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The Book of Fables and Folk Stories Review by Melissa Theberge

By Horace E. Scudder
Yesterday's Classics
PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515

This delightful collection is a classic in the truest sense. An unabridged re-publication of the original 1915 work, this soft-cover edition is illustrated with small, quaint sketches to accompany nearly every story.

To a great extent, these fables and folk stories are like any others, but this collection caught my attention nonetheless. For starters, a brief introduction explains the arrangement of the fables and folk stories, placing the easier to read and more familiar tales first, with more advanced vocabulary later in the volume. So the book could be worked through as a reader, with the child's skills growing as you move through it. Scudder prepared this collection for schools, and he tried to keep as close to Aesop's original works while maintaining readability for children. In all, this 168-page collection includes 56 fables and folk stories.

Perhaps the most interesting read from my parental point of view was the five-page preface, written by the author himself in 1890. I found his explanation of the use of fables and folk stories to be insightful and interesting to read. He notes how children recognize the difference between simple primer readers, which are often below their intelligence, and the early rhymes of Mother Goose, which they are likely to remember even years later. This is an endorsement for the use of real literature over simplistic primers, and he adds that literature becomes important to children, and with it they can exercise their new skill of reading. Fables are timeless, and often they are not even childish to adults; yet fables are endearing to children, who enjoy their brevity and use of animal characters. Moral lessons included in fables are timeless as well, and the author notes that fables are "what the world has chosen to remember," which gives fables a place as "permanent literature."

Folk stories, Scudder says, are shared more through memory, are often more representative of a people, and are transferred less through books and more by mother to child. For this reason, it is possible that some folk stories in this collection will be a bit different than the ones we remember as children, but often just by small details.

For me, reading this book was like a walk down memory lane, especially with regard to folk tales like "Little Red Riding Hood," "Elves and Shoemaker," "Tom Thumb," and my favorite, "The Traveling Musicians," which instantly brings back memories of my own father telling the tale to us! Other popular tales include "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty." The fables are numerous and include, happily, several we were as yet unfamiliar with.

A book such as this has countless practical uses in our homeschool and family life. The youngest child in our home will enjoy it as a read-aloud, a beginning reader might try reading a short fable, and older students may enjoy independent readings. In addition, we have used a few of these fables as models for writing practice. They are excellent sources of quality literature from which to model a story of one's own. I have been using this technique frequently in a multi-age co-op class I teach, and the stories are perfect for that use because of their wide appeal.

Product review by Melissa Theberge, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2009