Mirror, mirror on my wall
Who’s the silliest blogger of all?
Why me, of course.
Thank Goodness, It’s Fairy Tale Friday.
It is actually Thursday night but guess who doesn’t have to work tomorrow?
Oh, yeah, baby!
So this is my Friday night.
And as much as I am loving being back among books and babies, I am a tired girl. Glad to have a little time to recoup, I mean regroup.
For this blog post, I am sharing One Potato, Two Potato, by Cynthia DeFelice with pictures by Andrea U’Ren. The suggested age range for this book is 4-8 years but I shared it with fifth graders a few weeks ago with great success. It is written on a 4.3 (fourth grade, third month) reading level and is worth .5 AR points.
This is a folktale that’s special to me for a number of reasons.
The story is so sweet and chock-full of valuable lessons. The illustrations of Mr. and Mrs. O’Grady are touching and just a little heart rending.
It was the winning title for the Texas Library Association’s 2008-2009 Bluebonnet Award. I was fortunate enough to meet the author and illustrator at the Bluebonnet Award luncheon and have them autograph a copy of their book.
In the spring of 2009, I was working as a librarian at H.R. Moye Elementary School. I may have mentioned before that Moye is a school in one of the lowest socio-economic areas of El Paso; an area known as the Devil’s Triangle which speaks to the demographics of this community. Poverty, predominantly Spanish-speaking, much drug and gang activity.
One child from each region in Texas is selected to attend the Bluebonnet Award luncheon each year. All expenses are paid by the Bluebonnet Committee for transportation to the luncheon, hotel accommodations, meals, for the student selected and her family.
I had submitted the name of one of our fifth grade girls from Moye, never dreaming that she would be chosen but she was! A bilingual student who had recently transitioned into monolingual classes, Gisel was quiet, sweet, intelligent girl who had never been on a plane, never stayed in a hotel, never been far from home.
In the picture on the left, Gisel is meeting Cynthia DeFelice and Andrea U’Ren. In the center, she is introducing herself at the luncheon before an audience of approximately 1,000 people! In the third photo, Gisel is looking on as author and illustrator accept their Bluebonnet Award.
I was so proud of this baby! She represented El Paso, and H.R. Moye with such grace.
Now that you have the many reasons why this folktale is special to me, let me share a bit of the story in hopes of enticing you to find it at your neighborhood library or bookstore to enjoy for yourself.
I put on my librarian hat and did a little research on the background of this story. Apparently, it is the retelling of a Chinese folk story called Two of Everything but DeFelice chose to set her story in Ireland as a tribute to her heritage.
Mr. and Mrs. O’Grady are an elderly couple whose children have long grown up and gone out into the world. They live in a modest cottage “where they had little and shared everything” [pg. 1]. They are poor even by Moye students’ standards…”they dug one potato from their little garden every day, called it breakfast, lunch, and supper, and considered themselves lucky to have it” [pg. 1].
This humble couple shared a chair at their dining table, a bed, a holey blanket and a tattered coat. They had one candle which Mr. O’Grady pretended to light each evening and blow-out the following morning, saving lighting it for a rainy (rainier?) day.
While they are content in their meager existence, the couple longs for the companionship of having a friend with whom to share recipes for potatoes or with whom to discuss potato weevils.
One morning, Mr. O’Grady heads to the garden to dig up their daily potato only to discover that he has come to the last potato in the last row in their garden. As he digs a little deeper in hopes of finding yet another spud, his shovel hits upon something hard.
He unearths a pot.
A pot so large that he must carry it with both hands up the hill and back to the cottage to show his wife. He drops their last potato into the pot and struggles up to the house.
He calls to his wife to come quickly. She asks what in the world her husband has found and he replies that it is a pot. Mrs. O’Grady agrees, adding that it is much too big for cooking. Mr. O’Grady adds that it did come of handy for carrying their very last potato home from the garden.
Mrs. O’Grady exclaims “Our last potato!” and leans over the pot to retrieve the potato. In doing so, her one and only hairpin falls into the pot. “She paid it little mind, though, for inside the pot were two potatoes. She held them up. ‘Husband,’ she scolded, ‘you oughtn’t joke about such things!’ “But I wasn’t joking, said Mr. O’Grady, befuddled by the sight of the second potato.” [pg. 8]
When the couple looked into the pot again, they discover not one, but two identical hairpins. And from there the story takes off in a flurry as the pair dash about their sparsely furnished home, doubling their holey blanket, their tattered coat, and their candles, hairpins and potatoes until they have a bounty.
It is Mrs. O’Grady who dares wonder what might happen if they put their only gold coin into the pot. And so it goes.
This story is so rich.
It provides such great fodder for thoughtful discussions.
And just as you think you know what is going to happen, the O’Gradys surprise you.
The ending of this folktale will warm your heart and restore (or bolster) your faith in humanity.
You can get a copy of this fabulous book, here. Meet Cynthia DeFelice on her webpage and read how she writes a book. (I am going there right now!). I tried to find a webpage or blog for Andrea U’Ren but no luck. Apparently, she is an author, too, as I discovered here.
Check out this version of the Chinese folktale that inspired DeFelice on YouTube.
I always like to include links to activities you can use with the books I share but couldn’t find much available. Maybe I need to write some of my own! With my students, I asked them to think of the first thing they would put into the pot to double, and why they chose that item to duplicate. Hey, what would you put into the pot?
Students could write their own ending to the story before reading the end of the book. This story provides a great spring board for identifying cause and effect, and comparing want and need.
I did find this logic puzzle which I won’t even begin to solve because I am lacking in logic and common sense. But you can take a look here.
And of course, this book makes multiplying by two more fun! Great way to introduce the “2’s” times table.
Well, gals, it is nigh on past my bedtime. Even if it is my “Friday” night. This old gal is tired.
Have a safe Halloween and a restful weekend. Thank you for being here! Please come back to see me.
Hugs and kisses,