Children's Authors/Rafe Martin

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Biographical Information[edit]

Mammoth Skeleton

Rafe Martin grew up in New York City but had an imagination that thrived on things far from city life. In his youth his adventures climbing rocks were inspiration for Will’s Mammoth and The Boy Who Loved Mammoths. His family roots began in Russia where he gives credit to finding his love of storytelling. His mother read fairy tales and fables to him beginning at a young age, which only furthered his fascination with myths and legends. His father flew Intelligence and Rescue missions in WWII and brought home with him stories from around the world. Rafe’s sixth grade reading of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick gave him the knowledge base of what makes a good storyteller. “A good storyteller can make you see with your mind and believe what might, at first, have seemed impossible.” [1]

Not until he became a father, did the love of sharing literature with children come to life. His first children’s books were published in 1984 and 1985. They were Foolish Rabbit’s Big Mistake, The Rough-Face Girl and Will’s Mammoth. At this time he also began professional storytelling. He engages and shares his vision of language with all ages, kindergarten to college level and up through adulthood. His novels “bring folklore alive in an original way, so that it can speak to you.” [2]

He is among a community that participates in prestigious festivals and conferences. The National Storytelling Festival, The Three Apples Storytelling Festival and Sharing the Fire Storytelling Conference are just a few of these events. He has written over 20 books that have been translated into over 7 different languages, and has received many awards for his writing and storytelling expertise. [3]

Rafe attended the University of Toronto where he received his Master’s degree in English literature. Rafe ran a bookstore, together with his wife Rose, and won the first Lucille Micheels Pannell Award for his “Unique creativity in bringing children and books together.” [13] Other awards he has received include; three American Library Association Notable Book Awards, and IRA Teacher’s Choice Award and four Parent’s Choice Gold Awards. Click here for more information.

Books of Interest[edit]

Will’s Mammoth, illustrated by Stephen Gammell

Imagery dominates in this story about a little boy’s adventures riding an imaginary mammoth. Even the wind tells its own story in the wonderful detail of these illustrations. This book has very few words in it and would be a fascinating picture walk. The excitement and energy shown in the pictures really release the mind into telling its own story. What few words there are, are printed in a font that looks as joyful as the main character, Will. The use of color is engaging, yet not overpowering and makes you want to jump on a mammoth and ride it around in the snow. [5]

The Rough-Face Girl, illustrated by David Shannon

This unique Cinderella story pulls at the reader and urges you to fight for the downtrodden. This Algonquin Indian story gives a powerful example of good and kindness being rewarded. Because of its predictable storyline, in true Cinderella fashion, readers can focus on the differences they see and the connections that are made to the power of nature. The symbolism found in the exquisite illustrations will have readers looking closer and wondering about the meanings. [6]

Dear As Salt, illustrated by Vladyana Krykorka

In this Italian folktale a moody king learns the value of his daughter’s love, after making a hasty judgment and an assumption which drives her away. This text has a short repetitive phrase that create musical language. Readers will also enjoy the two happy endings. One that is predictable and one that just makes you smile. With wispy illustrations that fade back and forth between the “salted” and “plain”, a visual metaphor is added to the story. [7]

The Boy Who Lived with the Seals, illustrated by David Shannon

In this retelling of a Chinook Indian tale, Rafe Martin shares his fascination with stories that involve a love of the natural world. This story follows a family who lost their son, only to find him years later living with seals. The reader will find themselves torn between, wanting the boy to return to his family and wanting the boy to find happiness once again with his seal brothers. This part of the story also allows the reader to make inferences, and have unexpected insights development of a child and his environment. The illustrations excel in expressing the emotions of this tale. Readers will also find the Arthur’s Note interesting, that gives more details about the origins of this folktale. [8]

The Language of Birds, illustrated by Susan Gaber

Young readers will be drawn to the colorful detail in the illustrations. Following the choices of Ivan, the younger brother, the reader gets a glimpse into the minds of birds. Through the very engaging story line of wise, humble decisions vs. deceitful, selfish choices, readers can easily predict the future of the two brothers. This book also helps readers find unexpected insights into the worth of each character. The author’s note following the story furthers the reader’s curiosity into this Russian folktale. [10]

The Twelve Months, illustrated by Vladyana Langer Krykorka

This retelling of a Slavic Cinderella tale, journeys through the seasons and brings its bounties along with it. Readers will find this story of the months and how nature blossoms during those months, exciting and relatable. Many text-to-world connections can be made during Marushka’s many treks into the wintery woods. Young readers will also find the little “Toto” looking dog amusing as he travels along, as a companion to Marushka, and ends the book with a funny tale of his own. [11]

The Storytelling Princess, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root

This adventure story tends to stray from the predictable princess tale. It is easy to begin cheering on the heroine with each page you read. The illustrations also keep your mind and eyes engaged with detailed frames around the main illustration. These frames give additional information to help build your own conclusions before moving on. Readers will delight in the happy ending but will laugh at the outrageous way it gets there. [12]

Connections and Applications[edit]

Venn Diagram

Each of these stories could be used as a read-aloud for K-6 grades. On their own they are engaging pieces of literature that would evoke wonderful group discussions. Compare different Cinderella stories with The Rough-Face Girl and The Twelve Months and discuss unexpected insights, in The Language of Birds and Dear As Salt. Take a picture walk with Will’s Mammoth to discuss the power of imagery. As a group, these books represent an interesting selection of folklore, which could be inserted into a Venn diagram and compared, for an interesting multicultural experience in the classroom. This folklore genre is typical for Rafe Martin. The language found in these stories gives the reader a chance to hear the culture it came from. The Rough-Face Girl and The Boy Who Lived with the Seals are both Native American tales. These two books also have the same illustrator, which would be fun to compare with students. Vladyana L. Krykorka also illustrated, Dear As Salt and The Twelve Months, and would make great examples of how the same illustrator can interpret a story in different ways.

Bibliography[edit]

[1] http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/mff/folktale_meetrafe.htm

[2] http://lookingglassreview.com/html/rafe_martin.html

[3] http://www.rafemartin.com/introducing.html

[4] http://www.embracingthechild.org/amartin.html

[5] Martin, R. (1989). Will’s Mammoth, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

[6] Martin, R. (1992). Rough-Face Girl, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

[7] Martin, R. (1993). Dear As Salt, Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: North Winds Press.

[8] Martin, R. (1993). The Boy Who Lived With the Seals, New York: The Putnam & Grosset Group.

[9] Martin, R. (1996). Mysterious Tales of Japan, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

[10] Martin, R. (2000). The Language of Birds, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

[11] Martin, R. (2000). The Twelve Months, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Stoddart Kids.

[12] Martin, R. (2001). The Storytelling Princess, New York: The Penguin Group.

[13] Martin, R. (2007). Birdwing. New York: Scholastic Inc.

[14] Sorrentino, J. (2003). Tell Me a Story: Rafe Martin Makes Magic with “Sounds on Air”, Rochester, New York: City Newspaper.