Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Rough-Face Girl  
by  Rafe Martin
Illustrated by David Shannon

Awards:  CBC Book of the Year; Association of Booksellers for Children: Booksellers’ Choice Award; American Bookseller, Pick Book of the Year, IRA Teachers' Choice Award

Storyteller and author Rafe Martin gives older students an excellent mentor text to model elaboration, figurative language and writer’s voice in this Algonquin version of Cinderella. This is  also a great mentor text for either a Reading or Writing Workshop unit of study on fairytales, especially fairytale variations, for grade 3 and above.

We had the honor of attending a storytelling training workshop given by Rafe Martin at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee a few years before Rough-Face Girl was published. (Foolish Rabbit’s Big Mistake by Rafe Martin / Illustrated Ed Young had just been released.)  Rafe was (is) brilliant in his depth of passion and his understanding of story.  

When I read the ‘Author’s Note’ at the beginning of The Rough-Face Girl, I had to smile. This sentence of the quote especially grabbed by attention: “Stories, however, pass on the realities not of the everyday world but of the human heart.”  

Pure Rafe Martin. Beautiful.

After meeting and learning from Rafe a long time ago, it has been a pleasure to watch (from afar) his success as an author.

Also of note: David Shannon, widely known as the author and illustrated of his famous No, David! stories, is the illustrator.

Book Talk
The story opens at an Algonquin village on the shores of Lake Ontario. Readers learn about the very great, rich, powerful and handsome Invisible Being (whom no one can see) that lives in a giant wigwam away from the others. He (and the wigwam) are guarded by the Invisible Being’s sister—whom everyone can see.  All the women in the village want to marry the Invisible Being. His sister tells all, “Only the one who can see him can marry him.”

In the village, there is a poor man who has three daughters. The two older sisters are callous and heartless and make the youngest one do all the hard work—-including constantly tending the wigwam fire. Over time, the youngest sister’s skin on her hands, arms and face become rough and harsh with burns from the fire.  Her two older sisters always make fun of her horrible looks calling her The Rough-Face Girl.

The two sisters somehow persuade the poor father to obtain for them new buckskin dresses and beads. The sisters look beautiful in the new clothes. They declare to all in the village that they are going to marry the Invisible Being. When they get to the great wigwam, the Invisible Being’s sister questions the sisters about the bow and sled of the Invisible Being.  The sisters are not able to answer, but beg to be given one more chance. They spend the night in the great wigwam, but do not see the Invisible Being appear.  They return home ashamed and disappointed.

The Rough-Face Girl approaches her father for a fine dress and beads, too, but he has no more, except for large moccasins and old shells. Yet  the Rough-Face Girl finds a way to dress up and she heads towards the great wigwam to meet the Invisible Being.

On the way to the great wigwam, she notices the incredible natural beauty that surrounds the village and in that beauty, she alone, sees the face of the Invisible Being.

Some favorite lines:As she walked on she saw the great beauty of the earth and skies spreading before her. And truly she alone, of all in that village, saw in these things the sweet yet awesome face of the Invisible Being.”

The Invisible Being’s sister greets her, but this time, she senses the goodness of the Rough-Face Girl, and greets her with warmth and kindness.

The Rough-Face Girl is asked the same questions about the bow and the sled and she quickly answers them correctly.  The Invisible Being comes in, immediately falls in love with the Rough-Face Girl. The sister gives her a beautiful buckskin dress and the finest necklace of perfect shells.

They tell the Rough-Face Girl to bath in the lake and as she washes, the scars dissolve and her incredible beauty is revealed. The beauty that the Invisible Being and his sister had always known was there.

More favorite lines:So the Rough-Face Girl bathed in the waters of the lake. Suddenly all the scars vanished from her body. Her skin grew smooth again and her beautiful black hair grew in long and glossy as a raven’s wing. Now anyone could see that she was, indeed, beautiful. But the Invisible Being and his sister had seen that from the start.”

Suggested Uses as a Mentor Text:
Book Genre: Traditional Literature / Fairytale
Reading Workshop Strategies: Inferring, Summarizing, Fluency, Compare/Contrast with other Cinderella stories
Writing Workshop genres and strategies: Fairytale / Traditional Literature, Elaboration, Grammar-figurative language/ similes/ metaphors, Strong Female, Strong Endings
Curricular Theme: We Need Diverse Books

Rafe Martin’s website:
David Shannon’s website

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