Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jessica Faust's Celebrate Reading Pick: TATTERHOOD AND OTHER TALES by Elizabeth Johnston Phelps

Today we welcome Jessica Faust as our Celebrate Reading Guest Blogger.

About the Guest Blogger: After more than five years as an editor with both Berkley and Macmillan Jessica decided she wanted to be the one making all the decisions and started BookEnds, a literary agency focusing primarily on adult fiction and nonfiction. In addition to representing a number of fabulous authors, Jessica also maintains the BookEnds blog where she does her best to unravel the mysteries of publishing.

When I was asked to write about one book, one book that has meant something to me, it took me a few hours to actually reply as to whether or not I would do it. Could I actually come up with one book that has impacted my life enough to talk about it in a blog post?

Well I agreed to the blog before having the book. And I thought really hard about it. I thought of all the books I’ve read in my life, those I read as a child and those I’ve read as a publishing professional and there are so many that stick out in my mind as being wonderfully amazing books. In the end though, I think it’s the books I read as a child that have had the most impact. It was those books that really shaped my love of reading and allowed me to fall in love with the written word. What’s interesting is that while I read primarily commercial books now, the books I read and loved most as a child were classics—Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables and The Little Princess (I think Cindy Pon already did a terrific job of talking about this book).

And then it came to me. And it should have been so easy. It was the book that has been sitting beside my bed for the last thirty years. It has traveled with me from my childhood bedroom to the college dorm, numerous Brooklyn apartments and now my home in New Jersey and with each move this book has remained in the coveted spot beside my bed. Even though I haven’t opened it in years, it sits there, waiting to soothe me and warm my heart when I need it.

It’s an obscure book so for many of you I’m sure this will be the first introduction to Tatterhood and Other Tales by Elizabeth Johnston Phelps. The book was given to me by a close family friend and includes her personalized inscription in the cover. When she gave it to me I knew she was hoping to inspire me with it’s feminist teachings, but I doubt she had any idea what an impact it would have.

Tatterhood is a collection of folk tales from around the world all featuring heroines (to quote Amazon), “of extraordinary courage, wit and achievement.” What I so obviously loved about this book was that it featured women. I loved my female role models. They were Jo from Little Women, Sara Crewe from The Little Princess, Betsy from the Besty, Tacy, Tib books, and of course Laura Ingalls. Ironically all of these women were writers. More importantly to me though was the fact that all of these fictional woman were strong willed, had a voice in the world and none were blonde (said partially tongue in cheek). Tatterhood was a collection of these stories. Tatterhood took all of the beloved fairy tales we grew up on and turned them on their ears. The women were always the heroes, saving the men with their strength, their wisdom and never their beauty. They had so much more to rely on and showed me, and still show me today, how wonderful it is to be a woman.

What I also love about this book is that it opened the world for me. One of my favorites was a Japanese story. I got to see not only women as heroes, but also different cultures and traditions.

I can’t say enough about Tatterhood and what a great and fun read it is. For anyone with a daughter, niece, or granddaughter I highly recommend it and for anyone who loves fairy tales. Pick up this amazing story collection.

Thanks Moonrat for this great opportunity!


JES said...

Jessica, if you can figure out some way to swing it you have got to update (or edit an annotated) TATTERHOOD. Some ideas are so right, it's a shame they get lost in the murk of time.

Or if doing it yourself feels too much like a conflict of interest, or a time sink [cough], surely it's a project about which you can insert a tiny little bug into the ear of a momentarily idle client... :)

Mary Witzl said...

I have a vague recollection of having seen Tatterhood on the shelves, but I have never read it. Now I want to.

The first book I remember checking out and reading on my own was Carol Ryrie Brink's Baby Island, about two girls who end up caring for four infants on a desert island after a ship-wreck. I was so thrilled with their adventure that I fantasized about it for years. And I made an unconscious decision never to check out books with male protagonists. It was a huge breakthrough when I finally read Tom Sawyer.

Bernita said...

Sounds lovely.
Thank you.

cindy said...

did somebody say a little princess? sounds like a great read. must look up online now. thank you for sharing!

jalexissmith said...

I had to read Tatterhood for a storytelling class in college. Good book!