Ordinary Splendors

Ordinary Splendors: Tales of Virtues and Wisdom by Tom Knapp, illus. by Kevin Sohl. Niwot, CO: Roberts Rinehart Publishers,l994, $15.95 ISBN 1-57098-003-9

It's hard to know where to begin with this book: with the stories, the pictures, or its raison d’etre. Ordinary Splendors is a joint project of Roberts Rinehart Publishers and the Scott Newman Center. Simply described, it is a collection of 17 animal fables, legends, folktales from around the world. The stories range in length from very short (the familiar four line poem about the owl, that wise old bird), one about two and a half pages. Near the title of each there is an inset which briefly identifies the country of origin and the message of the story.

Knapp has retold the stories simply but richly , with enough detail to paint the picture and yet not so much as to get in the way of the story or make it too much for young readers. I found the retelling of one, based on The Fisherman and His Wife, a bit pedantic, and I question the logic of the children who decide to wear blindfolds on their first visit to see an elephant. But overall the stories are well told, and the selection is good. I can see this book as a source of stories for those working in guidance, in conflict resolution and with youth in guidance, in conflict resolution, and with youth groups.

The stories were chosen to accompany artwork done by Kevin Sohl between his eight and fourteenth birthdays.. The animal pictures are delightful: primitive, brilliantly colored, obviously influenced, and yet not overpowered by, the psychedelic age of Peter Max and the like. In the foreward to the book, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman write: the folktales and art in this book bring together the necessary building blocks for strong values and beliefs at a young age : responsibility, respect, honor, integrity. We hope the wisdoms and virtues depicted by these animal characters may help to create resilience in young readers - kids , who will not. succumb to the temptations that undermine and destroy healthy lives. Kevin Sohl, the artist, died in 1990, at age 28, of a heroin overdose. A portion of the sales of the book go to the Scott Newman Center.

The Second Story Review, Vol 1, No. 2, Sep 1996
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