A golden star falls from the sky and fastens itself to the forehead of a poor girl. After that, her life begins to change in magical ways. Estrellita de Oro is our tale this March (Little Golden Star to English speakers). I came to this story in an interesting way.
The children and I were looking at a map, marking out all the places we’ve travelled via stories this year. “Why are all the dots on the top of the map?” wondered one observant little girl. Why indeed? Probably because my cultural heritage is from Europe and I am American, so the tales I love most are the ones I’ve heard all my life, from these places. But the SunBee Kids have their own cutural backgrounds to explore and were ready to spread their wings! Down into the Southern Hemishpere we go… or at least farther south than usual… starting with Mexico, where many SunBee kids can find their own roots.
Although most Latino kids will know this tale, it is new for me. I found it by stopping by one of my favorite places in Houston, Casa Ramirez in the Heights. Mr. Ramirez is a wonderful activist, artist and teacher and one of my favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon is stop by his shop for some cinnamon cookies and a Mexican coke, bathe my eyes in the beautiful colors of the art and crafts, and listen to him tell stories of his boyhood in San Antonio and his work with Latino children all over Houston. He’s always ready to share a tale and sharing Mexican culture is his passion. What a treasure for Houston!
On this particular day, he wasn’t there but Mrs. Ramirez was so helpful showing me story books, and telling me of the classic Mexican tales like El Cucuy, La Llonora and Estrellita. I ended up purchasing The Day it Snowed Tortillas, by storyteller Joe Hayes. This book is in English and Spanish so I can practice my feeble Spanish a little! All of the stories are appropriate and fun for children.
If you are looking for a picture book, I love the vibrant illustrations in this edition of Estrellita de Oro, also by Joe Hayes.
Meanwhile, for my little ones I am sewing a puppet of the Big Bad Wolf. The journey to a wolf tale also started with the children. At Beehive Preschool a game has developed. I am a Wolf and I sleep while the children ask “Wolf, wolf, what are you doing?” Sometimes Wolf is innocently shaving, playing basketball, talking to his mom on the phone or knitting. But sometimes… Wolf gets hungry. If Wolf shouts DINNER TIME, better run!
Why do the children delight in outwitting Wolf? Why do we always seek out deliciously scary tales of the dark loper of the forest? Even when we know wolves hardly ever kill humans and actually live in social harmony?
Illustrator and writer Ed Young made a wonderful book of Lon Po Po, the Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood. I think he answers this question very well in the preface he wrote to his dark tale:
To all the wolves of the world
for lending us their good name
as a tangible symbol
for our darkness.
And below, the version I made with an old sock.