The Dragon Slayer: Folk tales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez with an introduction by F. Isabel Campoy, 48 pp, RL 2

From the fantastic folks at TOON Books, the premier publisher of high-quality comics designed for early readers comes this amazing collection, The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez (award winning creator, along with his brothers, of the alternative comic book series Love and Rockets) with an introduction by F. Isabel Campoy, simultaneously published in hardcover and paperback, Spanish and English. In her introduction, Imagination and Tradition, Campoy eloquently writes, "Folktales often contain moral lessons: instead of telling us how to behave, they show us the implications of right and wrong behaviors to help us develop our social and emotional intelligence. They teach us how to be better human being." Noting the many cultures that influence Latin American heritage, she goes on to say that a, "recurring theme in the Latino experience is a celebration of strong women. Like so many señoras and señoritas in Hispanic families, the independent mothers, sisters, and daughters in these folktales have the inner strength to rise above obstacles and to over come adversity. But, above all, the reality of Latin American folktales is that magic can happen at any time."

In the first story in the collection, The Dragon Slayer, there is a man with three daughters (there are always three, it seems, no matter what the heritage) banishes the youngest (it's always the youngest, too!) when her sisters trick him into believing she stole his money. Sharing her tortilla with a fellow traveller, she is rewarded with a wand that will tell her anything she needs to know. Using her brains, hard work and bravery, she goes from working in the kitchens of the castle of Dragonia to slaying dragons, stealing from giants and rescuing the prince for a happy ending where she becomes the queen.
The second story, Matina Martínez and Pérez the Mouse, a story by Alma Flor Ada from the book "Tales Our Abuelitas Told," is weird and humorous in the ways that folktales often are. Martina falls in love with Pérez, a small white mouse, and they marry. Deciding to have a party for all their friends, they cook and clean in preparation. When Martina discovers she has no salt, she runs to the store, cautioning Pérez from getting too close to the huge pot of soup. Of course the little mouse falls in while trying to sample the soup. Martina is distraught, crying hopelessly. The birds hear her and cut off their beaks to express their sorrow. The mourning dove cuts off her tail and the fountain stops giving water. Eventually this chain reaction reaches Doña Pepa who asks, "And who is helping Ratón Pérez?" Pepa saves the mouse and saves the day and a party ensues.

The final story, Tup and the Ants, begins with three brothers who marry three sisters. Living with their in-laws, the brothers are given jobs on the farm, but the youngest, Tup, always finds a way to take a nap while the others work. But, when Tup and the brothers are sent to turn a forest into a field of corn, Tup's laziness becomes a very entertaining asset.

Backmatter on Latin American folktales, with accompanying artwork, along with a bibliography, round out this brief but fantastic collection of well chosen stories. I hope that there is another collection of folktales from Latin America coming soon!

Source: Review Copy

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