As a children’s librarian living in the town I work in, it is extremely important (to me) that I am visible in the community.
I try to go to as many school functions, YMCA events, library events, fund raisers, or school visits as I can. Not only does it help the kids see me and remember where I’m from, but it also shows that I care about the people in town as well as my job. I think it’s fun, and it’s always hilarious to see kids at different places around town, or even in other towns.
They are always surprised to see me out of the library—almost like I only exist for them in that one space, and I’m never allowed to leave. “Who let the librarian out of the library!?”
I know that’s sometimes the case for me when people I only see in one place are elsewhere. I get thrown off, and then remember that they do exist out of the one building I see them in every day at 2pm.
I was recently asked to go to YMCA Camp Sloper and do a talk with their Book Worm camp. Book Worm camp is new this year, and it was intended for those kids that just want to read and learn all summer. It sounded absolutely AWESOME and definitely appealed to not only the librarian in me, but also the book nerd. If Book Worm camp had been offered when I was camp age, I am pretty sure I would have loved camp…instead of hating it, like I actually did.
The theme when I was coming was surrounding the Soccer World Cup, so they wanted the focus to be on multicultural tales. That was my only limit. So I went wild. I decided to talk about multicultural folk tales and tall tales, and how though the tales come from different countries, different cultures, and different languages, the messages and lessons they convey are the same. Goodness, kindness, hard work, triumph of the weaker over those who appear physically stronger.
When I got to Sloper on the gorgeous summer day, I found my contact, a counsellor who is getting her Masters in poetry. Her name is Gabby. She introduced me to the 10 or so girls in the group. Right away a few girls recognized me from the library and we talked about them coming in and books they’ve read. The ones who didn’t recognize me asked me what I did at the library and things like that. I got a few questions of who my boyfriend was, and if I was married, and if I was a mom [answers: his name is Shane, I am not married, and I am not yet a mom.] Then, they finished their lunch, two asked to hold my hand and we wandered off down the lawn to sit beside the pond. What better location to talk about tales and poetry than by the water. Very Walden.
I told them about myself, what I do at the library, and then we talked about tales. Several of the girls had done tall tales in school, so they told me about what they had already written. One girl had won the class prize for best tale, which I thought was awesome.
So, together, we came up with a list of what folk tales are. This is what they came up with, the language and thoughts have been cleaned up a bit by me.
- Generally part of the oral tradition of a group
- More frequently told than read
- Passed down from one generation to another
- Take on the characteristics of the time, place, and culture in which they are told
- Sometimes take on the personality of the storyteller
- Speak to universal and timeless themes
- Try to make sense of our existence, help humans cope with the world in which they live, or explain the origin of something.
- Are often about the common person
- May contain supernatural elements
I thought this was a fantastic list. Next, I said I was going to tell them the story of how I got to Sloper that morning, but I was going to tell it two ways. They had to tell me which they thought which version was true.
I should preface this: there is a legend at Sloper of a very large turtle who lives in the lake. She is sometimes seen crossing the fields. Her name is Mama Cass.
So, here are my two versions of the story.
I woke up pretty early this morning, yawned, got up and had breakfast—eggs, bacon, toast and tea. I drove to Sloper. As I pulled into the parking lot to park my car, I came across a big turtle in the road. She was sitting there, blocking my path. I didn’t want to squish her, and I didn’t have room to go around her, so I got out of the car, said good morning, picked her up, moved her to the grass and continued on my way.
I woke up with a sun, and a yawn loud enough to shake the house. Once the dust had settled, I jumped out of bed and hit my head on the ceiling, so excited was I to get over here to talk to you about tellin’ tales. I raced the sun to get dressed, and jumped down the stairs. For breakfast I had a dozen eggs, a pack of bacon, an entire loaf of bread, and about a gallon or two of tea. If you think that was a lot, you should have seen what my dad ate!
Then I got in the car and headed to Sloper. So excited was I that I drove as fast as I could. Now, mind, it was too fast—faster than the speed limit. And that caught the attention of the cops. But, I was going so fast that my car looked like a silver blur, wooshing by. It went by the police officers so fast that it whipped their hats right off their heads and plopped those same hats on other passersby.
I made it to Sloper with a screech of my tires and a spray of gravel as I slowed down to pull into the parking lot. When, what do I see right in my way, but a giant turtle. She must have been seven feet high at the eye and 12 feet across. She blinked at me and didn’t move. I couldn’t go around her, so I got out of my car. “Excuse me, mama Cass, I said. Would you mind movin’ outta the way so I can park my car and get talking to the good kids beyond?”
She just looked at me and shook her head. In a molasses voice she said to me, “You’re drivin’ too fast, miss molly. You’ve gotta sloooooooooo”—here she took a giant breath—-“oooooow down.”
“Will do mama cass. Sorry. Can I get around you now?”
“I seem to be stuck. Could you give me a push to get me going?” Luckily I had had such a good filling breakfast this morning. I got behind Mama Cass. Gave her a big push, and she got to lumberin’ on. And here I am.
Keeping in mind that those are supposed to be said aloud. Book Worm club of course picked out all the elements of exaggeration and the like. They were giggling most of the time. After those stories, they told me about the book that they had just written, which was something of an adventure fairy tale. They recited it to me from memory (they had just done a performance for the little campers a few hours before—with props and everything). It was really great. We talked about how they wrote the stories and worked together to make one story.
To wrap up the rest of the day, I read them several tales from around the world and we talked about what American tales they were reminded of after hearing them. We read “The Cat and the Parrot” , “Odon the Giant” , “The Coyote and the Rabbit”, and “Groundhog’s Dance” from the book Nursery tales around the world, selected and retold by Judy Sierra.
It was an incredibly fun day, and I loved hanging out with the kids. I might go back later in August and do another day with them, possibly talking about the science behind science fiction! We will see. I will keep you posted!