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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Browne - The Greedy Shepherd - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Title page

Online reviewers at often talk about their fondness for today's book.  The author, Frances Browne, was blind from infancy after smallpox at 18 months, but it clearly only made her more determined.  She's an Irish poet and novelist best known for Granny's Wonderful Chair.  Various editions exist as the book was originally published in 1856 and is still available both in many online sites and in print.  As a result the illustrations differ even in the various online sites.  My copy doesn't list the illustrator and lists no publication date.  I don't include illustrations, but the cover is from the edition used by Project Gutenberg.  My edition also doesn't list a copyright for the anonymous illustrations, but wouldn't want to be told to remove them as they might be out of Public Domain, but certainly not the story.

Browne uses a frame tale for her anthology.  A girl named Snowflower hears stories from a magical chair in the king's court.  I'll omit the frame, but many enjoy it.  For that you'll need to read the book!

Some might call that story moralistic, but there has been a return to storytelling teaching character and values.  One of my favorite modern books is The Moral of the Story: Folktales for Character Development by Bobby and Sherry Norfolk.  It's a fine resource for teachers and others seeking material for character education.  When I used to provide material directly to teachers as a librarian, this was a great resource for teachers seeking to improve problems in their classrooms.  The Norfolks chose stories that were fun and tested with a wide age span from preschool to high school.  A story like today's may have a slightly Victorian feel to it, but folklore from around the world also has many a tale of two people with conflicting values and how the good eventually succeeds.  Some use the term "fairy tale" derisively for its "happily ever after" ending, but young people need to see hope and know how to choose what is good.  Personally I love Browne's interesting touch with the sheep turned wolves turned back to sheep.
Next will come a book that dares to call itself Best Stories to Tell to Children.
This is part of a series of bi-weekly posting of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

Currently I'm involved in projects taking me out of my usual work of sharing stories with an audience.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  This fall I expect to return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Depending on response, I will decide at that time if "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings.

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