Monday, May 2, 2011

Winning Kids: Little Nippers Top 10 (Mythological Creatures)

Little Nippers Top 10
Mythological Creatures
by Michelle Berg

One afternoon, I asked my kindergartener to tell me what he learned in school that day. He replied, “We learned about mythological creatures” I was so impressed by the fact that he spoke the word “mythological” that I wanted to learn more. I walked into his classroom the next day to discover various books on display that dealt with magical beings, legends and folklore. Oddly enough, I became immediately intrigued, for I have never been one that enjoys stories of fantasy. Whimsical tales about castles in the sky and mythical beings were far too unrealistic for my practical mind. When I was a child, I despised the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. However, I guess being a parent has changed me. Brilliant books like Harry Potter and the Magic Tree House series (which I’ve spent countless hours reading to my children) have altered my point of view. And I’m so very glad it did! Due to this assignment, I’ve found the most enchanting tales; stories that have captured my imagination more than I can say! There are so many wonderful books that I could not possibly find the time to write about them all, however, the following is a short list of books that I’ve enjoyed:

Serendipity: The Gnome From Nome (Serendipity Books)10. The Gnome from Nome
Written by Stephen Cosgrove. Illustrated by Robin James.

For Ages 4-8. Take a journey long ago to the coldest place on earth where once upon a time there lived a lonely gnome who was cold from the inside out. One day this gnome decided to leave the North Pole and search for a warmer habitat. He got as far as Alaska, which to his dismay was not much warmer! But here, he met a Sea Otter who suggested they talk to humans because they seem to know the “secret” to staying warm from the inside out. After much preparation, they managed to finally get an answer to their problem. The “secret”, it appears, is love and friendship! This is a delightful tale that I highly recommend as I’m sure it will warm YOU from the inside out!
9. Puff the Magic Dragon

Written by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton. Illustrated by Eric Puybaret.

For Ages 4-8. Enjoy this classic song in a whole new way. Jackie Paper and his good friend Puff the magic dragon share in a number of adventures until sadly Jackie grows up and needs to leave the land of Honalee. The magic of the song is surpassed only by Puybaret’s brilliant paintings for their radiance is enchanting; full of energy and soul. This edition of the story also includes a four-song CD recorded by Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) with his daughter Bethany.
You're Different and That's Super8. You’re Different and That’s Super

Written by Carson Kressley. Illustrated by Jared Lee.

For Ages 4-8. In a tale comparable to The Ugly Duckling, a colt arrives on the pasture during a time that many new foals were born. Trumpet, however, looked a little different than the others. His coat was a luminous white, his mane as golden as sunshine and he had a whinny louder than any other ever heard. A year passes by and Trumpet began to notice a bump growing on his head. As the bump turned into a horn the other horses began to avoid him and poor Trumpet almost couldn’t bear being so different. However, once he comes to realize that he’s not a horse at all but a Unicorn, his perspective changes dramatically! Tender and loving, this remarkable story of a Unicorn struggling to find his own way in the face of opposition is one we can all relate to.
7. Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent
Written and Illustrated by Bill Peet.

For Ages 4-8. Young children will delight in this tale of a very kind sea serpent who goes out of his way to help a ship called the Primrose and its decidedly doomed passengers. With Cyrus’ help they managed to get out of the doldrums, overcome intensely violent squalls and conquer brutal pirates! When they finally realize that it was a sea monster behind their good fortune, they put their fears aside and came to enjoy the rest of their journey. This delightful tale is a perfect example of how you cannot judge a book by its cover!
Trouble with Trolls6. Trouble with Trolls
Written and Illustrated by Jan Brett.

For Ages 4-8. Join young Treva, a Scandinavian girl, as she tries to outwit some pesky trolls who seem to be after her dog! As she sets off for a hike along Mount Baldy, she encounters not 1 but 5 trolls who each try to steal her dog. But it is Treva who prevails by use of common sense and intellect! Furthermore, in true Brett tradition, there is a great sub-story in the border print where it appears that Hedgie the Hedgehog is behaving a little like Goldilocks inside the home of the Trolls!
5. Eric Carle’s Dragons Dragons & Other Creatures that Never Were
Illustrated by Eric Carle with poetry from various authors.

For Ages 4-8. The bullheaded minotaur, vibrant dragons, the immortal Phoenix and the brave Griffin. These are just a few of the mythical creatures Eric Carle features on his 68 pages of magical wonder! I’ve added this book to my list not for the story (since each page is illustrated with poems from famed authors) but for Carle’s customary collage-art. My son’s kindergarten teacher presented this book to her class then asked them to create their own mythological creature. Eric Carle’s books offer teachers endless ideas for lesson plans and this book proves to be no exception!
Rainbow Crow (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)4. Rainbow Crow
Retold by Nancy Van Laan. Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal

For Ages 4-8. Rhythmical and profound, this retelling of a Native American legend is truly wonderful! Past down from generation to generation, this is a story of how the Rainbow Crow's noble journey to help his fellow animals caused him to lose his beautiful feathers and delicate voice. However, he is ultimately rewarded for his bravery and unselfishness when the Great Sky Spirit grants him the gift of Freedom. For since his “feathers are now black and voice is now hoarse he will never be hunted or captured by the Two-Legged.” Both graceful and eloquent, this book will make a great addition to story time.
3. Mermaid Tales from Around the World
Retold by Mary Pope Osborne. Illustrated by Troy Howell.

For Ages 9-12. In this book Mary Pope Osborne, author of the Magic Tree House series, eloquently shares mermaid legends from around the world. These captivating tales illustrate the beloved sea creatures in an entirely different light than what we are accustomed to. The heroines are intense, passionate and fierce; a truly formidable force. In the Cornish legend, “The Mermaids Revenge” the mermaid applies a harsh punishment upon one who offends her. Likewise, a related fate befalls an Adirondack tribe, in the North American Indian tale, when a sea maiden is shunned because of her nature. There are, however, gentler stories like the Japanese Sea Queen who rewards those who help her and even dearly loved Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the “Little Mermaid”. All 12 stories will rouse your imagination to great heights!
The Hidden Folk: Stories of Fairies, Dwarves, Selkies, and Other Secret Beings 2. The Hidden Folk: Stories of Fairies, Dwarves, Selkies, and Other Secret Beings
Written by Lise Lunge-Larsen. Illustrated by Beth Krommes.

For Ages 4-8. I was immediately captivated by this book! The introduction itself was fascinating. Here the author describes the origins of the “hidden folk”. She believes they, too, are descendants of Adam and Eve and explains why they remain hidden. In this collection of short stories, primarily from the northern regions of Europe, she relates tales of Flower Fairies, Gnomes, Hill Folk, Elves, Dwarves, Water Horses, River Sprites and Selkies; each beginning with a cultural introduction. This book is truly entertaining and is perfect for young readers since the general theme and tone is a little lighter than other titles on this list.
1. The King with Horse’s Ears and Other Irish Folktales
Retold by Batt Burns. Illustrated by Igor Oleynikov.

For Ages 9-12. It is with this book that I have become a fan of tales where the fantastic is not only possible but expected! There are 13 Irish stories in all, each full of fascination and charm that will leave the reader spellbound! There are accounts of Fairies and Wee Folk, the Pooka spirit and enchanted Seals. My favorite short story is entitled A Strange Night where three great Fianna warriors encounter Time, the world and Youth one night in the woods. It is a very poignant lesson that reminds us that youth should be cherished and that there are things in this world that no one, not even the strongest warriors, can control. Burns candid writing makes the world of Irish folktales accessible to even the youngest of listeners and his storytelling has created a passion in me to read more!
Michelle Berg is a Pre-School Teacher and author of children's book, Miss Mandy Manners.  Please visit her website:
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