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Book Review: When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew

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When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew by Jan Andrews are a delightful trio of fairy-tales, set in New France during the time of voyageurs. They are stories of a third brother, rather simple but still smart enough to find his way where he needs to be.

“Ti Jean and the Princess of Tomboso” tells how Ti Jean carelessly loses his and his brother’s magical inheritance to a self-centered princess, and then how he retrieves the items. The story opens up lots of good conversation topics. Which of the three magical gifts would you like most, a belt that will take you anywhere, a purse that produces a hundred gold coins every time it is opened or a bugle that can summon or dismiss an army? I think it is fun to then invent a fourth brother. What does he inherit from the father? How does Ti-Jean attempt to use the magic object to get back his belt? How does the princess take it away from Ti-Jean?

When I challenged my children to invent a fourth brother, the four year old suggested the third brother would inherit one of the magical items mentioned in the third story. My seven year old argued that nothing else is needed – transportation, security and money would provide everything. I wondered whether a fourth item would have to be for something less tangible. Perhaps it could be  something that brings love, entertainment or even something that brings others approval, but how would any of those attempt to secure the return of the other items?

In “Ti Jean and the Marble Player” Ti Jean tries his gambling luck once to many times with the mysterious Bonnet Rouge. Then he must honor his debt and visit Bonnet Rouge at his home. Once he reaches Bonnet Rouge’s home he must defeat three challenges or be made Bonnet Rouge’s slave. Obvious follow-up activities would include learning to play marbling games and debating why Bonnett Rouge doesn’t win the first game.

The third story tells of a contest for the seigneur’s daughter’s hand in marriage. Potential suitors must be clever enough to render the seigneur’s daughter speechless; unsuccessful suitors will be thrown into prison. Ti Jean follows his older brothers on their attempt, accumulating magical items on the way. The story can be heard online at the author’s blog and that provides a great lead in for discussions about storytelling.

As a final note, I must say I love the title of the book for the ambiguity of the first phrase. Before reading it I was left wondering – are the apples going to be able to smell or breath? Do they grow their own noses? No, they make other peoples noses grow!

And although  it is just barely related, I can’t help wanting to link to The Log Driver’s Waltz, another little bit of Canadiana that floats through my brain as I read these stories.

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