Monday, March 23, 2009

Review #20: Tale of a Tail

Dad:  We had a very special request.
Isaac (age 10):  We did?
Dad:  A nice fellow named László emailed us saying how much he likes Bookie Woogie.  And guess what -- he's from the country of Hungary.
Isaac:  Huh?
Dad:  Isn't it cool that you have people from other countries visiting Bookie Woogie?  He wanted to know if in our collection we had any Hungarian books that have been translated into English that we could review.  I looked - and I even checked all the local libraries - but I couldn't find any.
Isaac:  So there's not any books in our whole house that have been translated from Hungarian?
Dad:  Then I remembered - we do have a book that's close!  It's wasn't originally published in Hungary, but it's written by a lady who was born there and moved to America as a child with her family.  Her parents told her Hungarian folktales, and when she grew up she wrote one of them down.  And here it is!
Isaac:  "Tale of a Tail" -- I didn't know that was a Hungarian story.
Dad:  And look who did the pictures...
Gracie (age 8):  John Sandford!!!
Dad:  So it's doubly cool!  We get to do a Hungarian folktale, and it's illustrated by our good, good friend.
Gracie:  John Sandford!
Dad:  In the back of the book the author, Judit Bodnar, says that although this is written in English, she tried to keep the rhythm and flavor of the Hungarian language.  Did you know stories could have a flavor?
Gracie:  I'll taste it!  (Gracie licks the book)  It tastes like...
Dad:  Chicken?
Gracie:  Like...  cardboard.
Elijah (age 3):  Let me lick it!
Dad:  If you're done dining, shall we read?

Reading commences...
...Reading concludes.

Dad:  So, tell me about "Tale of a Tail."
Gracie:  It was about a fox who was trying to trick a bear.
Lily (age 6):  The bear was saying to the fox, "Please, oh please, may I have some of your fish!  I've still never caught any fish!"
Gracie:  Give me the fish, baby!
Lily:  But the fox was like, "Go away!  If you want to catch fish, stick your tail in the water."
Dad:  How long did the fox tell him to wait?
Lily:  All night.
Dad:  So did the fox really want to help the bear?
Isaac:  No way.  He was tricking him.  He was just trying to get him to go away.
Lily:  The bear stuck his tail in the water, and he waited ALL NIGHT!
Gracie:  He thought if he stuck his tail in the water, the fish would come up in the morning and think it was a worm and, chomp chomp chomp, "I got the tail."
Lily:  But his tail got frozen to the lake.  His tail got stuck in the ice.
Gracie:  Poor bear.
Lily:  I feel sad for him.
Gracie:  He looks cold.  The picture is painted with blues and greens and whites.
Isaac:  He's going to freeze his tail off in the ice.
Dad:  In the morning he tugged and pulled, and he yanked the whole frozen lake, stuck to his tail, right out of the ground!
Gracie:  That would be hard to get through squeezy places with.
Isaac:  I think his tail would get ripped off.  All the fur on his tail would.
Dad:  What happened as the bear marched back to the fox's house dragging the frozen lake on his tail behind him?
Gracie:  The lake was melting.
Isaac:  And all the fish got left behind.
Lily:  Look at all those fish!
Isaac:  The fox thought the bear wouldn't catch anything, but the bear gets millions and millions and billions of fish!
Gracie:  This time the trick is on the fox!
Dad:  Do we have a new fishing technique to tell Grandpa about?
Gracie:  Ha ha ha!  No.  He doesn't have a tail.
Isaac:  Stick your feet in the water.  No - stick your forehead in the water so you will get a giant hat of ice with fish stuck in it!
Dad:  Is there anything we could learn about the way people tell stories in Hungary?  Or did it sound just like any other story?
Isaac:  It's pretty cool that the author put all those different sounds in the story.
Gracie:  Like, "Kop kop kop" when the bear knocks on the door.
Dad:  And "Hom hom hom" when the fox eats.
Gracie:  And "HOPLA!"
Dad:  What were some of the things you liked about the pictures?
Gracie:  The characters have cool clothes.  Pretty patterns are on the clothes.
Isaac:  All kinds of designs.  Lots of different fabrics.
Dad:  Do you think those are traditional Hungarian outfits and patterns?
Gracie:  Mr. Sandford probably had to do lots of research.
Isaac:  The birds have little hats.
Gracie:  And the squirrels do too.
Lily:  The squirrels even have shirts.
Isaac:  There are all kinds of creatures in this book.
Gracie:  Why does the fox have a pigeon wing in his hat?
Dad:  Hmmm, I don't know...
Gracie:  Mom would freak out about that.
Dad:  She doesn't like people touching feathers found lying around outside.
Elijah:  Why does the bear have a reindeer hat?
Dad:  Yeah, do you see what the bear has in his hat?
Lily:  An antler.
Dad:  Actually, all the animals have things sticking out of their hats.  Maybe that comes from Hungarian culture.  Do you think László has feathers in his hats?
Gracie:  This is my favorite outfit.
Dad:  The bear's pajamas?
Gracie:  What?  They're pretty!
Lily: (Flipping through the book)  I like that picture!  Ha ha ha ha ha!
Gracie:  The bear took three days to eat ALL the fish.  His belly is so fat!
Lily:  Read this book and you'll see!
Isaac:  If he fell backwards, how would he get up?
Gracie:  In Hungary, are people really that hungry?
Dad:  I don't think in Hungary the word Hungary means hungry.
Gracie:  What if he gets stuck between trees again?
Lily:  Ahh - and look - fish bones!
Dad:  Now he's got fish bones in his hat.  Maybe the characters stick things in their hats that they've eaten.  Maybe the bear had eaten a caribou and the fox ate a chicken...
Gracie:  But the rabbit has a peacock feather.  Why would a rabbit eat a peacock?
Dad:  That's true - my theory has been shot down.
Gracie:  There are lots of animals in this book, like birds...
Isaac: ...lots of birds.
Gracie: ...squirrels, rabbits, goats.
Dad:  And they're not even characters from the story -- they're just off doing their own thing in the backgrounds.
Gracie:  There's a hedgehog and he's adorable!  He's got a candle.  He's adorable!  Oh my adorable little hedgehog!
Dad:  There are so many neat details.  Like, look... there's a mole, and he's just out cooking a hotdog!  Isn't that's so weird!  All these funny little guys tucked around everywhere.
Isaac:  It's not weird.  It's cool!
Gracie:  But tiny birds don't really wear big puffy hats.
Lily:  The goat has a coat.
Gracie:  Look at the cute little bunnies!
Lily:  I'm that little bunny.  That pink one.  That's me.
Dad:  Anything else that you like about the pictures?
Isaac:  The borders are cool.
Gracie:  Borders.  Stick borders.
Dad:  Around the words Mr. Sandford made neat frames that look like twigs and sticks latched together.  And they are different on every page.  All different shapes.
Lily:  Look at this one -- it's like, Rip, rip, rip, rip!
Gracie:  When the wind is blowing in the picture, all those stick borders are breaking apart too because the wind is blowing so hard.
Lily:  This border is kind of like a Bible.
Isaac:  Like an open book.
Lily:  Ohh, and this border is the shape of a fish - because look, there's the tail!  And this side is the lips.
Dad:  Check out the border on the title page...
Gracie:  Sweeeeeet!
Isaac:  That's the coolest border of all!
Dad:  Look at this...  I wonder why the fox has that wheel tied to the tree?
Isaac:  I have no idea.
Gracie:  For a tire swing?
Dad:  It's not attached in a way that you would swing on it.  It's just a wheel tied to a tree.
Isaac:  Is it just there for decoration?
Dad:  Maybe it's a Hungarian thing.
Gracie:  If any Hungarians know what a wheel tied to a tree means, can you email us to tell us?
Dad:  Ha ha ha!  Maybe we'll get an answer.  Is there anything else that you want to say to our friends in Hungary?
Gracie:  Hi Hungarians!
Lily:  Hi!
Isaac:  How are they going to know what we are saying if they don't speak English?
Dad:  Well, the person who wrote to you knows English.  Maybe we could learn some Hungarian so we can say hello to them in their own language.
Isaac:  But what if they write back in Hungarian so we have no idea what they are saying?
Gracie:  Don't write us back in Hungarian...
Isaac:  That would be a little difficult.
Dad:  Final thoughts?
Gracie:  Read the B - O - O - K!!!  For little ones, that spells book!  For the little ones who don't know how to read.  Well...  they...  they wouldn't be reading this review then...
Dad:  Ha ha ha!
Lily:  Grace, calm... down...

springtime at the lake, by Lily

fox's fish dinner, by Isaac

fox finds an empty lake, by Gracie

Author: Judit Z. Bodnar
Illustrator: John Sandford
Published, 1998: Lothrop, Lee, and Shepard Books
Like it? Find it


Z-Kids said...

Z-Dad here... Mr. Sandford emailed with answers to some of the mysteries. I asked him if a could share them here, and he gave a cyber thumbs up:

"THANKS Zenz nation, thank you! I really like the drawings at the end, too!

The hats are from a statue in Budapest of a battle where some of the guys are wearing this kind of cool headgear. I think they wanted to look fierce.

I found costume books and pattern books for Hungarian clothing in a bookstore in Toronto, lots and lots of embroidery. Nobody at the store could speak English so I had to pantomime what I wanted - sewing, clothes, and stuff.

Wheel: that's my re-think of a tire-swing, adapted to the Fox abode.

Hey, did you guys know, whenever I draw a bear in a book - that is me? Also - look for the bandanas in the books. I try to put a bandana in every book. (Sometimes I forget.) Anyway - the bandana is the Sandford family flag!"

Thanks Mr. Sandford!

ElizT said...

Very interesting; seems like a fascinating b-o-o-k.
[Did you know, Dirk Bogarde's nanny used to say, "R-o-n-g spells rong"]?

steve said...

This is such a wonderful concept - this blog, and I love the art your kids create. Big kudos to you!

Unknown said...

Awesome review! I'm glad you are back!

Laci said...

First of all: Thank you for this great review! :)
On the other hand, I haven't got feathers in my hat. ;) I find a related tale about King Matthias, where you can see some feathers and hats. Check this video:
Heard about him, or his codexes? You can check his codexes here (click on the yellow button)and you can get some amazing pages like this:

You can say 'Hello' to all hungarians, we can understand that! But if you say 'Szia' or 'Sziasztok!'(plural) it means Hello too.. :)

I've got a surprise for you guys. It's a hungarian folktale! I hope you will enjoy it:

Thanks again, and keep up the good work!
Laszlo, from Hungary

krisztina maros said...

hahaha, i really enjoyed your bookie-game! you are all so lovely! :) i live in Hungary (being hungarian) and i haven't known this tale before - it seems very interesting. a love so much your works, it's nice to see that different children how many ways imagine the same story!

(i tell you a secret about strange hats: there isn't anybody wears a hat with something fit to eat :) just wearing hats because of the weather...)

great to read you! just continue your fantastic blog!

best wishes from Hungary,

Kelly H-Y said...

Sounds like a great book, and I'm always just in awe of the kids' illustrations!!

Z-Kids said...

"Sziasztok" Laszlo and Krisztina!

The show you sent us to watch with the wolf and pig was hilarious - I loved it. Thank you for telling us about it. Then we watched some more Hungarian folktales too, and they've all had to do with snow. So that makes me think it must be very cold over there in Hungary. In one show we saw, six people who worked on the show (in the credits) were also named Laszlo. Laszlo must be a very popular name!

Krisztina, we visited your blog and I really like your pictures!

Thank you for visiting Bookie Woogie!

- Gracie

OTTO said...

I used to get Hungary and hungry mixed up when I was little.

Anonymous said...

The artwork this week is astounding, Z-Kids!

Olivia Pintos-Lopez said...

Can you please send your email address to I have a question and I can't find your email address anywhere on your site.
Thank you

Anonymous said...

Hi Bookie Woogie people, an another Hungarian is calling you!
My daughter found your site, and I fell in love immediatelly with it. Especially you were talking about Hungarians.:)
I am a children book-fan too, I've got more than thousand of mostly Hungarian, and also foreign books for kids.(I should count them once) Aaaand I am a children book illustrator. :)
You can find some works of mine on this site
my e-mail:
I am on Facebook, too
Koltai Éva

koltaiéva said...

this is my book
there are some more Hungarian books, too, on this site.