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Why Snails Have Shells: Minority and Han Folktales from China (Kolowalu Books) Hardcover – February, 1994

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Gr. 4-6. Twenty stories reflecting the ethnic diversity of China are presented here, accompanied by colorful paintings and concluding source notes on the originating culture. As an American teaching English in China, Han became intrigued by the cultural plurality represented in her classes and began collecting folktales from her students. Many of the tales will strike a familiar chord. "The Flying Frog," about a frog unable to keep its mouth shut, is a Mongolian variant of a tale found in many cultures; the Tibetan "Rabbit Judge" tells of a wolf who breaks his promise not to eat the goat that rescues him from a pit, only to be outsmarted by a wily rabbit. Unusual as well as useful, the collection will be a handy resource for those looking for short stories to read or to tell, and the concluding notes lend insight into both the geography and the social customs of the countries represented. Janice Del Negro

From Kirkus Reviews

A very attractive collection of 17 animal fables and pourquoi tales, from a dozen of the 55 minorities that together comprise 7% (i.e., 67 million) of China's inhabitants, plus three from the majority Han (ethnic Chinese). Some tales resemble more familiar versions, e.g., Jataka stories; many involve trickster motifs. The adapter (who collected these stories during the three years she taught English in Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces) retells them with a simplicity and easy informality that especially suit them for sharing aloud. The Chinese illustrator (who teaches at Yunnan Art Institute) uses vibrant, sophisticated colors for portrayals that are stylized, yet animated; his swirling continuous line, filled in with solid color to create animal figures, will intrigue children who have used a similar technique to make nonrepresentational designs. A map shows the distribution of these peoples (large areas of Mongols and Tibetans and a scattered patchwork of others, largely in China's mountainous southwest); the groups' cultural characteristics are summarized in the final pages. An unusual, and unusually interesting, contribution, handsomely and intelligently produced. (Folklore. 6+) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Series: Kolowalu Books
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: University of Hawaii Press (February 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082481505X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824815059
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 8.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #953,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book of folk tales has much in common with folk traditions the world over. It provided great opportunities for discussions with students about the similarities to be found between diverse people groups because students of all backgrounds could relate to the themes in these simple stories. The beautiful illustrations also made for an enjoyable read-aloud.
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