn entries into a drawing – last year’s prize was an iPad.  Yup, pretty cool incentive to read.

These first few days of summer hold all the magic.  The possibilities are endless, the wonder of days stretched out before us without schedule or requirement.  Sit down on the porch with an ice cream cone at twilight and watch fireflies or swing in a hammock and bring along one of these amazing summer reads. Mom’s Bookshelf: Summer has a grown-up collection of seasonal reads perfect for the beach, backyard, patio or pool.

nightbeforesummervacationThe Night Before Summer Vacation by Natasha Wing – In the rush to pack for vacation something is sure to be missed in this adorable story told in the familiar cadence of Clement Moore’s classic poem.PB

RHSsummertreasureSummer Treasure (Robin Hill School) by Robin McNamara – Hannah sees her teacher on a trip to the beach and gets a special surprise. ER/1



summerpartySummer Party by Cynthia Rylant – The Cousins, Rosie, Tess and Lily are heading home.  But they will miss Aunt Lucy’s house and each other.  So they decide to throw a special party to welcome their parents home and celebrate their good times spent at the cottage. ER/2

MTHsummerseaserpentSummer of the Sea Serpent :Magic Tree House #31 by Mary Pope Osborne – The 3rd book in the “Merlin Missions” begins on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, when Jack and Annie must solve another riddle and travel to a land of myth and mystery. ER/2-3

judymoodynotbummersummerJudy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (Book #10) by Megan McDonald – It’s bad enough that Judy’s best friends are leaving for the summer, but now her parents are going on a trip and she’d stuck home with Stink and Aunt Opal!  Not to be defeated Judy is determined to make this summer the most exciting, eventful and thrilling ever – with hilarious, unexpected results. MR/3

summerhumphreySummer According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney – Humphrey, everyone’s favorite class hamster, is shocked to find out that school is ending!  What will he do for the summer?  Go to camp, of course!  Along with many familiar friends from Room 26 Humphrey braves the wild and has lots of summer fun. MR/3-4

seaglasssummerSeaglass Summer by Anjali Banerjee – Poppy loves animals and hopes to become a veterinarian.  She gets her chance when her parents let her visit her Uncle Sanjay, a vet, while they go to India for the summer.  Poppy’s summer of discovery teachers her that there is more to being a vet than just taking care of the animals.  With a little help she’ll learn to balance the hard work, joy and sadness of caring for furry creatures.  MR/4

frozensummerFrozen Summer by Mary Jane Auch  – The summer of 1816 was shockingly cold and for Rememberance Nye and her family, who recently settled on this new frontier, the unusual weather causes enormous challenges that threaten their very survival.  Take a trip to Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY to see a cabin just like the one the Nye family lived in. MR/4

penderwicksThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall – When the Penderwick sisters spend their summer at Arundel they charm the housekeeper, befriend the young boy who lives there and get into a variety of exciting adventures.  Delightfully charming and sweet, sincere and heartwarming!  National Book Award Winner and A Paperback Pigeon All Time Favorite. MR/4-5

onecrazysummerOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia – It’s the summer of 1968 and Delphine and her sisters fly from Brooklyn to Oakland to meet the mother who abandoned them years earlier.  They eat take-out Chinese food, attend a summer program run by the Black Panthers, and try to make peace with the reality that their mother really doesn’t want to know them.  In a summer filled with self discovery, the girls realize that there are some bonds you can’t deny, and family is worth fighting for.  MR/5-6 A Newberry Honor Book, Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, Coretta Scott King Award, National Book Award Finalist

summergermansoldierSummer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene – When 12 year old Patty Bergen’s hometown becomes the site of a German POW camp during WWII she finds herself befriending an prisoner.  How can this Jewish girl reconcile her relationship with the enemy?  To what lengths will Patty go to keep her friendship secret, and is the risk worth it? MR/5-6

hiddensummerThe Hidden Summer by Gin Phillips – Torn apart by a feud between their mothers, best friends Nell and Lydia are forbidden to see each other all summer.  They secretly maintain their friendship by meeting at an abandoned golf course where a series of clues reveal a mystery waiting to be solved, and the opportunity to become who they’re meant to be.  YA/ 6 & up


Filed under Multi-Cultural, Seasons, Summer, travel, Uncategorized

Luck “O” the Irish

There are certain defining cultural influences that mark our character, beliefs, and celebrations.  One of the most culturally significant pieces of our identity is a last name.  In the melting pot that is America we often connect by acknowledging a shared heritage simply by the number of vowels or placement of “Z’s” in a name.  Growing up I was quick to bond with the Romanos, Roccos, and DiPaulos.   As Italian kids we knew what a cannoli was, our grandmothers made us pastina, and our grandfathers played bocce.  Our last names were a way to identify a culturally kindred spirit and because of them we formed instant connections.  

But one day a year we embrace my mother’s heritage, the side of my family cultural history not visibly on display.  On St. Patrick’s Day we let our inner-Irish shine and celebrate with Irish-American cuisine.  The day brings the scent of homemade Irish soda bread baking and the promise of a slice fresh out of the over with melted butter.   Corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes, which later in the week will be relived as Reuben sandwiches, is a once a year treat.   When I moved away from home I attempted to master the preparation of this traditional family meal.  Much to my surprise it was quite easy, as boiling your dinner is somewhat fail-proof.  

As I’ve grown I have come to better understand and appreciate the history of the Irish and Irish-American experience.  Sharing with my children the music, stories and dance brings together the pieces of the picture that complete their mixed heritage.  Each piece holds an important place in creating who they are. Learning about where they’ve come from, celebrating accomplishments and acknowledging the dark times, help us all to learn and grow from our shared past as a family. 

For me it is a source of pride to know that, on a day when everyone is “Irish”, I really am -even if you’d never know from my vowel-heavy maiden name, the kind with an “O” at the end, not at the beginning. 

There are wonderful books about the St. Patrick’s Day, mesmerizing traditional folk tales, and historical fiction that give new appreciation for the Irish people and St. Patrick. 


 Picture Books:

marketdayMarket Day by Eve Bunting

Drawn from the authors’ memories of growing up in Ireland, experience the joys and wonders of attending market day in a small Irish village through the eyes of a young girl and her best friend.  This picture book brings the sights, sounds and smells alive!

jamieorourkeJamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola

Paying homage to his Irish grandparents, Mr. dePaolas’ retelling of this traditional folktale evokes the oral tradition of Irish storytellers.  “Jamie O’Rourke was the laziest man in all of Ireland.”  And so begins a tale of mischief, magic and making amends.

patrickofirelandPatrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola

The simple telling of the history of St. Patrick is a wonderful resource for all ages to learn the story of Patrick’s life and importance to the Irish people.   With beautiful illustrations in the typical dePaola style we learn of the hardships and triumphs as Patrick went from slave to saint.

Ttravelingtomraveling Tom and the Leprechaun by Teresa Bateman

In order to win the hand of the fairest princess in all the land Tom must get an entire pot of Leprechauns gold in just one day.  This tale of trickery, and a little truthfulness, will delight the entire family.

finnmacoulFinn MacCoul and his Fearless Wife by Robert Byrd

A traditional tale of the giant Finn MacCoul and his battle to outwit another giant, Cucullin.  The true victor in this battle, armed with wit and a little magic, is Finn’s wife, Oonagh.  A delightful tale with a female heroine at the heart of the story.

The Wishibiddymaloneng of Biddy Malone by Joy Cowley

Biddy Malone wants to dance, but is clumsy as they come.  Until she comes upon the faeries and meets a man so lovely she is instantly smitten.  He grants her three wishes and Biddy learns that wishes do come true, through hard work and patience, not necessarily magic.

piratequeenThe Pirate Meets the Queen by Matt Faulkner

An historic tale with a not one, but two strong female heroines!  Granny Malone takes to the high seas, but this Irish pirate meets her match when the Queen of England takes her son captive and these spirited women come to a compromise stemming from mutual respect.

Early Readers:

rhsluckoftheirishThe Luck of the Irish: A Robin Hill School Book by Margaret McNamara

Katie wants to share her Irish heritage with her classmates on St. Patrick’s Day, so she makes them all shamrocks.  When her teacher brings in a 4-leafed clover both Katie and Mrs. Connor realize that they have more to learn. 

marchmischiefMarch Mischief: A Calendar Mystery by Ron Roy

A beginning reader in the follow-up series to the A-Z Mysteries, several friends are excited to join in the leprechaun decorating contest in town, but when the leprechauns go missing it is up to the kids to solve the crime, sort out the misunderstandings, and get it done in time for the contest!

Leprechaun in Late Winter: Magic Treehouse #43 by Mary Pope Osborne & Magic Treehouse Fact-Tracker #21: Leprechauns and Irish Folklore by Mary Pope Osborne & Natalie Pope Boyce

mthleprechaunsOn another Merlin Mission Jack & Annie make their way to long-ago Ireland to fulfill a mission to inspire creativity and wonder in their new friend Augusta.  As always things don’t go quite as planned and Jack & Annie learn more than they expected.

mthleprechaunsnfThe non-fiction companion book Leprechauns and Irish Folklore shares information about Irish culture and legends.

Older Readers:

celticfairytales  Celtic Fairy Tales Retold by Neil Philip

Filled with traditional tales for older readers, beautiful illustrations complement these classic stories from several Celtic lands. 

sofarfromhomeSo Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, An Irish Mill Girl, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1847 by Barry Denenberg

Part of the Dear America series, this story focuses on a 14 year-old Irish immigrant leaving her home in County Cork, Ireland to escape the famine and finding work in the textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts.

irishdresserThe Irish Dresser by Cynthia G. Neale

Nora McCabe dreams of a day when she isn’t pained by pangs of hunger, and when her father declares they are to leave Ireland for a new life in American it seems her dreams may come true.

Uhawthornetreender the Hawthorne Tree by Marita Conlon-McKenna

The story of three orphaned siblings during the Great Famine of Ireland in the 1840’s who overcome tragedy.  This is the first in trilogy that follows the children to adulthood.  Wildflower Girl and Fields of Home complete the set.

Listen To:

 celticcollectionCeltic Collection by Putumayo

Many of the collections by Putumayo are wonderful, but I particularly enjoy this collection.  I do share it with my children, but can often be caught listening to it on my own.  It contains reinventions of classics as well as modern music.

celticdreamlandCeltic Dreamland by Putumayo

This is part of the Putumayo Kids collection and is specifically geared for a younger audience.  As you can surmise from the title it contains a more mellow take on Celtic music and is perfect for rest time or before bed.

emeralisleEmerald Isle by Jeff Victory (Lifescapes)

This is a very personal favorite.  At my very first preschool internship this CD was on heavy rotation at rest time and it brings back many happy memories. The first track is the best, but the entire CD is worth the listen.

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Filed under Holiday, Irish, Multi-Cultural, St. Patrick's Day