Thursday, June 10, 2010

Robert D. San Souci

--by Hanje Richards

Author of both adult and children's books, Robert D. San Souci (pronounced "San-Soo-see") is highly regarded for his adaptations of folk tales from around the world, including Europe, Asia, the British Isles, and the Americas. His work features female and male heroes from many different places and ethnicities, with a particular emphasis on strong female protagonists.

Some of the awards and honors that San Souci has been awarded include:

IRA/CBC, 1987, for Short and Shivery: Thirty Chilling Tales; Irma Simonton Black Book Award, Bank Street College of Education, 1989, American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book citation, 1989, and state readers' awards from Tennessee, Colorado, Nebraska, Virginia, and Georgia, all for The Talking Eggs; Aesop Award, Children's Folklore Section, American Folklore Society, 1993, for Cut from the Same Cloth; Caldecott Honor Book, 1996, for The Faithful Friend (illustrated by Brian Pinkney).

About his books, San Souci says, "I especially love retelling old folktales and fairy tales, since they give me a chance to tell in my own words some of the stories that were my favorites when I was growing up — and which have remained popular with audiences for hundreds or even thousands of years. I have retold stories from Mexico, Canada, England, France, Russia, Japan, Brazil - more places than I can recall. And I have told stories from all across this country: Massachusetts to California, Alaska to Hawaii. I love these old stories, because they are wonderful, colorful, always exciting tales — and they also have lots of “food for thought” in them. You can enjoy the story as simply a great story, but you'll come away from them with ideas about how to live as a better person. And, I hope, you'll also come away with a better appreciation of what it is like to live in another part of the world or maybe at a very different time in history."

You can learn more about Robert D. San Souci at his website.

Christmas Ark (Daniel San Souci & Robert D. San Souci) - It's Christmas Eve and Sarah and Elizabeth, who are sailing to join their father in San Francisco, are worried that Santa will not be able to find them. But he appears and takes them on a tour of Christmas celebrations around the world, until the girls discover the celebration they'd most like to belong at is the one where their family awaits them.

Cinderella Skeleton (Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by David Catrow) - Meet Cinderella Skeleton, as sweetly foul as only a ghoul can be. Poor Cinderella has no one to help her hang the cobwebs and arrange dead flowers – certainly not her evil stepsisters. But the Halloween Ball is just around the corner… Will Cinderella find happiness at last?

Cut From the Same Cloth: American Women of Myth, Legend and Tall Tales ( Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by Brian Pinkney) - Arranged geographically from northeast to west (including Alaska and Hawaii), these 15 tales of clever, strong- willed, or larger-than-life women represent several cultures – Anglo-, Native-, African-, and Mexican-American. Introductory remarks discuss locale or culture or note parallels in world folklore.

The Faithful Friend (Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by Brian Pinkney) - On the lush tropical island of Martinique live Clement and Hippolyte, two inseparable friends. When Clement falls in love with the beautiful Pauline, Hippolyte agrees to join his best friend on his journey to propose marriage. But when Pauline accepts Clement's proposal, it enrages her uncle Monsieur Zabocat – reputed to be a quimboiseur, a wizard. To prevent the wedding, the old wizard lures Hippolyte into a deadly trap, forcing him to choose between his friend's safety and his own.

Feathertop: Based on the Tale by Nathanial Hawthorne (Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by Daniel San Souci) - Long ago in New England, a powerful witch made a scarecrow from a collection of old scraps. The witch was so pleased with her creation that she decided to bring it to life. With a puff of magic smoke, the scarecrow was transformed into a handsome young man and christened Feathertop. The mischievous witch then sent Feathertop off to woo the beautiful Polly Gookin, and soon Feathertop and Polly were deeply in love. But Feathertop was, after all, merely a patchwork of sticks and witchcraft. Only the magic of love could make him truly human.

More Short and Shivery: Thirty Terrifying Tales (Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by Katherine Coville) - Thirty hair-raising stories from around the world fill this spooky collection with delicious shivers and spine-tingling chills. Sit down and meet "The Vampire Cat," "The Draug" and "The Rolling Head"; or take a stroll with "The Thing in the Woods." You'll find favorites such as "The Golden Arm," and startling new stories such as "Knock...Knock...Knock," vividly told with plenty of ghastly details and spooky endings. There's something here for everyone who likes a good shudder... but be prepared for goose bumps!

The Red Heels (Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by Gary Kelley) - An original tale based on a colonial New England legend. A traveling cobbler, Jonathan Dowse, comes to the home of Rebecca Wyse. She asks him to make new shoes for her, using the fancy red heels of an old pair that belonged to her mother and grandmother. Jonathan feels fear, for red heels are the sign of a witch. Spying on Rebecca that night, he finds ``her secret delight'' – she dances on the moonlit pond. She sees him, and he dances, too; it becomes their nightly habit. The next autumn, Rebecca appears and asks him to attach new shoes, suitable for a ``goodwife,'' to the red heels, for she can no longer dance without him. She ends up with two pairs – “One sturdy enough for the day's work; one airy enough for the night” – and Jonathan has also made a dancing pair for himself. The couple wed, and flourish, and, occasionally, dance.

Sukey and the Mermaid (Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by Jerry Pinkney) - Sukey's new step-pa is a mean, bossy man. Every day Sukey wakes at dawn to work in the garden. All her step-pa ever does is watch her and yell if she so much as stops to fan herself. Sukey's ma calls him Mister Jones. Sukey prefers the name "Mister Hard-Times."
So, one day, Sukey runs away to her secret place by the ocean. There, she calls up Mama Jo, a beautiful mermaid. Mama Jo's got a surprise for Sukey; a magical kingdom beneath the sea without time or pain. But it's also without people. Is it really better than the world above?

The Talking Eggs: A Folktale From the American South (Robert D. San Souci; illustrated by Jerry Pinkney) - In this adaptation of a Creole folktale, Blanche is kind, loving and patient, but her older sister Rose takes after their mean, sneaky mother. One day, Blanche befriends a hideous old "aunty" on a path near her home and is rewarded with magic eggs. Of course, Rose and the girls' mother are beside themselves with envy, and Rose sets out to snag some eggs of her own. But greedy Rose's cruel nature gets her into trouble. She torments the old lady, grabs the wrong eggs, and ends up "angry, sore and stung."