Isabel Greenberg’s The One Hundred Nights of Hero is a comic of linked folktales in a Scheherazade-esque kind of structure. Two shitty old men engage in a bet that one can’t seduce the other’s wife in one hundred nights and to deflect the lecherous powerful asshole she gets her lover/maid to tell them stories. The stories are about murder and the moon and strong sisters and magic pebbles (two of them) and there’s a 12 dancing princesses story in there that turns out a bit differently.
I enjoy Greenberg’s drawing style and the flattening of perspective that make the art fit the tales that feel home told and passed along (much like the stories in the story are passed along). Highly recommended.
My friend Jamie did a paper on the different versions of this Chinese folk tale sometimes called Five Chinese Brothers, in which these identical brothers have superpowers that help them survive a town that’s bent on killing them. Seven Sons is an adaptation of the story set in the American old west in a California gold mining town.
In this version the seven brothers (who are nameless) live outside town with their mother and most people in town think there’s only one of them. When a couple of kids end up dead even though a brother tries to save them a mob forms and tries to take revenge, but their powers and that of their mother interfere.
Framing all of this is a story of a graffiti artist who escaped into a shop and is old this version of the story as “the real one.” And then the afterword goes into a nice explanation of the different versions of the folk tale. It’s all very layered and I was really impressed with the story. The art is this roughly inked style that feels like it could have come out of that time, but done with calligraphy brushes. I quite enjoyed it, especially with the priming of hearing about Jamie’s work doing this research.
Yesterday I signed up a kid for Storytime (which starts next week). Her dad was in and he was a little late 30s-ish Chinese man, who I liked instantly. He was working hard on his English but you could tell he was really thinking about it. I had to ask him to say the name of his street again before I caught it, but he didn’t even try to tell me his name or his kid’s name, just spelled them. I would have done the same thing if I were him, cause correcting the spelling if I don’t know how Guang is spelled is just going to be harder than it’s worth.
This is one of the good things about my delayed retreat from the branch; I get to do more storytimes. And I’ve got some kids I like from last time coming back.
Next week when I start it’ll be a winter theme, including a good Groundhog Day tale and a story called How Cold Was It? which I’ve done with older kids and has some good rhymey rhythms to it. I’m also doing a felt story version of The Mitten, a Ukrainian folk tale about animals who all climb into a lost mitten until it explodes. That one I’m not using a book for, just telling and illustrating with felt shapes. I’m actually practicing for it.
The week after that (if I’m still here – the boss may be interviewing someone sooner or later) is Demanding Dinosaurs and the week after that is Royalty & Romance. If I’m still around for that one I’m completely doing the Paper-Bag Princess as a puppet show.