“Yokki and the Parno Gry“ by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby

I love fall! This is the time to cuddle up with a good read, to re-live favorite stories and find new ones. We enjoy reading fairy and folk tales and discovered some great retellings of old fables.

On one of these nights, we fell in love with “Yokki and the Parno Gry” by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby, published by Child’s Play. Inspired by a traditional Romanian folk tale, “Yokki and the Parno Gry“ tells the story of a travelling family.

 “Yokki and the Parno Gry”

Yokki and his family are travelers. They take their canvas tents over the country. In the winter, they are selling what they made with their own hands, before picking fruits and vegetables and working for local farmers during harvest season. Telling stories is a big part of everyday life: In the evening, the whole family gathers around the fire to share fables and experiences. Little Yokki is telling the best tales, retelling what he heard from other people, mixing it up and adding bits of his own.

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Yokki’s creativity and talent becomes more and more important when the family goes through hard times. After a wet summer and a poor harvest, he shares the story of the Parno Gry, a powerful white horse who would fly into camp and bring them away to a foreign land with plenty to work, harvest and eat. Dreams alone don’t fill stomachs, but Yokki’s wise grandmother supports his love for storytelling. “Sometimes all we have are our dreams”, she says. “They keep us going until the next opportunity appears.”

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Indeed, after one especially cold night, Yokki’s dream seems to become reality. A huge white horse appears to take the family and all their belongings, soar high in the night sky and bring them into a land full of wonder: Cold air, fruit trees, a clear stream, wild gardens and vegetables growing in the rich soil promise a better future. To this day, Yokki’s family believe and value children’s dreams and imaginations. Especially in their darkest hours, when they need them to find inspiration and strength.

Like every folk tale, “Yokki and the Parno Gry” leaves a lot to the imagination. This makes the book perfect for readers every age: Our five-year-old loved the idea of dreams becoming reality. As a parent, I like to inspire her believe in the importance of her dreams and stories. Finja loves to spin her own fables and Yokki’s story strengthened the need make up and tell stories on her own! Older readers are invited to dive deeper into the world of Romani folk tales, maybe develop an interpretation of their own. The book also gives us a glimpse into a culture, that is not well known in the US and therefore barely understood.

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“Yokki and the Parno Gry“ was written in cooperation of Richard O’Neill, a Romani storyteller raised in North England, and Katharine Quarmby, an award-winning journalist and writer. Richard O’Neill knows about the traveler’s life of his forefathers: Born into a large family in small a mining community in the North East of England he travelled with the seasons all over the country. According to his own words, he is “taking his storytelling skills around the country, winter will find him in Manchester, the rest of the year telling tales and performing anywhere from Cumbria to Cornwall, Skegness to Southport.” Best known for storytelling, Richard is also the author of a number of children’s books, and award-winning plays for adult audiences, a number of which have been broadcast on national radio.

We can thank Marieke Nelissen for the eye-catching drawings in this book: Made with ink and watercolors they are full of expression, but not distracting. Marieke Nelissen’s images are the perfect illustration for a folk tale about the power of imagination.

“Yokki and the Parno Gry” is the perfect read for a rainy weekend or a stormy night. Enjoy!

More information:

“Yokki and the Parno Gry”
written by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby
illustrated by Marieke Nelissen
Publisher: Child’s Play International
ISBN-13: 978-1846439278

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