Schools Book of the Month: Fierce, Fearless and Free

Entries are now closed

Competition type: Schools

Start date: 01 April 2020, 00:00

Closing date: 30 April 2020, 23:59

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Age group: 6-8, 9-11
Audience: Children
Topics: Storytelling

We have five copies of Fierce, Fearless and Free to be won. All you need to do is answer the question at the bottom of the page. Entries close at midnight on Thursday 30 April. All entrants must reside in the UK and full terms and conditions apply.

Due to the current unusual circumstances with Coronavirus (COVID-19) there may be a delay in sending out copies to the winners.

About Fierce, Fearless and Free

Full of incredible heroines, Fierce, Fearless and Free is an inspiring and uplifting collection of traditional tales. Lari Don has brought together a wonderful collection of stories featuring empowered girls who fight monsters, save their families, and absolutely do not rely on a prince to come to their rescue! From the Scottish fairy tale Kate Crackernuts and the Sheep-Headed Monster to the Siberian legend Altyn Aryg and the Snake's Belly, there are stories from all over the world, each accompanied by a beautiful illustration by Eilidh Muldoon. This a fantastic collection we're sure children will love.

Don't just take our word for it - you can watch Lari Don reading the beginning of Goddess Vs Mountain(this will open in a new window), Altyn Aryg and the Snake's Belly(this will open in a new window) and Kandek and the Wolf(this will open in a new window) on Bloomsbury's YouTube Channel. Why not have a go at illustrating these stories for yourself, and share your drawings with us on Twitter using #UnitedbyBooks(this will open in a new window)?

Q&A with Lari Don and Eilidh Muldoon

Why do you think it’s important that we tell stories like this?

Lari: I think it’s important to share and celebrate traditional tales from all over the world so that we can acknowledge their similarities and enjoy their differences. The similarities show us that communities all over the world had the same questions and concerns, and invented stories to explore them. And the differences give us valuable flavours of a variety of cultures, and might indicate how individual storytellers added their own creative touches. So that’s why (even though I love Scottish traditional tales) I also search out and share stories from all over the world.

I’m particularly keen to share exciting stories about characters defeating monsters and escaping danger, but I’ve always been bothered by the role of girls in these stories. If they appear at all, it's as victims to be rescued or prizes to be given away. There are lots of folk tales about girls, but they’re often passive characters who are rewarded for being patient, quiet, enduring or pretty. I wanted to tell stories about girls who didn’t just sit about waiting for the stories to happen around them. So I started searching for more active heroines. And I found them!

I don’t change stories with passive girls to make them active, or put girls into stories that were originally told about boys. I aim to find and share stories that have always been told about strong, active girls solving their own (and other people’s) problems. The oldest myth in Fierce, Fearless and Free, about a Sumerian goddess who wrestles a mountain, is at least 4000 years old. People all over the world have always told tales about strong girls, and I want to share those wonderful stories with new audiences!

Do you have a favourite story in the collection, and why?

Lari: I have different favourites on different days, because my relationship with these stories didn’t end when I sent the manuscript to the editor. I still tell these stories to audiences of kids as often as I can, and I’m really looking forward to telling them again once schools and libraries re-open!

On a day I’m talking to a group of S1s about characters who stand up for themselves, I would tell the Siberian legend Altyn Aryg and the Snake’s Belly, because it’s about a girl who proves herself by tackling a monster. On a day I’m talking to a group of P5s about how fairy tales change as they are told, I’d want to tell Petrosinella and the Tower, an Italian tale of a long-haired girl trapped in a tower, so that we could discuss whether she’s Rapunzel’s cousin. If I wanted to tell a story where the baddie is defeated by wit rather than weapons, I’d tell the Armenian folktale Kandek and the Wolf. And if I’m talking to a group of young writers about creating fight scenes, I’d choose the Sumerian myth Goddess vs Mountain. I wonder which story will become your favourite?

Eilidh: That’s a very difficult question, but if I have to choose just one I think I’ll go for Neringa and the Sea Dragon. I have a soft spot for stories about the sea - a swirling, stormy ocean is one of my favourite things to draw! I love the way the villagers in the story welcomed Neringa into their community and how she so calmly and serenely defeated the dragon to protect them. But I also really enjoy the Chinese tale – the idea of a lace dragon is just wonderful!

Can you tell us more about illustrating a collection like this?

Eilidh: It isn’t easy to decide which elements of a story to focus on, especially with Lari’s stories which are so full of rich imagery and exciting twists and turns. I was spoiled for choice and made a lot of sketches before settling on a final composition. Each story only required one image, so it was more like creating a book cover for each tale rather than illustrating a sequence. I like this way of working – it is a fun challenge to sum up a story in one image. It forces you to think about the way a story makes you feel, and how you can create a composition that includes lots of elements in one picture.

I read each story a few times and thought about how the story made me feel, rather than picking things described in the text. For example, in the Sumerian myth Goddess Vs Mountain I really wanted to communicate how powerful the heroine was at the point she defied those around her and took on the mountain. Her pose is determined and her face is confident. She is surrounded by stars and swirls to show the chaotic and thrilling atmosphere.

When illustrating a narrative, you don’t need to draw things exactly as the text describes – the words already bring these to life. Instead the pictures in a book should tell their own story, one that sits well alongside the words and adds to the feeling and atmosphere. I hope I have achieved that in the illustrations for Fierce, Fearless and Free.

About Lari Don and Eilidh Muldoon