Kirkus Reviews QR Code


World Folktales for Strong Girls

by Jane Yolen & illustrated by Susan Guevara

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-15-202047-0
Publisher: Harcourt

In her introduction, the author states that the 13 stories in this book “have always been around, hidden away in the back storeroom of folklore.” No more. Yolen has managed to present these legends and folktales as originally told, with their spunky, canny, and courageous girls and women heroes as feisty and funny as they were to the people of their time. The tales come from all over the world; some of their protagonists are well-known, such as Greece’s Atalanta the Huntress, but many others have been either lost over time or distorted in one way or another to make them palatable to readers who refused to recognize that women were fully capable human beings. There’s Nana Miriam of Niger, who uses the powerful potions in her juju bag to save her father from a vicious hippopotamus. Or China’s Li Chi, who refuses to be sacrificed to the serpent who has terrorized her village and instead uses her wits, a snake-hunting dog, and a sharp sword to slay the creature. Then there’s England’s Molly Whuppie, who serves her king by outwitting a giant and ends up a queen, in a rollickingly funny story that’s only equaled by the Ozark tale of Pretty Penny, who uses her wits to save her father’s money and make a lot more from the highway thief who tries to rob her. There are many more, all of them splendidly told by an author who can not only spin a mean folktale, but makes some nice subtle points in doing so. The book is strengthened even more by Yolen’s extensive “Notes on the Stories” and an excellent bibliography for those who want more, making it a useful reference tool for classroom or library. (Fiction. 8-12)