Book Reviews

Book Review – Once Long Ago

Once Long Ago, the book I read as a child until it fell apart, is the book I have chosen for my first review.

Once Long Ago: Folk and Fairy Tales of the World, first published in 1962 by Golden Pleasure Books, is a collection of 70 traditional tales from 49 different cultures retold by Roger Lancelyn Green and illustrated by Vojtěch Kubašta.

As well as compiling myths, legends, and fairy tales from around the world, Green was a biographer of children’s writers and a member of the Oxford literary group, the Inklings, along with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.  In Once Long Ago, Green’s writing retains the fairy tale format of earlier versions while creating a magic that appealed to me as a child, and still does as an adult. My old favourites, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Snow White, are all included and I quickly gained new favourites: the Australian tale, The Bunyip, the Flemish tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and the Norse tale, Why the Sea is Salt.

I have read questions online about how accurate Green may have been in writing stories from cultures other than his own. We have to remember that this book was published in 1962 and to have a volume of such diverse tales from a wide range of cultures is to be commended. I am choosing to believe that Green researched these stories thoroughly and took due care and time when creating his versions of them. The English story, The Three Bears, does support this view since there is no Goldilocks in sight. Instead, the original character, a little old woman, is the antagonist.

Not only is this book a fine example of great storytelling, it is also a work of art. Born in Vienna, Kubašta moved to Prague when he was four. He studied architecture and civil engineering but soon moved into his life-long career as a commercial artist and book designer. He is perhaps most famous for his pop-up books. His illustrations in Once Long Ago are bold, bright and filled with emotion: the image of the old witch on her raft of snakes in the Armenian tale Zoulvisia is impressively evil, the arrogance of the chicken in the Spanish tale The Half-Chick is cleverly depicted, and my favourite image of all, that of the girl in the English tale Coat of Rushes accepting her new silver dress from the fairy, is hauntingly beautiful.

A few years ago, for a significant birthday, I treated myself to my own copy of the book to the tune of $NZ500 ($US330). It may seem odd that I am reviewing a book now classed as “hard to find” and costing a fair penny to buy should you find a copy. What I want to illustrate is the need for children to be exposed to traditional tales, and not just those of their own culture but stories from all around the world. I learnt about people different to me through these tales and I would like to think this created a strong foundation for fairness, acceptance and tolerance. I encourage you to find a modern collection of traditional tales from around the world; one filled with stunning illustrations and magical stories, preferably one where the stories are written and illustrated by people who grew up with them. Since this is such a personal choice I can’t recommend what volume you buy, but I can say that if your children read it until it is faded and frayed then it is a book well-loved and one they will carry with them forever.

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About

Welcome to The Wonder of Words

Welcome to our blog, The Wonder of Words. We are a team of writers focused on children’s literature. We are excited to explore various features that encourage readers and writers of all ages to explore more children’s books. Postings will be on the first and third Saturday of every month. Feel free to review our bios and learn more about us and our focus. Thanks for stopping by!

Candice Marley Conner

An avid reader of fairy tales, Candice takes turns with her Mermaid Girl and Dinosaur Boy on who plays the villain. Evil cackles have been mastered by all. She and her family love exploring any sort of watery, magical place, be it beaches, swamps, rivers, and even mud puddles.

Candice is a member of SCBWI and an officer for the Mobile Writers’ Guild. Her debut picture book Sassafras and her Teeny Tiny Tail will be published in 2019 with Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing. You can find her work in collections such as Pieces: A Mobile Writers’ Guild Anthology, Fireflies & Fairy Dust: A Fantasy Anthology, Chicken Soup for the SoulBabybug Magazine, and online at Mothers Always WriteMamalode, and The Good Mother Project.

She adores discovering how books go from a wispy spark to something you can hold in your hands, so her posts will focus on finding creativity and interviewing authors on how their books came to be.

Gabrielle Schoeffield

When she isn’t conjuring up ways to embarrass her teenager, Gabrielle enjoys travel, exploring, and researching new book ideas. If you need her, try looking in the cornfields where you may find her listening to the wind rustling through the corn or the thunder of horse hooves on the wind as they engage in a battle at Gettysburg over 150 years ago.  Her passion for writing is reflected in her weekly newspaper column and her blog, Butterfly Kisses and Silly Wishes, where she shares her thoughts on life, love, and the pursuit of a writer’s dream.  Gabrielle is an active member of SCBWI, Maryland Writers Association, and graduate of Children’s Book Academy.

Gabrielle will blog an A to Z mashup of writing ideas, from alliteration to the zany journey to publication, and everything in between.

Katharine Derrick

Katharine loves reading books until they fall apart. The first book she read like this was a huge volume of folktales, called Once Long Ago. Unfortunately, it was on loan; she hopes that when her mother returned it to the original owners, they understood just how much that book was loved.

Once Long Ago started a life-long search for story.  Katharine’s first published work was a fifty-word micro; more recently she has been published in Takahē magazine with her short story ‘The Auburn Trail’. She has had numerous pieces of flash fiction appearing online in Flash Frontier, one of which gained her a Pushcart nomination. She is a key organizer for writing events in Northland, her local district in New Zealand, and teaches applied writing at a local polytechnic. Her current works-in-progress are picture books and a YA novel.

Katharine will be reviewing children’s books from picture books through to young adult novels to find out what makes them spark.

Sandra Sutter

Sandra doesn’t know any dragons, bears, werewolves or yellow-bellied marmots, but she loves to write about them. A wife, mother, and master finder of silver linings, she fuels her creativity with coffee, craft beer, and an extra-helping of vacations.

You’ll find Sandra happily learning more about her craft in online courses, conferences and critique groups. She is also an assistant for the Children’s Book Academy writing and illustration courses. Her debut picture book, The REAL Farmer in the Dell, a humorous, modern retelling of the popular children’s song, is set to arrive spring 2019 with Clear Fork Publishing. Sandra focuses primarily on writing fiction and nonfiction picture books with heart and humor, as well as fun and adventurous chapter books. There is also a good versus evil, suspenseful and somewhat romantic young adult project just waiting for her to finish one day. Stay tuned, and read more about her writing at: www.sdsutter.com.

Look for Sandra’s blog posts under the title “Pitch It to Me”. For each post, she will select one picture book pitch to review and share alongside her alternative pitch for that story and a third, guest contributor’s pitch for readers to vote on a favorite. May the best pitch win! And hey, no matter what, the lucky writer will end up with feedback on three fantastic pitch ideas and a complimentary critique from yours truly on the full manuscript. Submitting your pitch for the next post is easy!

  • At least two (2) weeks prior to Sandra’s next post, send your pitch to: sandra@sdsutter.com;
  • Write “PITCH IT TO ME” in the subject line and keep the pitch to 70 words or less;
  • Place the pitch in the body of the email (attachments will be disqualified);
  • Sandra will email the winner with instructions for sending the full picture book manuscript (<700 words fiction; <1000 words non-fiction);
  • After the contest, Sandra will send the winner a complimentary critique on the manuscript.

Tina Shepardson

Tina was that child who wrote pages and pages of stories and tied them together with ribbon and yarn. Those paper-tied books opened doors to many babysitting jobs and eventually her teaching career. An award-winning teacher for over 29 years, Tina has shared thousands of books with children. Now she’s a Debut Picture Book Study Group Admin, a Children’s Book Academy graduate and course assistant, and an active member of 12×12 and SCBWI.  Find her in Upstate New York with her family, walking their Akitas, teaching, and enjoying the latest snowstorm. Learn more at http://www.tinashepardson.com/.

Look for Tina’s blog posts under the title “Best In Show”. Each post will center on the art of showing versus telling. She will provide strategies and interviews from authors on how they find just the right words to show their story.

Yvona Fast

Yvona began writing at age ten when she won a $25 bond for her essay, My Favorite American—despite the fact that she was an immigrant and had only been speaking English for a little over a year. In 1993, she contacted the editors of Christian Single magazine with a one-line query. ‘Happenings in Siberia’ was her first published piece.

She’s gone on to publish many more articles, poems, and essays on topics ranging from health and cooking to disabilities and careers. Her weekly column, ‘North Country Kitchen’ has run each week since 2005 in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. Her books include Employment for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome or Non-Verbal Learning Disability: Stories and Strategies (2004), My Nine Lives (2011), Garden Gourmet (2013) and Different (2017).

Yvona has taken numerous writing classes, participates in several critique groups, and is an active member of SCBWI and the Adirondack Center for Writing.

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Welcome

We are a team of writers aiming to engage readers, young and old alike, in children’s literature.

Candice, Gabrielle, Kathy, Tina, Sandra and Yvona.