________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 6 . . . . November 14, 1997

cover Mother and Daughter Tales.

Josephine Evetts-Secker. Illustrated by Helen Cann.
Richmond Hill, ON: Scholastic Canada, 1997, c1996.
32pp., cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 1-55037-451-6.

Subject Heading:
Mothers and daughters-Folklore-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3 and up / Ages 8 and up.
Review by Jennifer Sullivan.

*** /4

image In this beautifully told and illustrated book, Canadian author Josephine Evetts-Secker gathers tales from different cultures that illuminate the many facets of mother-daughter relationships. Retellings of myths and fairy tales from ancient Greece, China, Germany, Russia, Japan, Turkey, Norway, and the Iroquois and Jewish culture are included in the 80 page anthology. The stories are prefaced by an inviting table of contents which introduces the vividly coloured illustrations of British artist Helen Cann. In an informative "Foreword", the author explains the origins of the tales:

In my retellings, I have tried to maintain the universal qualities of myth and folk/fairy tale, while allowing for local color and custom, as we move from country to country, with all their varieties of social order, religious belief and geography. I have tried, wherever possible, to be faithful to the earliest records I found, while remaining open to the many individual versions I have read or heard.
image The thread that binds the culturally diverse stories together is the complex nature of the relationship between mothers and daughters. The daughter's journey towards adulthood can be hindered or enhanced by the mother figure. "Good mothers" nurture and protect their daughters while stepmothers and witch figures are cruel and selfish figures.

      A recurring motif in the stories is maturation and separation from the mother figure. In the ancient Greek story of Persephone and Demeter, Persephone is forced to leave her mother and her home for a part of every year to share her life with Hades, the dark god of the underworld. In the Slavic tale "Snowflake," a barren mother who creates a daughter from a mound of snow must lose her child to the all-consuming flames of a fire. Universal themes - independence, maturation, love and loss--cross the boundaries of time and culture and ensure that these tales are as relevant today as they were long ago.

      The watercolour illustrations in bright blues and reds add warmth and detail to the stories. Lavish borders reflect the culture from which each tale is derived - bright cherry blossoms border the Japanese tale, snowflakes evoke the chill of the icy Slavic landscape, and sheaves of wheat define the threshing scene in the Hebrew tale of Naomi and Ruth.

      The book concludes with an interesting "Notes" section that explores many of the more predominant themes of the tales including women and nature, women and house-keeping, growing up, and the community of women. An excellent book to read aloud or to enjoy on one's own, this anthology would make a nice addition to the school library or the home. Look for Father and Daughter Tales by the same author/illustrator team.


Jennifer Sullivan works within the Canadian Literature Service of the National Library of Canada.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364