Taking a look at Traditional Literature!

Welcome friends and family to Ms. Prenzler’s Traditional Literature book review!

I have selected two examples of traditional literature text’s to share with you today. The first is Conejito: A Folktale from Panama, written by Margaret Read MacDonald and Illustrated by Geraldo Valerio. The second is The Ugly Duckling retold by Stephen Mitchell and illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. These two pieces of literature provide a clearer insight to what components are needed in a story to be considered traditional literature.

Conejito: A Folktale from Panama by Margaret Read MacDonald


Bibliographic Information: MacDonald, Margaret, Read., reteller. Conejito:A Folktale From Panama. Geraldo Valerio, Illus.author. Little Rock, AR: August House LittleFolk, 2006. Print.

Age of Reader: Due to the use of repetition, rhyming, and simple diction, I would recommend this book be used in a first, second or third grade classroom.

Summary: Conejito is the story of a young Rabbit, Conejito, who partakes on a journey to his Tia Monica’s (Aunt Monica’s)┬áhouse. On his journey he encounters Senor Zorro (Mr. Fox), Senor Tigre (Mr. Tiger), and Senor Leon (Mr. Lion). Each of these Senor’s Conejito meets wants to eat him! He tells them he is on his was to his Tia Monica’s house who will make him fat with sweets and cakes. He suggests that they can eat him after he returns from his visit. When Conejito arrives to Tia Monica’s he eats cakes and cookies as well as fruits, vegetables and fresh mountain water. When it is time for Conejito to leave he tells his Aunt that he is scared for his journey back because now that he is plump and fat Senor Zorro, Senor Tigre, and Senor Leon will want to eat him. Together Conejito and his Tia Monica come up with a plan to outsmart the three Senor’s and assure Conejito’s safe arrival.

Story type: Conejito: A Folktale From Panama, is a folktale as stated in the title. According to Barbara D. Stoodt-Hill and Linda B. Amspaugh-Corson, authors of Children’s Literature:Discovery for a Lifetime, a folktale is defined as, “stories of the ‘folk,’ who tell about their lives and dreams. Folktales often feature impressive feats, such as escaping from powerful enemies, outwitting wicked people, earning a living, securing food, and protecting the weak.” (94). In Conejito: A Folktale From Panama, Conejito escapes from powerful enemies such as Senor Zorro, Senor Tigre and Senor Leon, outwits the three Senor’s, secures food at his Tia Monica’s house and outwit’s wicked people or animals in this case with the help of his Tia Monica. Though Conejito or any other character fail to demonstrate earning a living this particular story contains the appropriate elements to be considered a folktale.

The Ugly Duckling retold by Stephen Mitchell


Bibliographic Information: Mitchell, Stephen.,reteller. The Ugly Duckling. Steve Johnson, Lou Fancher., Illus. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick, 2008. Print.

Age of Reader: I would suggest this story be used in a first, second or third grade classroom. Though some of the word choices could be a bit challenging for younger children, and some sentence structures appear to be awkward, the plot and events that take place in The Ugly Duckling are definitely geared towards a younger audience.

Summary: The Ugly Duckling, is a story about a young duckling, who really isn’t a duckling at all, trying to find his place in the world. The ugly duckling was different from his brother and sisters from the beginning. His egg was larger than the others and he also hatched later. His “mother” thought he was a turkey, but the ugly duckling disproved that theory by being able to swim. As life continues on for the ugly duckling he is constantly teased, poked, and called ugly by the other animals living within the community. He decides to go off on his own to find where he belongs. When he is down on his luck and feeling like there is no luck, the ugly duckling meets a group of beautiful swans. When the group warmly welcomes him he questions their motives. He then catches a glimpse of his reflection in the pond and realizes he, himself is a beautiful swan as well.

Story type: The Ugly Duckling is an example of a fable. According to Barbara D. Stoodt-Hill and Linda B. Amspaugh-Corson, author’s of Children’s Literature: Discovery for a Lifetime, fable’s can be defined as, “ancient animal tales in which the animals symbolize humans, often to make a specific point or teach a moral lesson, which is explicitly stated at the end of the fable.” (102). In The Ugly Duckling, the main character, as well as the other character’s symbolize humans in the way they act and talk with one another. A specific point is made at the end of the story when the ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan. It represents the moral idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

After reading both representations of traditional literature I decided to compare the two stories in regards to their illustration, and the way in which the reteller’s identified and transmitted culture.

A.) In my opinion illustrations within a text can either add information to the text or alter information. In regards to the two books reviewed, I think The Ugly Duckling, provides readers with a stronger set of illustrations. Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher created vivid detail that followed the plot of the story perfectly. Reader’s are able to obtain a greater understanding of the environment, character’s and events mentioned within the story. The illustrations found in Conejito: A Folktale From Panama, are fun and colorful but in my opinion fail to add anything to the story. The images found within this story though drawn and colored well, appear to be too abstract and do not create a vivid sense of where and what is taking place in the story.

B.) Within works of traditional literature it is common for culture to be integrated within stories. In regards to which reteller does a better job of identifying and transmitting culture I would have to say Margaret Read MacDonald in Conejito:A Folktale From Panama. Right away in the title, reader’s are able to identify that this story originated in Panama. Though it is being retold, it still contains a portion of the culture within the story. Author, Margaret Read MacDonald chose to include Spanish words within the story and translate between the two languages; English and Spanish. She did so in a manner that doesn’t take away from the story. The appearance of a foreign language incorporated with the English language demonstrates how these two culture’s are integrated and transmitted. Though The Ugly Duckling, is a well written story there isn’t as strong of a presence of cultural diversity found within the text. Different culture’s could be represented by the different types of animals found in the story, however it is not proven that was the author’s intent. For Children to be able to identify the presence of culture, I feel Conejito: A Folktale From Panama, provides a more simple interpretation.

Works Cited: Stoodt, Barbara D., and Linda B. Amspaugh. Children’s Literature: Discovery for a Lifetime. Boston: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson, 2009. Print.

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