Monday, March 17, 2008

Jane Yolen: Not One Damsel in Distress

I was recently browsing our library to see which Jane Yolen books I haven't read yet (and belive me, there are plenty...just glance at this list). Whether it is a picture book, young adult, or adult novel, I can always count on Jane Yolen for a good yarn, a tale with some adventure and a nice solid plot. Her retellings of traditional stories (her picture book about Tam Lin, or adult retelling of Briar Rose, for instance) are especially interesting to me. So I was thoroughly pleased to come across Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls.

The folktales Jane Yolen chooses to retell in Not One Damsel feature*lots* of heroes. Knights, pirates, wizards, dragon-slayers, Native American warriors. And each and every one of these heroes are girls. Bright, wise, brave, adventurous girls who overcome obstacles with their wit, brawn, magic, and love.

In the introduction, "Open Letter to My Daughters and Granddaughters," Yolen writes:

This book is for you because the stories were there not only in folk traditions and in folklore waiting to be discovered, but in history, as well. For, once upon a real time, there were actual young women who, sometimes in full disguise--and sometimes no disguise at all--went off to do battle....
And in the last words of the book, she writes:
But this book is for you because it is important to know that anyone can be a hero if they have to be. Even girls.
Especially girls.
Especially you.
This is a great book to have on hand for girls (and boys) of all ages. A bit of fair warning, though. This is no book for the faint-hearted. There are real battles with real blood and guts and truly scary moments. Like the folktales people used to tell before we polished and prettied them up (does anyone remember the ending to the real Little Mermaid any more?) This book isn't always pretty. But it's brave and strong and exciting, which is sometimes better.

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