Star summary: 

3- solid writing, solid morals, imaginative setting

In a land of ice-white-haired, blue-eyed people, Tatsinda stands out, with her golden locks and deep brown eyes. She is a kind girl, an excellent weaver, and very perceptive. She wins the affections of the Wise Woman, Tanda-nan, who assures her adoptive mother that Tatsinda is beautiful in her own way. Her difference leads her to be captured by a giant from across the mountain, Johrgong the terrible Gadblang, come to their land by the counsel of a wicked snowy owl, Skoodoon. Tatsinda's kindness and industry had won her friends, among them the prince Tackatan. He and Tatsinda form a plan to defeat the giant and free her in the process. They marry, and in the course of time their people come to love many types of beauty.

Cautions? None.

Themes? The value of kindness and industry. What is valued (the giants value 'greb,' the Tatrajanni view it as worthless; Tatsinda's mother considers her difference to be an affliction, but later all come to see it as beautiful). Innate beauty instead of comparative beauty. The folly of greed.

Bottom line? "The trouble with the people in this mountain is that they are all blinded by custom. They only see what they're used to seeing, so they believe that what they're used to seeing is all that is worth seeing. They need to be jolted to a new view; then they would realize that Tatsinda is beautiful in a new way." (Tanda-nan, chapter 2)

Talking points:
- Why did Tabbitina ask Tanda-nan to change her daughter's hair and eye color? Why did Tanda-nan refuse?
- Gadblang thought that 'greb' was worth spending his whole life hoarding, while the Tatrajanni thought it was good only for paving roads. How do we decide whether something is valuable or not?
- What does Skoodoon value? What in this story is truly valuable?
- How does the saying "beauty is as beauty does" fit into this story?
- In the end, what won the heart of the prince?
- Tabbitina taught Tatsinda to weave partly so that she would "know the pleasure of making beautiful and useful things, but also so that she would have a weapon of excellence to protect her all her life." How do you know this pleasure?

Appropriate audience: Reading level grade 3; Listening ages 4 & up.

Stars: 3- simple, solid plot & characters just developed enough to progress the story (typical of fairy tales); several simple and foundational truth (outlined above) are brought home very effectively; rich vocabulary and clear writing, with portions memorable enough to quote later. One 'quirk' of this book (which young children will love and older readers may find a nuisance) is the explicit naming of all characters with a TA, all creatures with a TI, and objects with TO). Imaginative setting, simple uncomplicated plot.

Star rating: 

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