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Culture and Arts

Culture Watch, Page Three


A pre-Holiday review of three childrens books

Senior Women Web author Ferida Wolff has written several childrens books, the latest of which is


by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz 2008; Illustrated by Elena Odriozola

Published by Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta Hardcover: Suggested for ages 4-8

This is a lovely little story for young children, with illustrations rendered in a colorful and highly individual style that is nicely suited to the books straightforward, entertaining tone.

The story itself offers up its lesson of kindness and sharing without being preachy, and it is written in simple but challenging language.

As a retired teacher, I applaud the fact that the author doesnt talk down to the young listeners/readers, whose vocabulary (given explanation by a helpful adult reading to them) will be enhanced by unfamiliar words like ravens, confusion, shawl, mayor, to name just a few. Alas, many of todays books for children dumb down the words of a story, and miss the richness and cadences of the English language. It is through hearing good language early-on that youngsters learn to speak well, and eventually to write well, and to appreciate good literature. Kudos to Ms. Wolff for her part in this.

The story involves Babbah Zarrah (Babbah = Granny in many of the Slavic languages), a grandmotherly woman who lives in a small village. The children of the village love to sit on her big, old blanket to listen as she tells stories. One day she notices that one of the boys has a hole in his shoe, and decides to knit him some socks so that his feet will stay warm. Alas, the village is snowed in, and there is no yarn to be had. Babbah Zarrah drinks a glass of tea as she ponders the problem. Her solution is to unravel a bit of her story blanket in order to knit the socks.

From there, the story moves in the classic, incremental fashion that children so love: Babbah Zarrah keeps seeing need and unraveling her blanket. The villagers at last figure out where all the anonymous knitted gifts are coming from, and their response is every bit as heart-warming as Babbah Zarrahs original generous impulse. The storys end opens the possibility of on-going goodness and sharing in the little village, driving home the lesson in a gentle, positive way.


And Consider These


by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, 2005; Illustrations by Marie LeTourneau

Published by Tanglewood Press, Terre Haute, IN; Paperback

The pictorial representation of a worry as a scary monster might be a bit disturbing to the very youngest listeners, but with a bit of reassurance and explanation that the monster is just a depiction of what a worry feels like, even they will be able to understand and relate to this book.

There follows a series of situations in which a worry looms large, along with one or more common-sense and often amusing suggestions for dealing with the problem. Some of these seem a bit forced and far-fetched, but I doubt that a child who needs help to laugh at and conquer a worry will mind that. As the book says:

A worry isnt polite. It has no manners. It doesnt ask if it can enter. It just barges in. And it will stay as long as you let it.

If you know a child who is afraid of the dark, or who is hesitant to become involved in something because hes worried that he wont be able to handle it, this may be just the book that will help.



Published by gumboot books, Vancouver, BC Canada; A project supported by District 5020 Rotary Clubs, to promote literacy

This is a collection of eighteen original stories and poems by childrens authors and illustrators from around the world. Each story is themed around a non-denominational international holiday such as International Literacy Day or World Animal Day, with explanations of each holiday in a sidebar by a related story.

I found wide variance in the quality of these stories. There are very few authors of childrens stories who can really get into the mindset of a child, and many of these tales suffer from what I can only call terminal cuteness. In any collection, there are bound to be a few clunkers, but fortunately there are also some winners here. Stories like The Number Tree by M.W. Penn would be just about right for a small child working on numeral recognition, enhanced by good search-and-find artwork by Mike Linton, and Penns simple, rhythmic rhymes.

SWWs Ferida Wolff partners with Harriet May Savitz again to celebrate International Day of the Book, via a story entitled Whatever It Is. The story concerns Mikrog the spaceman making his first visit to Earth, and looking for something small enough to carry home on his return trip. The something that he finds will be readily recognized by a child, but Mikrog must go through all sorts of shenanigans before the object is finally defined as a book. If you are interested in learning more about this collection of stories, you can find the publisher on the Web at


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