Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

Keeping Aesop’s Fables Alive in Children’s Literature

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You might know me as the author of the children’s book series, Night Buddies, but did you know that I am also a huge history fanatic? I got my B.A. in ancient history from UNC Chapel Hill, and have made it one of my hobbies ever since.

Being a lifelong learner of ancient history means that I’ve been able to read some of the greatest classics our world still reveres today. For instance, everybody knows what the Fables are like, right? Very short little tales with explicit morals and talking animals. You know the one about the tortoise and the hare, surely? About slow and steady beats fast and flighty? How about the country mouse and the city mouse? Where the country mouse discovers grand living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

Okay, maybe I’ll show you one you don’t know. It’ll only take a minute—

The Dog and the Sheep

A Dog sued a Sheep for a debt he claimed the Sheep owed him, and he called on a Kite and a Wolf to be the judges.

Without asking any questions, they both decided right away that the Sheep was wrong and the Dog was right. Then the three of them tore the Sheep apart and ate him before he had been given a chance to say a word.

The Point: It’s sad, but it’s true, that honesty and right sometimes haven’t a chance against cruel force.

See how short? But it does the job, right? Did you know there are 101 of these things? At least in my translation, and there may have been even more 2,500 years ago.

It turns out, Aesop may even be a Fable himself!

That’s because he may or may not have existed. One story has him an Ethiopian slave they called “the Ethiop,” or Aesop. Plutarch says he was an advisor to King Croesus of Lydia (d. 546 BC). And Herodotus (a famous Greek historian) has him a slave of Iadmon, a 6th century Samian. But scholars tend to think Aesop was no more than a name used to tie together all the animal tales floating around at the time.

What really blows me away about the Fables is the truly advanced state of 6th century Greek literature and science. With the mighty exceptions of Homer and Archilochus (ca. 680-645 BC), the Greeks were just getting started. Their temples were still made of wood, and their male statues were those stiff kouroi that all looked alike. The “Golden Age” with Sophocles and Euripides and Plato and Phidias wasn’t for more than 100 years. But despite this, the stories written during this time period resonated with people so deeply that we still know them by heart to this day.

Whether you’re trying to teach your children patience, kindness, fairness, or any number of things, there is a Fable to be told, and there are sometimes even children’s editions of compilations of the Fables if you want to get your kids to read the ancient stories themselves!

Do you have a favorite Fable? Let me know in the comments below!

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Book Recommendation Time! The Best Historical Fiction for Children

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I’ve written a few posts now about how important it is for us as parents to help our children fall in love with reading. But today I want to take this one step further—I think it is important for us to get kids interested in reading about history. History is one of those subjects that a majority of people sleep through during grade school and don’t even consider studying past their few general ed requirements in college. But it’s also one of the most important subjects out there, if only to keep our world from repeating its past mistakes.

I’ve been a history buff from the time I was a kid, and I think that is largely due to teachers who made the subject interesting for me and books that made historical stories come alive in a tangible way. So I’ve compiled a short list here of some books for kids that hopefully will do the same for them.

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars

I’m sure you’ve heard of this classic already, but I couldn’t help but put it on my list. It takes place in Copenhagen during World War II, and it is a beautiful story that helps children to see the difficult reality of the Holocaust, while also telling of a friendship worth risking lives for.

Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos, by Robert Lawson

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First published in 1988, this funny, entertaining story tells the story of Benjamin Franklin and the founding of the United States of America through the eyes of a mouse named Amos. According to the book, Amos gave good ol’ Benjamin all of his best ideas. It’s a very charming book filled with important historical information, and I guarantee your child won’t be able to get enough!

She Was Nice To Mice: The Other Side of Elizabeth I’s Character Never Before Revealed by Previous Historians, by Alexandra Elizabeth Sheedy

Mice 1

Yet another historical tale told with the help of mice! This one takes place in the Elizabethan era, and follows the life of a mouse living in Queen Elizabeth’s courts. What I think is interesting about this book is that it was written by a twelve-year-old. It really helps kids relate to an era from long ago because it was written by a child who related to it herself!

Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco

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This picture book (still intended for kids ages 5-9) is set during the Civil War. It tells the story of a black Union soldier named Pinkus Aylee finding and rescuing white Union soldier, Sheldon Curtis (who goes by Say). It is a tragic story based on true events from the author’s own family history. To me, the Civil War is one of the most interesting historical events, and I give this book my highest recommendation.

Did you read any historical fiction when you were a kid? Did it help grow a love of history in you as an adult? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

 

 

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