Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Little Red Riding Hood

 Retold by: Trina Schart Hyman

First line: Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Elisabeth who lived with her mother in a house on the edge of a village.

Why you should read this book: An absolutely gorgeous picture book, this visit to the familiar old story won a Caldecott Honor for its sumptuous, evocative illustrations. The story follows a most traditional path through the woods, to grandma’s house, and so on, and while this old-fashioned version, with its huntsman hero and Red’s final vow to never again stray from the path, has fallen out of favor in the face of more feminist iterations where the empowered child rescues herself, or turns the wolf into an ally, it’s a beautiful example of an archetype coming to life. Very satisfying.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t want your daughters waiting around to get rescued.

The Plot

Written by: Will Eisner

First line: Whenever one group of people is taught to hate another, a lie is created to inflame the hatred and justify a plot.

Why you should read this book: Eisner poured his soul and a large portion of the last part of his life into this historical graphic story, which details the deceitful origins of the hateful, anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. From its late nineteenth century inception as a fraud plagiarized from earlier French revolutionary documents for the purpose of halting modernity in czarist Russia while justifying pogroms and other racist behaviors, these lies have been associated with the perpetuation of evil throughout the years; the book seeks to debunk the pervasive attitudes that have allowed a demonstrable hoax to take on a life of its own, despite ample proof that it is nothing more than a lie enjoyed by people who love to hate. Eisner originally felt certain that if he could only compile all the data into one easy-to-read volume, he could kill The Protocols once and for all, but eventually he ended the book with the realization that anti-Semitism is a choice made by racists whose confirmation bias prevents them from understanding the evidence, and it is justified, rather than inspired, by the document.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: The Dunning-Kreuger effect.

Saint Francis Sings to Brother Sun

 Retold by: Karen Pandell

First line: Throughout his life, Saint Francis of Assisi boldly brought a sense of sacred joy into everyday life.

Why you should read this book: Weaving together autobiographical fables and Saint Francis’s own ecstatic spiritual writings, this volume for younger readers introduces the nature-centric religious life of this most beloved of historic religious figures. The stories illustrate his mystical connection with animals, while the passages from his “Canticle of Brother Sun” illustrate his intense adoration of and connection with the divine. Rich gold-tinted drawings suggest the medieval time period of his life.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You demand empirical proof, or you hate animals.