121 – The Fox and The Crow

“The Fox and the Crow” has one of Aesop’s most useful lessons: don’t trust a stranger who comes along with flattering words, because there is a good chance you will regret it! This tale is thousands of years old, but it’s been retold over and over, from the medieval legends of Chanticleer the Rooster and his foe Reynard the Fox, to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, to a well-loved modern tale — “The Gingerbread Man” which was first published in America in 1875.

Check out the video version of this fable, which is accompanied by charming vintage illustrations of the tale.

Activity: Identifying Danger

Children need to learn how to be safe in public and online, but it’s best to teach this in a way that doesn’t frighten them or make them needlessly wary of others. By telling the story of “The Fox and The Crow” children can see an example of how someone who was untrustworthy got the better of another person who was too eager to be flattered. By using this animal tale, discussions about safety can seem less personal and less intimidating.

After reading “The Fox and The Crow” together, you can have a discussion on a relevant topic of safety. For example, children should be wary of giving away information about themselves online. Websites may look like just a bit of fun, offering silly quizzes or games for free, but these are in fact ways to gather personal data such as names, birthdates, addresses, and other information that could be used for identity theft or credit fraud. In these cases, the websites are the Fox, and the children need to be wiser than the Crow, recognizing that they should not give away important information just because the website asking for it looks like a bit of fun.

This fable can also be used to talk about why children should avoid adults who seem overly friendly, especially if they are strangers. Adults who are not safe to be around will sometimes pretend to need help from children, or offer kind and friendly words. Unless a child knows that grownup, and has been told by a parent that it’s ok to listen to them, the stranger should be thought of as a Fox and avoided.

114 – Percy Jackson and the Olympians Episode Five

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is beginning to diverge from its literary source, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Many of the changes are good examples of abridgment, and this episode’s depiction of Ares is wickedly fun and very faithful to the attitude of the original character on the page. But huge portions of the story are being rewritten, and extra adult characters are being shoved unnecessarily into a story that is supposed to be for and about kids.

Find out how many Snapes I gave this episode, based not on how much I enjoyed the episode, but how faithful it was to the literary source. I’ve chosen Snapes as my rating system in honor of Alan Rickman’s superb translation of the character of Severus Snape from the page to the screen.

The podcast is now on YouTube, Pandora, and Stitcher, giving you more places to subscribe to the show.

113 – Percy Jackson and the Olympians Episode Four

How close is the fourth episode of the new series Percy Jackson and the Olympians to its literary source? Not terribly, but that doesn’t mean the episode isn’t good. There’s just one big change that I really disapprove of, as it takes away a big choice that Percy makes in The Lightning Thief. Lots of the other changes were great, though, and are good examples of how to abridge a text well for translation to the screen.

Are you watching Percy Jackson and the Olympians with your family or classmates? What did you think of this episode and the changes it made to the story? Do you agree with how many Snapes I awarded? (I give one to five Snapes to onscreen adaptations based on how faithful they are to the books they are based on. My rating system is named in honor of Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Severus Snape, which stands as an excellent example of how to bring a character from page to screen well.)

Activity: Draw Your Own Chimera

Have students research Chimera, a monster from Ancient Greek legend. Begin with the etymology of “chimera” and then research what animals were combined in her form. Find images of Chimera made in ancient times in painting, mosaic, pottery, and other art forms. Then have students draw their own version of Chimera. If time allows, ask students to make another drawing of an original creature that combines various animal parts and has its own unique name.

An interesting thing to note is that the word “chimera” indicates that the animal is female, yet frequently depictions of the Chimera show the lion portion of the animal as having a male lion’s mane. This often happens when the artist did not come from Ancient Greece and likely would not have spoken Ancient Greek, making it difficult to know that “chimera” indicates a female animal. Students can observe this mistake in art sources from various times in history.

95 – The Tortoise and The Hare and Hubris

Hubris is a literary concept that kids should learn about so that they can spot it in Ancient Greek and modern tales. “The Tortoise and the Hare” from Aesop’s Fables is a great way to introduce the idea of excessive, selfish pride in a character, and an old Disney cartoon makes the story extra fun.

Activity: Learn to Identify Hubris

Ask students to give definitions for the word “pride,” encouraging them to differentiate between good and bad kinds of pride. Hubris can be defined as the bad kind of pride – the sort of self-confidence that is selfish, arrogant, and even reckless.

After introducing the idea of hubris, have students watch “The Tortoise and The Hare,” a 1935 Disney cartoon based on the Aesop Fable. Afterwards, have students write a reflection or participate in a discussion about the numerous times that Max Hare displays hubris. In contrast, have them identify the ways that Toby Tortoise shows his good character and admirable personality traits.

Activity: Artwork about Aesop

“The Tortoise and The Hare” has been depicted by countless artists over the centuries. Choose several different depictions from different times in history and have students compare them. What techniques were used to produce the image? Which images are serious, and which are comical? Which art styles do the students prefer?

After studying other art styles used to depict events in “The Tortoise and The Hare” have students create their own work of art based on the tale.

34 – Ethics and Physics in “The Crow and the Pitcher”

“The Crow and the Pitcher” by Aesop doesn’t just have a wholesome moral that teaches children to solve problems with resilence and creative thinking. This fable also teaches about the concept of displacement in physics!

There’s also a fun video I’ve made to go with this episode at my YouTube channel, starring myself, my daughter, and a very cute puppet.

Activity: Volume Displacement as taught in “The Crow and The Pitcher”

Materials needed
– Black construction paper
– Safety scissors
– White crayons
– A clear plastic pitcher
– A large measuring cup with graduated measurement lines
– pebbles
– electrical tape in any color
– water

Have students use construction paper, crayons, and scissors to draw and cut out images of crows. A white crayon will stand out on the black paper to draw feathers, eyes, and beak details. If this project is being done for a Science Fair, you could buy a puppet instead as that makes for better storytelling.

Partly fill the pitcher with water. Use a strip of electrical tape to mark the water level on the side of the jug. Tell the story of The Crow and The Pitcher. Students can bring their crows to the pitcher as the bird attempts to drink. Have students add pebbles at the right moment in the story. Observe how the water rises as the pebbles displace volume. Have students bring their crows back to the pitcher when the water level is high enough that the bird can “drink.”

Pour off water into the measuring cup until the water level has gone back to the original position. Note the amount of water. This amount tells you the volume of the pebbles added to the pitcher. For younger students, keep the explanation simple: “that’s how much space the pebbles would take up if you could smoosh them all together.” Older students can learn that 1 milliliter equals 1 centimeter cubed, so the solid volume of the rocks in cm3 is the same number as the milliliters of displaced water.

Students may also be interested in researching how scientists have proven that crows are able to understand volume displacement, meaning that it’s possible for this fable to be based on real life observation and not just the author’s imagination.

Music in this episode

Seikilos Epitaph