Folk Tales, Fairy Tales & Modern Fantasy

Can’t wait to see what you have this week. Come prepared to discuss the set of  folk tales you compared.

We will also have Karen Shorr coming to speak with us this week about using children’s literature to support Service learning; so if you have any questions, ideas or titles that will fit in with that discussion bring them along!


30 Responses to “Folk Tales, Fairy Tales & Modern Fantasy”

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  5. Amy Says:

    Stone Soup
    Text and Pictures by Marcia Brown
    This book, which I remember loving as a child, is based on an old French folk tale. It is about three soldiers who try to convince a small village to provide them with some food. The villagers say they are too poor and can’t, and the soldiers then reply that they will make stone soup out of stones and water. Theyare able to trick the villagers into having a village-wide feast.

    The illustrations in the book are simple, but yet delightful. They only use a few colors and are not incredibly detailed, but children will love watching the story play out before their eyes. They will be able to look at the pictures and describe what the characters are doing, and even predict what they will do next. The emotions that the soldiers and the villagers are experiencing can easily be seen through the pictures, and children will love seeing such distinct expressions on their faces.

    Overall, this is a book that has no doubt been handed down over many generations, and children of today will still love and enjoy hearing and reading it. There are other versions of the story with different illustrations, maybe more colorful than this version, which may be more enjoyable for children. It is a delightful narrative that will provoke a love for a good story.

    The Little Red Hen
    Written and Illustrated by

    This book, for younger readers, tells the story of a hard-working little red hen and her lazy friends who, though unwilling to help plant the wheat, tend it, harvest it, mill it, or bake it into a cake, are VERY willing to help eat the fruit of her labor. Some renditions of this story have the red hen share it with the friends anyway, but this one does not, which I personally like. In the end, the friends decide to put forth the effort in the future when they know it’s the only way to reap the rewards.

    The illustrations are quite attractive and very cute: the “hangdog” expressions of the repentant friends at the end, the dog lounging in the hammock early on, etc. The text is rhythmic and enjoyable to read. “`Not I,’ said the dog. `Not I,’ said the cat. `Not I,’ said the mouse.”

    Some lesson activities for the “Little Red Hen’ suggested by various websites include:
    –Talking with older children about whether the Hen’s treatment of her housemates was justified. Could Hen have handled the situation in another way?
    –Tying the book into a lesson about plant growth, and/or cake making.
    –Talking about Teamwork and then how families work as a team.
    — Reading different versions and discussing the merits of one versus the other.
    — For younger children, having them recite and fill in the blanks as you read.

    Written and Illustrated by Arnold Lobel

    The book is a collection of short fables, each allotted one page for text and one page for an illustration. Each tale is acted out by a variety of different animals. No two stories contain the same kind of animals, and the stories are short and easy for to understand, even for young readers. They are usually followed up with little moral lessons like “Even the taking of small risks will add excitement to life” and “The highest hopes may lead to the greatest disappointments”. Although these morals or messages are trite and somewhat preachy, to me, that is the point of fables, and there’s no denying that each and every one is true. The tales are well written and reminiscent of Aesop’s fables.

    The illustrations in the book are delightful, detailed, and colorful. The animals retain their animal characteristics, and yet are dressed in human clothes and seem to carry human qualities. As a kid, I actually remember the crocodile one looking so real that it scared me a little bit! I think that children young and old will appreciate these short fables, although young children might not grasp the morals.

    Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales
    Written and Illustrated by Lucy Cousins

    In this collection of fairy tales, Lucy Cousins has identified eight folk/fairytales which all have eating as part of their story. These include: Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Enormous Turnip, Henny Penny, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Little Red Hen, The Three Little Pigs, and The Musicians of Bremen. With upbeat humor, Cousins retells each and every tale in as few words as possible, never leaving out any pertinent details. Each story has been broken down into its most essential parts. Words are big and bold, but never so simple that they don’t tell the full story. Some adults or parents may shy away from the fact that these stories actually tell the REAL fairytale (albeit in a why that isn’t scary to children), refusing to “fluff up” the story by changing it. The grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood actually get eaten, the wolf’s head is cut off, the Little Red Hen doesn’t share her hard work with the other animals, etc. In my opinion, this is not a bad thing; kids see enough Disney versions of fairytales and these are certainly not scary.

    The artwork is very kid-friendly, as the cover shows, with simple drawings and colorful pages. And the fact that the book is a little bit over-sized, but not TOO big, makes for a nice read aloud experience. Cousins employs thick black lines for all the images, and within those lines are bright, eye-popping colors: yellows, blues, reds, greens – a lot of primary colors that children will enjoy. She also has an interesting technique where she’ll write some of the dialogue in thick ink, blowing it up so that the words are much larger and messier than the neat typewritten text below (ie. the “gulp!” of granny going down the wolf’s gullet is so big that a kid across a crowded storytime room could see it without difficulty)

    The Mitten
    Retold by Jim Aylesworth
    Illustrated by Barbara McClintock

    This story is an absolutely charming rendition of an old Ukranian folktale about a young boy who loves all seasons, with the story focusing on how he loves to play outside in the winter. Because he loves the season so much, his grandmother knits him a hat, mitten, and scarf. After the little boy loses a mitten while playing on a cold winter day, four animals find the mitten and use it to warm their “cold toes” (squirrel, then rabbit, then fox, then bear). Everyone is warm and cozy until the last occupant, the mouse, attempts to fill one small spot left in the cozy mitten. As the other four let out their breath to fall asleep, the mitten gives way and breaks into thousands of pieces. The animals scatter to find another place to warm their toes, and soon the grandmother and her grandson find the pieces of the mitten in the snow.

    I love the illustrations in the book, which are realistic and fit very well with the story. Overall, this new version of an old folktale is endearing, heartwarming, cozy, and lively, with gorgeous pictures. I especially love the last line – after the mitten is ruined, the grandmother tells her grandson that she will knit him another mitten, and the warmly illustrated final page ends the story with, “And because she loved him, that’s exactly what she did.”

  6. Kristi Boman Says:

    The Three Perfect Peaches
    Grades 1-4
    Three Perfect Peaches by Cynthia DeFelice and Mary DeMarsh and illustrated by Irene Trivas is a fairy tale about a princess who has fallen very ill. In order for her to get well again she needs three perfect May peaches. Young men come from far and wide in the kingdom to bring the peaches to her and ask her hand in marriage. Three brothers from the village all want to visit the princess. But they meet an old woman along the road who asks them what they’re bringing. The first lies and says he is bringing rabbit droppings, the second lies and says he is bringing horse manure- both of these brothers get to the castle only to realize that is exactly what they have in their basket. They are thrown from the castle. The third brother tells the woman the truth and gets to the basket with the peaches and the princess becomes well after eating them. He wants to marry the princess, but the King makes him jump through many hopes before he eventually lets him marry his daughter!

    This French Folktale retold by The Wild Washerwomen Stroytellers is a very clever story that has some good lessons and themes embedded within it (telling the truth), but I feel like it could be two completely different stories. The first part about the brothers bringing the peaches to the princess is one story, and then it transitions somewhat abruptly to what the king makes the prince do in order to marry his daughter. The language and illustrations are what strike me about the book. The language is lively and engaging with lots of dialogue that keep with the oral tradition of storytelling. The illustrations are rough sketches with color that definitely add to and extend the story.

    The Story of Colors
    Grades 1-4
    The Story of Colors written by Sbcomandante Marcos and illustrated by Domitila Dominguez is a Latin American folklore story. One day Antonio is walking in the mountainous jungle of Chiapas with his friend Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos when he sees a macaw bird, its feathers blessed with each and every color, like the rainbow. The bird reminds the old man of a story that he thinks his friend Marcos should know- the story of how the gods found all the colors in the world.

    This text is written originally in Spanish, and translated into English. Each page of the story is how the gods discovered another color. There are strong Latin American cultural themes throughout the story, The illustrations also very much represent the culture. The artist who did them used her own Mazatecan culture for inspiration. They look almost as if they are rough cave paintings, with extremely vibrant colors. Although the details of the story could be somewhat confusing for younger children and there are many references to cigarettes and smoking, I think this is a good story that even young children could get something out of.

    The Hat Seller and The Monkeys
    Grades K-3
    The Hatseller and The Monkeys is a very cute story about BaMusa the hatseller who traveled from town to town with hats piled high on his head. Everywhere he went he sang “Hee Manun nin koi kadi sa” which means What a wonderful business hat selling is. One day BeMusa set out for a festival that was a day’s walk away. He was in such a hurry to leave he didn’t eat any breakfast. Halfway there, he grew so tired and hungry, he had to stop and rest. But when he woke up, his hats were gone. Soon he discovered that the monkeys high in the tree branches above him were all wearing his colorful hats. It wasn’t until BaMusa ate something that he could think clearly and figure out exactly how to get his hats back.

    Storyteller Baba Wague Diakite retells this authentic African teaching tale the way it was told to him when he was a child. The text is simple and direct, and easy to follow. The author weaves native African sayings into the story as well. And the illustrations make you feel like you are actually in the story. They are vibrant, ceramic-tile paintings that bring BaMusa and the monkeys to life.

    The Bear Says North: Tales from the Northern Lands written by Bob Barton and illustrated by Jirina Marton

    The Honest Penny
    Grades 2-5
    The Honest Penny is a folktale from the Northern part of Canada. The story is about a poor boy and his mother. When the boy is a child his mother always tells him “Look to thyself. Take care of thyself. For nobody cares for thee.” The boy doesn’t know why his mother always says this, and eventually she tells him to leave because he does not follow this rule. He goes to work for a man in a kitchen. The man goes on a trading trip and the boy gives him one single gold coin he found. The man trades the coin for a cat in faraway lands. On his trip home, the cat makes a lot of money for the sailor, and when the sailor returns home, he gives every last penny the cat earned to the boy. The boy turned around and gave some of the money to his mother. She was surprised after everything she had told her son, but he told her that he never did believe her.

    This folktale has a great moral. Throughout the story, several characters focus on themselves, but in the end, the writer reveals how important it is to care about others. The text is written in such a way that it is very easy to read, definitely keeping with the oral tradition. The plot is simple and direct. There is only one illustration at the beginning of the story, a simple sketch of the boy and his mother. The colors are very soft, and fit perfectly with the lesson in the story.

    Grades 2-5
    Frostbite is another folktale from the Northern part of Canada. The story is about Young Frost and his father, Old Frost. The father is trying to teach his son some lessons about how to “freeze” people, but his son is over confident and believes he can do anything. When his father points out a peasant for Young Frost to practice “freezing,” Young Frost laughs, for he believes it will be a simple task. But the peasant is very clever, and out-smarts Young Frost. Finally, he returns to his father, defeated. His father tells him not to worry, he sill has a lot to learn. They go off to the market to do some more practicing on old people and small children.

    This is a bit of a strange story, as it has a good moral, but then finishes on a different note. Young Frost learns that he cannot be overconfident and cocky about his talents. However, at the end, his father brushes it off and tells Young Frost not to worry, and they go off to the market to “freeze” some more people. I would be hesitant to use this story in class, although it would be a good jumping off point for a discussion about the moral. There are no illustrations, but the story is extremely descriptive, and definitely speaks for itself.

  7. Lauren Says:

    Borreguita and the Coyote
    By Verna Aardema, Illustrations by Petra Mathers
    K – 3

    Culture: From Ayutla, Mexico
    Citation of original source: Besides stating “a tale from Ayutla, Mexico” there are no other citations to the original source the tale comes from.
    Plot line: This storyline is fast paced and humorous, as a witty sheep, or borreguita, escapes the doom of a big scary coyote.
    Theme: Trickery
    Role of illustrations: To help further the storyline, while introducing beautiful elements and depictions of Mexican art (bright colors, straight contour edges).
    Overall: This tale is cute, enjoyable, and funny. Children will be immediately drawn into the borreguita’s witty nature, and find it funny that the coyote has yet to pick up on the borreguita’s tricky ways!

  8. Lauren Says:

    People of Corn
    Retold by Mary-Joan Gerson, Illustrations by Carla Golembe
    K – 5

    Culture: A Mayan folktale.
    Citation of original source: At the end of the book is a “source note” which states that this story is retold from the original script, however, translated in a “more modern flowing narrative.”
    Plot line: The story begins by drawing the reader into the customs and celebrations of the Mayan people, and then go on to give the, “this is how it happened” introduction.
    Theme: This folktale has a porquoi element to it; the story retells the birth of all living things from the two gods of all creation.
    Role of illustrations: Help further and emphasize the storyline, while accurately and beautifully reflecting Mayan culture.
    Representation of Cultural norms: The goal of the book appears to inform readers to the importance that corn plays in the everyday lives of the Mayan people.
    Overall: Overall, this book did not have as exciting of a storyline as the other folktales do. The plot is slow, and perhaps may be the reason why it’s a little harder to be drawn into the folktale of this book. I think this would be a good story for an introduction to the Mayan culture, or to further a unit of study on the Mayans.

  9. Lauren Says:

    Please, Malese!
    By Amy MacDonald, Illustrations by Emily Lisker
    K – 5

    Culture: A Haitian Trickster Story
    Citation of original source: An author’s note at the end of the book discusses the origin of the trickster’s name as Malese in Haitian culture, comes from the French word, malice. The author first came across this story of a “shrewd peasant” in a prior trip to Haiti. The ending, however, was the imagination of the Amy MacDonald, wishing to conclude the trickster tale in a true trickster-folktale fashion.
    Plot line: Malese, a peasant Trickster, wants a new pair of shoes despite the fact that he has no money to buy any. He makes his way into town, and every town’s person he meets, he is able to trick in one way or another so that come the end of the story, Malese has not one new pair of shoes, but many!
    Theme: Trickery.
    Role of illustrations: Helps further the storyline through colorful, Haitian inspired illustrations.
    Overall: Overall, Please, Malese! Has a swift moving plot line that draws in young readers, as well as keeps them on their toes despite the predictability the storyline exudes.

  10. Lauren Says:

    The Sons of the Dragon King
    By Ed Young
    K – 5

    Culture: A Chinese Folktale
    Citation of original source: An author’s note states that The Dragon King and his Nine Sons are a legend originating from Ancient Chinese culture.
    Plot line: The legend holds that the Dragon King’s Nine Sons each moved to different parts of the country, each with very different qualities. The Dragon King hears word that his each of his sons does nothing all day. With patience, the Dragon King finds out what each of his sons is truly good at, and suggests for them to follow through with their talents. The Dragon King’s sons, according to legend, are symbols for many different elements of everyday Chinese culture.
    Theme: Caring for others (a Chinese theme).
    Role of illustrations: Illustrations are limited, and do not help further the storyline; however, they characterize the traditional painting of Chinese art.
    Overall: This folktale presents a common figure in the Chinese culture, the Dragon King, and through a repetitious narrative style, introduces us to each of the Dragon King’s sons and what they currently represent in Chinese culture today. Tales that are sure to draw in any child’s imagination.

  11. Lauren Says:

    Two of Everything
    by Lily Toy Hong, Illustrated by Lily Toy Hong
    K – 3

    Culture: A Chinese Folktale
    Citation of original source: No actual citation present.
    Plot line: An old couple finds a magical pot which creates two of whatever object is put inside.
    Theme: The pot serves as the “magical object” present in this story..
    Role of illustrations: Help further the storyline. Culturally relevant Chinese illustrations.
    Overall: This is a cute book that will easily draw children into the storyline as it is predictable.

  12. Lauren Says:

    Anansi the Spider, a tale from the Ashanti,
    by Gerald McDermott
    K – 3

    Culture: A tale from the Ashanti, people of Ghana
    Citation of original source: An author’s note presents Anansi the Spider as a folk-hero to the Ashanti people. This story is a beloved one to the Ashanti people.
    Plot line: Anansi finds himself in need of help several times on his journey home. Throughout the storyline, each of his seven sons saves him at some point. Anansi wants to give one of the sons a prize for saving his life; however, he cannot decide who to choose because they are all worthy of a prize having saved his life. In the end, with the help of a the God of All Things, each of Anansi’s sons are rewarded the magnificent light of the moon in the night’s sky.
    Theme: One of adventure and resolving a problem.
    Role of illustrations: Play a relevant role to the storyline; however, they also bring in an artistic and bold element of African “design motifs.”
    Representation of Cultural norms: The sentences are short, and dialogue is present- each relevant aspects of African folktales.
    Overall: This story is a simply, yet enjoyable folktale that can easily catch the imagination of young children.

  13. meglancaster Says:

    The Egyptian Cinderella By Shirley Climo
    2nd -5th grade

    This book tells the Egyptian version of the Cinderella fairytale. The main character, Rhodopis, is a Greek slave who is mocked by all of the other Egyptian girls. Her master sees her dance and gives her a pair of slippers and declares that she shall no longer go barefoot. One day when Rhodopis is polishing her slippers a falcon, the great god Horus, steals one of her slippers. Eventually, her slipper gets dropped onto the lap of the Pharaoh, who declares that the woman whose foot fits the shoe shall be his queen. Ultimately, the shoe returns to Rhodopis.

    This story is both fact and fable, and is one of the worlds oldest Cinderella story. The plot is rich and holds true to the classic fairytale; however, it is darker than the original story as Rhodopis kidnapped and sold as a slave in Egypt. This coupled with the vocabulary; make this book a difficult read for young children. I would use this book for a compare and contrast activity with fairytales or use at as part of a larger unit on Egypt. The illustrations in this text are beautiful and detailed. I love the bold colors, and the classic colors and shape are representative to Egyptian culture.

    When the World Was Young: Creation and Pourquoui Tales Retold By Margaret Mayo
    This book contains “ pourquoui” or “why” stories from cultures all over the world. There are ten different “Why” stories that each tell a “big idea” or life question (ie. Why children come in all sorts of different colors, how the sun was made, why the sea is salt, etc.) One of my favorite stories is a Native American story told by the Huron called, “ The Mud on Turtle’s Back: Why the Earth Became.” This creation story tells the tale of how the earth was created: one day the sky chiefs daughter falls from the sky, she is caught by two swans but because they can’t hold her all of the animals have to come together to make an island to support the daughter. Eventually the sky chief’s daughter has two kids—twin boys. After the sky chief’s daughter dies, her two sons make the rest of the world. But her two sons cannot be more different. One son makes all of the peaceful things: the fertile land, fruits, animals, etc. While the other sun makes the swamps, rough places, bitter fruits, Rocky Mountains, deserts, etc.

    This book would be a great resource for an introduction to writing “ why” stories or creation stories. I would use this book for 3rd-6th graders as a launch for writing or as a literature component in a cultural analysis. Not all of the stories have a theme or teach a lesson, but each provides insight to what is valued by the culture. The illustrations are unique in that they are some-what abstract.

    The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales: From Around the World Retold by Naomi Adler
    3rd-6th grades

    This story is another compilation of folktales from around the world. Each story is beautifully illustrated and has a border that is representative of the culture. Some of the stories have a moral or a lesson, such as the Indian story that teaches the reader, “If you give something precious away, you may receive something very special.” My favorite story is “The Monkey’s Heart” an African story that tells the story of a monkey and a crocodile. Long ago, in Africa there was an old tortoise who had a finds a magical tree with every fruit on earth. Each animal takes a piece of fruit from the tree and the tortoise tells them to take a seed, plant the fruit tree, so that trees of every kind grow all over the world. Monkey takes a mango and plants a mango down by the river. Every day all of the animals come to get a mango from the Monkey who is friendly or generous. One day a crocodile comes and tries the mangos. He likes them so much that he tells his chief about them. The chief crocodile decides that since the mango was good that the monkey must taste good as well! He tells the crocodile to get him a monkey heart, and the crocodile tries to trick the monkey into coming back with him.

    This book is a great way to share cultural folktales and stories and can be used for a cultural study or as a literary model for a writing activity. The plot is very direct, full of dialogue, and rich cultural vocabulary. The stories are also short and can be used as quick mini-lessons or read-alouds. One thing I really like about this book is that the author is a storyteller. In the back of the book the author writes a brief summary about how she came across the story.

    Her Stories: African American Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales Told By Virginia Hamilton
    3rd-6th grades

    Virginia Hamilton is one of my favorite authors, and this is yet another one of her award winning books. This book is a compilation of folktales, trickster-tales, fairytales, and stories of legendary women. The stories provide insight to African American history, struggle, and culture. Each story is accompanied by an illustration. The illustrations are bold and colorful, and each depicts an African American woman within the scene of the story. I would use this book as a read-aloud for 3rd-4th graders to supplement a social studies lesson or used for story writing. Some of the stories are “ darker” than the typical fairy/folk tale, which is why I recommend this book for an older audience.

    One of my favorite stories (which is also a picture book) is a Creole story titled “ Good Blanche, Bad Rose, and the Talking Eggs.” This story tells the story of two girls, Good Blanche and Bad Rose. One day Blanche meets an old woman in the woods, the woman takes blanche back to her house and tells her “Not to laugh at what she sees.” When Blanche arrives at the old woman’s house she sees an assortment of very weird creatures—but Blanche doesn’t say anything and she does as she is told. The old woman gives Blanche tells blanche to take a talking egg. Blanche does what she is told and avoids temptation. When good things start to happen Rose gets jealous and follows Blanche to the old woman’s house, but Rose does not follow the woman’s words and bad things happen.

    Coyote and the Sky: How the Sun, Moon, and the Stars Began By Emmett “ Shakeme” Garcia
    1st-3rd grade

    This is a Tamaya Pueblo creation story about the animal People’s journey to the fourth world. It tells how the stars, moon, and the stars began all due to a mischievous coyote. I would recommend this story to reader’s 1st-3rd grade. This story has a simple plot, the young readers are able to understand the main ideas and the struggles of the characters. While there is no dominant theme in the text, one of the underline messages is that all of the animals needed to work together to create the fourth world. (All of the animals but the coyote. Young readers might think that the other animals treat the coyote unfairly.)

    The thing that I like most about this story is that it is geared towards young reads. The words are big and bold, making it easy for young readers to follow along or read independently. The illustrations are brightly colored and bold, resembling an Eric Carl paper/tissue paper design. A fun activity would be for the kids to re-write the ending of the story using what they know about creation stories. An example would be rewriting the story so that the coyote becomes an unlikely hero, or writing another story to describe how the sun, moon, and stars came to be.

    • wellspringarden Says:

      The collections of stories are a great resource. Another great opportunity to practice storytelling! The theme of creation stories works well with so many grade levels.
      The coyote story sounds like it might be good for discussing cooperation and fairness.

  14. Sam Says:

    Stone Soup
    By: Marcia Brown
    Sone Soup is a French folktale about humans tricking other humans. When three soldiers march through a French village, all of the sudden the townspeople seem very busy. When the pool men of war ask the locals for food, shelter, and a place to relax, no one in town has anything to give. When the soldiers decide to make their own festive soup out of stones, all they need is a carrot here, a potato there, and some meat here. Suddenly, food starts to come from all directions and the soldiers end up duping the villagers by having them put their food in the ‘stone soup’. After a night of celebrating and feasting over a rich mans soup, the soldiers are welcomed to warm beds for sleeping.

    A tale full of engaging and lively language, this story is appropriate for children as young as age 4 and will be enjoyed by people of all ages. The illustrations in red, black/brown and white help to carry the story and the details represent the culture and plot. The theme that emerges from the telling of the tale is the importance of sharing, and that in the end, it benefits everyone.

  15. Sam Says:

    Something from Nothing
    By: Phoebe Gilman
    Something from Nothing is a Jewish folktale that I loved as a child, just as much as I love it now. It is a sweet story about a little boy named Joseph who believes his grandpa can turn the blanket he made him as a baby, into something Joseph can use as he grows up. As each piece of new blanket is made into something newer and smaller, eventually his grandfather makes Joseph a button that he loses. Joseph learns that his grandfather, whom he thought could do anything, cannot make something from nothing.

    Appropriate for children ages 4-8, the plot is simple and the language is lively and engaging. In typical folktale fashion, the idea of threes is touched upon as grandpa ‘snip, snip, snips’ to change what was once Josephs blanket, into something new. The illustrations are beautiful and highly detailed, as they give the story life while nicely depicting the Jewish culture in traditional shtetl (a Yiddish word for small town) life. The theme that emerges from the telling of such a rich tale is one of optimism, trust, and a warm relationship between family.

    * * * * *

    • wellspringarden Says:

      I have not seen this book, but recently read some other reviews that were equally as positive. Sounds like one worth finding

  16. Ruth Langton Says:

    Cendrillon by Robert San Souci (1998)
    Grades 1-5
    This story tells the Caribbean version of Cinderella. It is told from the point of view of Cendrillon’s fairy god mother. The narrator is a poor washer woman who does not know how she can help her beloved Cendrillon. However, when the young girl falls in love with a rich man’s son, she finds that she can use her magic wand to create a carriage, horses, and a gown for Cendrillon. This story tells the classic tales of Cinderella in an island setting, immersed in Caribbean culture.
    This is a great Cinderella story that is written from a different perspective than the traditional American story. The book depicts Caribbean culture through the pictures which are colorful and detailed. The story is written in Caribbean dialect, which adds authenticity, and validates this version of English. The theme is clear, that good nature and kindness is rewarded, and it is accessible for young children. The female main character is more empowered than in other versions of Cinderella, reducing gender stereotypes. This is a great book!

    Beauty and the Beast by Max Eilenberg
    Grades 3-5
    This book tells the classic story of Beauty and the Beast at a much deeper level. The book begins with a background story of Beauty and her family, who were once rich, but came across misfortune and were forced to live more humbly in the country. While coming home from a business trip, Beauty’s father stumbles across a beautiful palace where he finds food and shelter for the night. However, he encounters a dreadful beast who tells him that he must go home and send his daughter to live with him in the palace. Beauty’s distraught father relays the message to his daughter who bravely travels to the palace to ensure her father’s safety. Beauty lives at the palace and is eventually able to see past the beast’s ugly exterior to the kind and gentle soul within. However, it is not until he falls ill that she realizes that she has fallen in love with the beast. When she kisses him, he magically turns from an ugly beast into a handsome prince. Beauty and the prince are married and live happily ever after.
    I chose this book as an example of a tale that does not portray strong gender stereotypes. It represents a very traditional fairy tale, but it includes empowered characters who are well developed and more realistic. Because the story begins with a background story of Beauty and her family, the reader connects to her on a deeper level. The story also shows the importance of inner beauty, rather than outer beauty, because it stresses Beauty’s considerate and loving personality and shows that she falls in love with an ugly beast because of his kind nature rather than his appearance. The illustrations in this story are also not stereotypical like the Disney books, showing characters with more realistic body types and emotions.

    The Magic Feather by Lisa Rojany and Philip Kuznicki
    Grades 1-4
    This story tells the Jamaican legend of a young girl, Solidae, who is warned by her grandmother of the evil Mancrow, half crow, half human. Solidae is told to run and not look back if she encounters the Mancrow, but she is unable to follow this advice when she meets him in the forest. Mancrow steals the light and color from the world and Solidae must find the magic feather that holds Mancrow’s power to make the world right again.
    This is a great book that tells a legend about how the light and color came to the world that is completely accessible to young children. The illustrations in this story are beautiful. They contrast the evil darkness with the bright and happy color that is central to the story. This book also brings in cultural diversity since it is a Jamaican story that has a heroine of color. It is written in Jamaican dialect which clearly marks the origin of the tale.

    The Talking Eggs by Robert San Souci, pictures by Jerry Pinkney
    Grades 1-5
    This is a folktale from the American South that says it was adapted from a Creole folktale. It tells the story of a girl, Blanche, who lives with her “cross and mean” mother and sister. Blanche was forced to do all the work in her household. One day in the woods, she met an old woman who invited Blanche back to her house where Blanche discovered a two headed cow, chickens of all colors, dancing rabbits, and many other bizarre things. Blanche was polite and did as she was asked by this kind old woman. When Blanche left the next morning, the woman gave her a present. The old woman instructed Blanche to go to the hen house and take three talking eggs that said “Take me!” (and not the eggs that said “Don’t take me!”). Blanche did as she was told and on her way home she threw the eggs over her shoulder and was rewarded with beautiful clothes, jewels, and a horse drawn carriage. When she returned home, Blanche’s mother and sister were jealous and her sister ventured into the woods to find the old woman and her unusual home. Rose, Blanche’s sister, was rude to the old woman and took the eggs that said “Don’t take me!”. She was rewarded with snakes, toads, frogs, and yellow jackets.
    This is a great story that has a very strong message: those who are polite and kind will be rewarded with happiness. The illustrations are beautiful and depict African American characters through colorful paintings. The plot is simple, but captivating, since it includes a little bit of magic and relatively realistic characters. My only problem with this story is that it does promote materialism because the heroine, Blanche, is rewarded with material objects and is said to have gone to live in the city to live like a grand lady because she had the clothes and money that allowed her to do so. Otherwise, I think this is a great story that would be a great read aloud, or simply a good book to have out on the shelf.

    The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Gobel
    Grades 1-3
    This is a Native American folk tale about a girl who was devoted to the care of her tribe’s horses. One day, during a storm, she was forced away from her tribe and lived instead with the wild horses. A year later, the girl was spotted by hunters of the tribe and she was brought home to her parents. However, she realized that she missed the horses and their wild life and she and her family decided that she should go back to them.
    This is a traditional tale that shows the importance of nature and the horses to the Native American people. It shows the connection between people and the animals of the earth. It also shows an allegiance to family and the tribe because the girl continued to go back to her family and help them even when she decided to live with the wild horses. The illustrations are intricate and done in what appears to be a traditional style of drawing. It is written in language that is engaging and keeps with oral traditions; it sounds to be a story that was told orally before it was written.

    Dancing Drum: A Cherokee Legend by Terri Cohlene, illustrated by Charles Reasoner
    Grades 2-5
    This is a Cherokee legend about why the sun shines on the earth. It describes the quest of Dancing Drum who, first, stops the intense shining of the sun and later, to raises her smiling face over the earth again. It is an engaging tale of a brave hero who makes mistakes, but is then able to right things after admitting to his faults. The traditional style illustrations add to the story, bringing the characters to life. The language is appropriate for elementary aged children, but also keeps with the language of oral tradition. This story also shows the connection between the land and the Native American people.

    • wellspringarden Says:

      A great and varied list of books! Cendrillion sounds really good. I like the idea of a more empowered main character. I also like your focus on bringing in other cultures.

  17. Sam Says:

    An Evaluation of Folktales from Asia:

    The Seven Chinese Brothers
    By: Margaret May, illustrated by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng

    The Seven Chinese Brothers, a folktale appropriate for children ages 4-8, is about seven brothers who look identical, yet each possess wonderfully different talents. When the brothers hear cries from the Great Wall of China, one brother rushes to help and finds himself at the hands of the Celestial Emperor and his army because of his fantastical power. As the brothers each one by one use their individual powers to save the bother in danger, they work together to eventually defraud the Emperor and prevail.

    In the beginning of the book, there is an editor’s note about ‘The Seven Chinese Brothers’ and the non-fictional aspects of the story. The folktale features a simple plot in the time when Ch’in Shih Huang was emperor of China. The authentic and historical details in the pictures truly represent the culture, and the watercolor paintings are beautiful and undeniably supplement the text. The moral of this story is that obstacles, which may seem difficult at first, can be overcome with teamwork. Additionally, the story sends a nice message of loving your family, helping others in trouble, and being dedicated to those you love.

    * * * * *

    The Empty Pot
    By Demi

    The Empty Pot is a folktale about a Chinese boy named Ping who has always been able to make anything he plants bloom. When the emperor decides that the way in which he will choose his successor will depend on ones ability to make a seed grow into the most beautiful flower, Ping thinks he has it in the bag. Ping however, is heartbroken that after one year he is unable to make anything out of the seed he is given. When it comes time to greet the emperor with their flowers, Ping is ashamed that all he has to show for is an empty pot. Little does he know an empty pot was what the emperor was hoping to see; the seeds the potential successors were given had been cooked and were therefore incapable of growing. Ping was rewarded for his courage and honesty.

    The plot is simple, direct, and best suited for children ages 4-8. The language is engaging and the beautifully detailed illustrations help to accurately portray the cultural norms. From the telling of the tale, one can easily gather the moral that honesty is the best policy.

    * * * * *

    One Grain of Rice (A Mathematical Folktale)
    By: Demi

    This folktale, which originated in India, is about a girl named Rani who devises a clever plan to save her village from the famine the raja has caused, by keeping all of the rice for himself. Rani returns a piece of fallen rice to the raja, who believes this is a good deed. In return, he allows Rani to choose her reward. She asks for one grain of rice, doubled every day for 30 days. Against the raja’s initial understanding, that one grain of rice turns into over one billion grains of rice, and Rani is able to feed her village.

    The theme that emerges from the telling of this tale relates to what it really means to be fair and wise. Ironically, the raja believes himself to be ‘wise and fair’. From this story, one can gather a moral that good deeds do not go unaccounted for. Additionally, it tells of the importance of not being greedy. The illustrations help to create a real feel for the culture and certainly extend the story. The plot is simple and direct and can be enjoyed by children ages 4-8 and adults. This is a wonderful book to be used in a math class, as the story is about squaring numbers.

    * * * * *

    I thoroughly enjoyed the stories in all three of these books, and highly recommend each one. What I have noticed about all of these folktales from Asia is the emergent theme of honesty, and what it means to truly be a good person. Children and adults alike are bound to enjoy all of the above mentioned tales.

    • wellspringarden Says:

      All three are great stories, the illustrations in Demi’s books are particularly beautiful. I think the theme of working togehter and for the greater good is also evident in many stories from China.

  18. aforcier31 Says:

    All the following stories are from The Girl Who Helped Thunder and Other Native American Folktales retold by James Bruchac and Joseph Bruchac, Illustrations by Stefano Vitale

    How Stories Came To Be

    This story is about a young boy who is rejected in his tribe because he does not dress well and looks shabby. The boy goes to a rock and exchanges gifts for stories, something he has never heard of. As he repeatedly goes back to hear the rock’s stories, the boy brings them back to his tribe for gifts and eventually gains respect and becomes known as the storyteller. The gifts he receives from the tribe include new clothes and comb for his hair. He becomes very respected and the stories become the stories of the people.
    This is a great tale for K-5 to show how even someone who seems unimportant to you has a talent that you could learn something from. This folktale also shows that to the Seneca, stories come from the earth and that can be a teaching point for students as we all become more and more wrapped up in technology and less connected with the earth.

    The Girl Who Helped Thunder

    This story is about a girl named Pretty Face who was so beautiful, and knew it, that she would not marry anyone in her tribe. One day a stranger comes to the village who she finds attractive and leaves to marry him against her family’s advice. It turns out that the man is really the giant snake from the river and they only way she is set free is by helping Thunder, the snake’s enemy, to defeat him. She then goes to live in the sky with thunder and his people because she cannot return to her tribe.
    This story emphasizes the importance of listening to the advice of your family. In the Lenape tribe, it is not uncommon for women to have social power and choose who they marry, but it is still important to respect and listen to your family. The illustration for this folktale is beautiful and is also the cover art for the who book.

    Maushop, The Good Giant

    This is a story about a giant who always helps the Wampanoag people. He does anything they ask because he loves them so much. He gets food for them, cuts their fire wood, etc. One day he comes to see them and they are all lying on the ground and he asks why. They say that they don’t want to waste their energy walking from place to place and ask the giant to carry them. He realizes how lazy the people have become and goes into the ocean, becomes a white whale, and swims away.
    This story is great for any age group to teach them about self-reliance and the difference between helping and doing something for someone. It also teaches about community and how to have a working community there can not just be one or a few people doing all the work. The idea of self-reliance is very important to the Wampanoag people and it’s a great lesson to teach all students.

    The Ball Game Between The Birds and Animals

    This story is about two little creatures who want to play in the ball game which is fought between the toughest four-legged animals of the land and the birds of the sky. The two animals ask if they can join the land creatures but are sent away because they are too small. When they ask to join the sky creatures, the Eagle who is captain says they can play if they can fly. So he must give them wings. He stretches the arms of the little creatures who become bat and flying squirrel. On the game day, bat and flying squirrel end up scoring the winning goal.
    This is a great story not only about how bat and flying squirrel came to be, but of not picking on anyone because they don’t measure up in your eyes. It’s a great story to encourage children to let everyone play and recognize each others strengths. No one should be excluded based on their physical abilities and I think this is a great story to demonstrate that.

    How Rabbit Got Wisdom

    This story is about Rabbit, who was considered the smallest and weakest of the animals. He went to the Mater of Life to ask for wisdom so that his people might survive. The Master of Life asks Rabbit to bring him all sorts of animals like ants, the snake, the alligator and the Rabbit does all these different tasks, each time asking if the Master of Life will give him wisdom. The Rabbit uses trickery to do all the tasks and after the final task, the Master of Life tells Rabbit that he does not need to give him wisdom because he clearly already has it.
    I love this tale because it’s all about using your smarts. It’s a good story to show that even if you don’t excel in one area, you must look to find your talent in other areas. It also shows that there are many ways to reach one goal and it’s about problem solving. I think this tale could be used to introduce or reinforce a variety of topics to any age group.

    • wellspringarden Says:

      Sounds like a great book and collection of stories. It would be interesting to do a study on the themes and characters across nations.

  19. ksundquist82 Says:

    Grandmothers’ Stories: Wise Woman Tales from Many Cultures
    retold by Burleigh Muten
    Grades 3-6.

    I love this book for its variety. The first tale, from Senegal, tells of an old midwife who one night is awakened to birth sextuplets for a royal family. She awakes the next morning thinking it a dream but finds her pot filled with soup and her pitcher filled with gold. She lives comfortably for the rest of her life.

    Later there is a Mexican tale of a “witch” who only does good deeds. When she is imprisoned for being a witch, not even her good looks and charm can free her. So instead she paints herself a giant crow with a basket on its back and her the judge comes to visit her in her cell, she makes the crow come to life and flies away with it.

    This book is valuable because it incorporates a number of different cultures and uses exclusively female main characters. However the focus on good looks, money, and charm are too heavy for me. There are even characters whose goal it is to win over a man. For these reason I would choose carefully from this collection.

    The illustrations are whimsical and brightly colored. Some are only in the margins or at the bottom of the page, while others are full pages.

    The Three Pigs
    by David Wiesner
    Grades 1 – 5

    This is a MUST READ. It starts out as the traditional three little pigs tale and at first I was confused about what all the fuss was about. But as soon as the first pig’s straw house is blown down, the pig is blown out of the story. As the wolf goes around huffing and puffing at the other houses, the other pigs too escape the story and go on their own adventure, visiting scenes from other familiar fairy tales and eventually return to their own story with a dragon to scare away the wolf.

    The illustrations in this book are done by David Wiesner and are Caldecott Medal winners. Young readers will get a kick out of recognizing the various stories within the story while older readers could use this to inspire a writing assignment in which they place fairy tale characters in new stories.

    This is a fun story, silly, and has just a slight element of the sort of weak triumphing the traditional evil. It’s a sure hit.

    • ksundquist82 Says:

      The Paper Bag Princess
      by Robert Munsch
      Grades K – 3

      I had to review this one because I remember loving it when I was growing up. It starts with Princess Elizabeth who lives in a castle with her prince Ronald. But one day, a dragon comes, burns down the castle, and steals Ronald. So Princess Elizabeth puts on a paper bag since all her other clothes have burnt, and she sets off to find Ronald. When she reaches the dragon, she outsmarts him into tiring himself out so that she can rescue Ronald. But when she does, Ronald tells her her hair is charred and she is wearing a paperbag. He says to come back when she looks like a real princess. Well . . . hmph! Off Elizabeth goes and presumably lives happily ever after WITHOUT her prince.

      First off, I love Robert Munsch – except the creepy Love You Forever book which is now permanently ruined for me. But this book is typical Robert Munsch, with bright illustrations, a funny story line, and a good message that teaches kids a few things. First, girls don’t always have to be rescued by guys. Sometimes girls can do the rescuing. And second, looks are not the most important thing and someone who values you for your looks alone isn’t worth your time. Love it.

      So . . . while looking through the Robert Munsch books, I found another of my perennial favorites about which I had totally forgotten. MILLICENT AND THE WIND! Oh how I love this book and had not thought about it in the longest time.

      Millicent and the Wind
      Robert Munsch

      Millicent is a lonely little girl who lives atop a mountain and has no friends. She longs for someone with whom to play. One day, she hears a whispering on the mountain and notices that it is saying her name. The wind becomes Millicent’s friend and one day when Millicent goes into town with her mother, the town children tease Millicent for being from the mountain and having only the wind as a friend. When the children taunt her, the wind comes and tosses them in the air. Back on the mountaintop, Millicent asks for the wind to bring her a friend. When the wind asks, “Boy or Girl?” Millicent simply says, “Get me a friend” and the wind comes back with a brown-skinned boy who becomes Millicent’s friend.

      This book is charming in its simplicity. It is a very quick read and the illustrations, mostly one full page facing a page of text, are softer and more whimsical that most Robert Munsch work. This story also contains two lessons about friendship. One is that we all need someone, or something, to be our friend, and the other is that friends can take many forms.

      • wellspringarden Says:

        Sorry bout the Love You Forever 😦 I agree Paperbag princess is a great story. Milicent and the Wind is one I don’t know.

      • ksundquist82 Says:

        Frog Girl
        by Paul Owen Lewis
        Grades 1 – 5

        This book is a Native American tale of the chief’s young daughter who likes to visit the quiet lake by her village. Normally, she enjoys the songs of the frogs here. But on one afternoon, she arrives to see two young boys with nets leaving, and there are no frogs left except for one who calls to her. This frog asks where her relatives have gone and warns that something horrible is going to happen. She tells the young girl that her frog family is the same as the girl’s family. At this moment the earth begins to shake. A volcano is about the erupt! So the young girl runs back to her village which has been abandoned except for the basket of frogs. She returns the frogs to the lake, the shaking stops, and her family returns. The girl teaches her people that even the frogs are a apart of their family and that they should be treated so.

        This story has a great message and really vibrant illustrations but the story is not told in a very detailed way. At the back of the book are a list of the Northwest Tribal traditions to which it speaks (among these, that frogs and other small animals are protected by Volcano Woman) and I think this story would work better if it framed by these traditions before reading it. All in all, it is a good tale with solid messages that are relevant to any unit about the Native Americans. And the depth of background knowledge at the back of the book make it appropriate for a wider range of learners.

  20. Meri Moll Says:

    The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: The Iroquois Story of Creation
    Retold by John Bierhorst
    Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker

    K -5th grade

    In this Native American folktale of creation, a woman falls from the sky after her husband grows jealous of her pregnancy. To cushion her landing, sky people transform into animals. Once on the earth, she gives birth to two sons, one gentle, the other hard. Together they create the seasons, the landscape, and the animals of the world designed with both smoothness and roughness.

    Simple yet profound in its imagery, this story explains how there are two minds to the universe –one hard and one gentle– and how we are all descended from the woman who fell from the sky. The watercolor illustrations are lively with color and energy, yet simple and earthy to fit with the Native American culture. The mood and tone are respectful yet joyful. The language of the story is simple but it reads as though it’s an elder tribe member is telling it. At the back of the book there is a note about the origin of the story and the tribes who told it. It would be fun to have students think of things in the world that have both a good and bad aspect to them.


    The Magic Horse of Han Gan
    By Chen Jiang Hong

    1st -5th grade

    Set in China 1,200 years ago, this elegant picture book tells the story of Han Gan, a young boy skilled at drawing horses who is given the opportunity to pursue his craft exclusively. When asked why he always draws his horses tied up, he mysteriously replies, “My horses are so alive they might leap right off the paper”. One day a warrior comes asking Han Gan to draw him a horse to ride for battle. He does and the horse leaps of the page. Invincible in battle, the horse grows sad of all the destruction he has contributed to, and finally returns to Han Gan’s painting. Although violent with war, the message of peace is strongest in the story.

    This story is a Chinese legend. Han Gan was a real person and his paintings are still celebrated in China today. 9th century China comes to life in this book through the author’s real silk paintings done in the same style as Han Gan. The story is very concise and the illustrations say so much more than the language alone. The horse in the story decides to live in the peaceful world of the painter rather than the violent world of the warrior. In the illustrations, you can see the blood and violence of war contrasted with the peace and refinement of the painter. It is a great window into the world of Chinese culture.


    The Silver Cow: A Welsh Tale
    Retold by Susan Cooper
    Illustrated by Warwick Hutton

    1st -4th grade

    In the countryside of Wales, a young boy named Huw enchants the magical Tylwyth Teg of the lake with his harp music. Out of the lake comes a silver white cow that produces three times the amount of milk as normal cows. However, Huw’s father is a selfish and greedy man, squandering all of the wealth this cow brings. The silver cow mates and produces more magical cows, bringing the father more wealth and making him even greedier. He scoffs at the magic of the Tylwyth Teg, who eventually take their revenge on him. All of the cows return to the lake and turn into white water lilies along the shore, causing the Welsh to call the lake “the bearded lake.”

    The author evokes the soft, musical rhythm of the Welsh language. The names of the characters are also Welsh. The story begins “Once upon a time,” and is very easy to follow. Through the beautiful watercolor illustrations, readers feel as though they are really in the magnificent Welsh countryside. There are a number of themes in the story: greed, loyalty, and youthful freedom. Everything is put together very well to make a charming story. This book could inspire students to create a tale about how something in their neighborhood came to be –a creative writing exercise.


    The Diane Goode Book of American Folktales and Songs
    Collected by Ann Durell

    Pre K – 3rd grade

    This collection consists of well-known American folktales such as Yankee Doodle and Davy Crockett, but is also include less famous tales from Black America, Native Americans, and even Puerto Rico. It brings multiculturalism to America folktales. The folktales are written in the dialect of the people who told them, which adds great color to the stories. Songs are not accompanied by a story, but have the melody line written in musical notation with multiple verses of each song. The illustrations are adorable and portray each character with energy and life.

    The author notes when possible where each tale originated. Many tales lack a prevalent theme; some are just for humor, such as The Talking Mule. Also, the tales don’t connect to one another; they are rather standalone stories that illustrate a wide range of American folklore.


    The Sun Girl and the Moon Boy: A Korean Folktale
    Retold and Illustrated by Yangsook Choi

    Pre-K-4th grade

    This stunningly illustrated story is a well-known Korean folktale. A mother leaves her son and daughter at home while she retrieves food, but is attacked by a hungry tiger. The tiger then goes after the children, wearing the mother’s clothes to trick the children into opening the door. When the tiger finally gets in, the children run and end up cornered up a tree. A magical rope comes down from the sky to rescue them while the tiger gets a trick rope sent to him, and the son and daughter join their mother in the sky as the sun and the moon.

    This story has stunning oil on canvas illustrations that show the action from dramatic perspectives, building excitement for readers. The author notes that she heard this story many times from her grandmother in Korea, but doesn’t explain much more. There is very little mention of Korean culture and the language is Westernized to evoke suspense. After reading it, one could imagine this story taking place in any culture. Nevertheless, it is an exciting, humorous story that could inspire children to create their own stories of cunning animals versus humans.

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