So I know it has (again) been a long time since I posted, and here I am (again) apologizing for the long delay. It’s been a lot of work getting this project together as well as packing up my life for a year on the road. Why, I’ve barely had any time to even whine about it!
So that all being aside, it’s far overdue that I start sharing some of the stories I’ve already collected for the project. Now I find myself sitting at an old desk in a room I’ve rented above a small coffee shop in Hanoi, to which I feel at my most Hemingway (this highball glass of scotch also helps), and thus I have finally found the time to start updating this dusty ‘ol site.
If you look at the main menu up there ^, you’ll notice a new menu item called “The STP project” (Go ahead, look. Do it. It likes when you stare). That’s where you will be able to find information on the project as well as new stories I’ve collected from the children and the accompanying photo illustrations I have made. There will also be some other things listed up there soon like a FAQ and a submission form for organizations that would like to work with the project. Sparse at first, but it will start to fill up quickly.
So with that said, on to the first story of the Strange Tiny People project:
The Pencil Princess
by Chloe Wang (王谚羽）
There once was a princess who lived in China. She was a pencil princess, and she ruled the land of pencils.
Everyone had pencils, but nobody had any paper, so nobody could draw anything. They had no paper because they used up all of the wood making pencils.
The pencil princess wanted all of her people to be able to draw, so she decided to travel to America. She brought along her magical green pencil, because she wanted to trade it with the Americans so that she could bring paper back home to her people. She went to America for one day. The Americans said they will give the princess paper if she gives them the magic pencil. Then the Americans took her home to China.
When the pencil princess got home, she fell asleep. While she was asleep, the Americans went into her house and also gave her so many more pencils because they really liked her. She was so happy, and now she always talks with them on her iPad, because America was her homy.
I really really like the implications Chloe’s story makes. While it does have the surface value of a simple fairy-tale story, it holds a very powerful socio-economical message about wasting natural resources and foreign trade.
Full disclosure: While I do push the children to use their full creative potential and am always happy to give feedback, I go to great efforts to make sure I do not push any of my own Ideas on the authors. The stories are 100% the children’s creations.
Everything in this story is Chloe’s own thoughts, and I think it shows her amazing ability to reason out problems and solutions on a large scale, as well as the weight that comes with being a leader.
We’ve talked in class about story themes and plots having double meanings, and she really took the idea and ran with it in her story. I love that her hero is not only imperfect, shown with her economic irresponsibility which caused overproduction of pencils that were useless without conservation so there could be paper as well, echoing a lot of Maoist policies during the Great Leap Forward.
She then goes on to teach lessons about how international trade is a necessity for the good of a nation’s citizens, and how the isolationism practiced by China until the 80’s did nothing but hinder the country, from which it has been recovering ever since. I mean, Xi JingPin and Obama really should be iPad homies by now, sharing cat videos over skype instead of arguing over who gets to play in who’s waters.
Of course, Chloe didn’t realize she was making a satire on the much criticized (and often skirted under the rug) failed policies of the earlier Chinese Communist Party. I’m quite sure she doesn’t yet know they even exist. It just goes to show that kids tend to think in terms of common sense more often than our current leaders.
But I have to admit, it was funny that she demanded that this story take place in China….