Folktales

Written by Michael Rose Ramirez

There’s a certain magic to hummingbirds that makes them popular in folktales wherever they are found.  But how did this unusual bird first come to be?

The hummingbird myth from Taino cultures tells of a beautiful young girl and a brave young man.  Unfortunately their parents did not feel they should be friends and so they are separated.

Do they find a way to be together?  And how does the hummingbird come into the story?  This tale of young love and devotion weaves a magical tale around a beautiful creature and may make you think twice the next time you see hummingbird in real life!

 

 

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Written and Illustrated By George L. Crespo

If you lived on an island, the sea would probably be an important part of any legend or creation tale.  This creation tale; retold and illustrated by George Crespo, was collected over 500 years ago by a Spanish friar who came to the island now known as Puerto Rico.

Author, painter and sculptor; George Crespo, changed a few minor details but kept a powerful story of how the ocean came into being.  The story involves a family, a great hunter, a big storm and four boys who could not do as they were told.

How did one giant expanse of land turn into a series of islands in a deep blue sea?  You’ll have to check out “How The Sea Began” to get the full story!

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Written/Retold by Eric A. Kimmel,  Illustrated By Katya Krenina

On a cold, wintery morning, Katrusya and her grandfather discover something alarming.  Small birds had been caught in an unexpected snowfall and are in danger of freezing to death.  The young girl and her grandfather pick up as many as they can and bring them inside.  So does the rest of her family and her entire village.  Even the priest from the local church invites the birds to come inside and have a safe refuge from the cold.

The little birds brighten the spirits of all the villagers during an especially long winter until they need to fly away in Spring.  Can the villagers let them go?  What will come of this simple act of kindness?  Perhaps an Easter miracle?

This is a beautiful book about how small actions can create big results and transform even the bleakest situation.  Illustrated by Katya Krenina, a native of the Ukraine, this book is charming and uplifting, especially in Spring or before the Easter holidays.


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Written by Teresa Bateman

Illustrated By Kelly Murphy

What would you do if suddenly all the luck in the world disappeared?

This is an enchanted and enchanting story about the wee folk of Ireland and one clever heroine named Fiona. The book tells the tale of a Leprechaun king who decides to hide all the luck in the world away from the humans.  The results are terrible as cows will not give milk, chickens won’t lay eggs and potatoes won’t grow in the fields.  And people simply don’t know what to do.  All except clever Fiona.

How can a human outwit a Leprechaun king and make things right? Pick up this charming book and find out how a good heart and a clever mind can sometimes change even the more dire situations.

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Written By Verma Jatinder, Illustrated By Nilesh Mistry

This book is less about the holiday of Diwali and more about the exciting story behind it.  The book is a retelling of the “Ramayana”, an age-old Hindu epic tale of  how Prince Rama overcomes the Demon King.  Full of adventure, magic and miracles, this story will delight both young and older readers.

Perfect for reading as part of a Diwali celebration or as a way to learn more about India and Hindu folklore.

 


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Written By John Steptoe

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is a Cinderella tale beautifully in Zimbabwe.  Written by John Steptoe, the story was inspired by a folktale of that region published in the late 1800’s and the names of the characters are from the Shona language of Zimbabwe.

The book tells the tale of a village elder and his two daughters whose personalities are as different as night and day. When a King from a nearby town declared his intention to find a wife, the real action of the story begins.  As both girls travel to the main city to meet the King, they encounter obstacles that turn out to be tests of character.  How both girls handle the situations determine who is seen as fit to marry the King.  And there’s another plot twist that will surprise you, but you’ll have to pick up the book to find out what it is.

Although the “Cinderlla story” is well known, this book is so well written and lushly illustrated that you may find yourself lost in the tale or rereading it time and time again.  It’s just that good.


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Retold/Adapted By Jewell Reinhart Coburn

Illustrated By Connie McLennan

Can you imagine a tale of “Cinderella” set in rural Mexico?  This is exactly what you’ll find in the book, Domotila, where the story takes places in the region of Hidalgo, Mexico, complete with adobe houses, colorful villages and young girl so talented she can turn cactus into a delicious treat called nopales.  And, in everything she does, she follows her mother’s wonderful advice: “Do every task with care and always add a generous dash of love!”.

As you probably guessed, the young girl is named Domitila and her family falls upon hard times.  She is forced to travel to the city to cook and work for the governor’s family and there she encounters the “prince”.  Through many twists and turns, the story leads to a satisfying ending where the value of a kind and caring person is seen as real talent and beauty.

Although there’s something magical about any Cinderalla tale – this one truly shines in terms of cultural authenticity and an engaging story. This is a satisfying book to read together with children as well as a great pick for bilingual families or those wishing to learn a bit more Spanish.

And there’s even a recipe for cactus nopales – cook it, if you dare!


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By Rafe Martin, Illustrated by Famimeh Amiri

A bridge of monkeys – how could that be?

In this retelling of a Buddhist Jataka tale, you follow the story of a group of monkeys and their wise king.  They live in a secret location near a tree that bears the most beautiful and wonderous fruit.  One day a human king finds out about this tree and it’s possible that the monkeys may not only lose their own tree, but their very lives!   How does their wise monkey king overcome these difficulties and save the day?

What are Jataka tales?  Author; Rafe Martin, shares a forward to the book that explains the history of jataka tales – some 500 or so stories about past lives of the Buddha, meant to inspire, encourage and teach.  This retelling of one of those tales is a beautifully illustrated book that also teaches a marvelous lesson about finding positive solutions to troubling problems and what it means to be an inspiring leader.


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Retold/Written and Illustrated by Ed Young

It’s interesting how some story themes find their way all around the world.

Lon Po Po is very much like the story known as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. In this story, a loving mom must leave her three smart and clever daughters – Shang, Tao, and Paotze – to visit their grandmother on her birthday.  She gives them instructions on how to be safe, but the wolf nearby is clever.

He knocks at the door and declares that he is Grandma.  Then he blows the candle out and tries to find other ways to get close enough to harm the girls.  But the three sisters are not fooled – they outwit the wolf at every turn with brilliant and clever moves – overcoming evil with a sharp mind and a good heart.

Although the cover of the book and some illustrations can appear a bit scary for youngest readers, the book is uplifting and has a happy ending.  It’s great to see young girls in strong roles – ready, willing and able to overcome evil with the power of their mind and their heart.


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Written By Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz, Illustrated By Meilo So

The next book I’d like to recommend was one of our first purchases after we came back from China: Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: a Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities and Recipes, by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz and the Children’s Museum, Boston. This treasure is a reference guide, holiday cookbook, craft book, customs guide, and folktale library is a phenomenal addition to anyone who would like to explore Chinese holidays. Not only does it cover Chinese New Year, but equally expounds on the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. If you are interested in Chinese culture and celebrations, you will love this book.

This book chosen and reviewed by Becky Morales of Kid World Citizen.  There are lots of wonderful resources for learning more about Chinese New Year as well as a host of exciting world cultural traditions at: kidworldcitizen.org

 


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Cobweb Christmas COVERWritten by Shirley Climo, Illustrated by Jane Manning

How did glittering, glistening tinsel become part of the Christmas tree?

Shirely Climo takes you deep into the Bavarian forest of Germany to meet a dear little old woman who many of the local children call Auntie or “Tante”.  She lives in her tiny cottage with a bevy of animals, a small barn and – of course – a rooster to wake her up and a hen to lay an egg for her each day.

When Christmastime comes, Tante make special preparations.  She picks a tree from her forest, decorates it, fills it with her own homemade goodies and invites the local children to share it with her.  After the village children leave, it’s time to share Christmas with all the animals.  Tanta loves Christmas but each year she waits patiently and hopes for some special Christmas miracle to grace her cottage.  This book tells the story of the one year that this magic took place and how it warmed her heart and transformed her tree.

This book has lovely illustrations, adorable animals and a beautiful rhythm to it, making it a perfect story for reading aloud at the holidays as well as rekindling a sense of Christmas wonder and magic.

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Written by Angela Shelf Medearis, Illustrated by Daniel Minter

This is a wonderful folktale style story with glorious illustrations that seems to embody the very spirit of Kwanzaa.  The tale starts with a father who has lost his wife and must take care of his seven sons all by himself.  Although the sons have many blessings, it seems that all they can do is fight all day long.  However, when their father passes away, he has left them with a test.  If they turn seven spools of thread into gold in one day without fighting, they can have all that was his.

How will the boys accomplish this?  And what will be discovered when they learn to work together instead of fighting all day long?  Will they learn the seven principals of Kwanzaa during their struggle to turn thread into gold?  And will they find a way to benefit everyone in their village instead of just their own personal needs?  Pick up this beautifully illustrated book to discover how the boys solved this tough riddle and in the process, learned how to put the seven principles of Kwanzaa into action.

Without giving away more of the story, the book also mentions kente cloth and offers an easy-to-do hand weaving project (similar to those used in Africa) that is perfect for small hands or beginning crafters.  I’m off to try making a kente style belt today!

This is a beautiful book for so many reasons! Perfect for any home school or classroom library!

 

 


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Written and Illustrated by Tomie DePaulo

What is the celebration of Las Posadas?  Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.

Here Tomie dePaulo takes you into New Mexico near Santa Fe where the celebration happens in one night.  A young couple dress up like Joseph and Mary and walk a path lighted by beautiful luminaries (farolitos).  They ask to stay at several doorsteps in the main square and each time they are met by a devil who won’t allow them to come in. The crowd boos loudly.  But on the last attempt, they are met by kindness and the doors are thrown open and they enter the church.  DePaulo’s story shares these rich details and also a Christmas miracle when the two young people intended as Mary and Joseph cannot make it into town because of snow.  Will the celebration be ruined – or will something even more special happen?

Check out this beautiful book to find out!


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Written by Joanne Oppenheim and Illustrated by Fabian Negrin

This book shares another beautiful version of the Mexican Legend of how a simple weed became a beautiful gift for the Baby Jesus, because it was given with love.   The story takes place during Las Posadas (see explanation below) when Joseph and Mary’s quest to find a place to stay in Bethlehem is reenacted.  Little Lucinda is sad because her family has fallen on heard times and she does not have a gift to bring to the alter – a custom in Mexico during the nights before Christmas.  An angelic voice tells her to gather weeds and – embarrassed – she does so.  As she walks down the long aisle to the church, the whole congregation gasps because her simple weeds have burst into bloom as beautiful poinsettias.

This book has a bit more detail then the Tomie DePaulo “Legend of the Pointsettia” and boasts lovely dream-like illustrations by Argentinian artist, Fabian Negrin. The Miracle of the First Poinsettia also shares the music to a lovely Mariachi song sung during this time of year called El Rorro (the babe) .  However, both stories share the wonder of this legend, the joy of Christmas miracles and a lovely explanation of why this beautiful flower shines so brightly in so many houses at holiday times.

Las Posadas – Originally a Spanish custom, this tradition of reenacting Joseph and Mary’s search for an inn (posada) before the birth of Jesus is celebrated in Mexico and also in the US Southwest, with slight variations.


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Retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

A beautiful Mexican folktale about how a “useless weed” became a Christmas miracle and a special gift for the baby Jesus (el Niño Jesus). Tomie de Paulo has a gift for creating and illustrating wonderful stories that take you right into the culture he is sharing.  In this story you travel to rural Mexico and share a story about little Lucinda who wants to help her mother weave a special blanket for the town’s Nativity celebration.  But when her mom becomes sick and she can’t accomplish the task herself – she is downhearted.  Right then, a miracle helps save the day and shows the value of any gift that is given from the heart.

An inspiring tale about what it really means to give.


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Nov
11

Rainbow Crow

Retold By Nancy Van Laan
Illustrations by Beatriz Vidal

There are many wonderful Native American stories of how the world began and how things we know got to be that way.  This is the legend of the courageous crow, as retold from Lenape (Leni Lenape) folk legends.  The books begins as all the woodland creatures find themselves engulfed in an enormous snowstorm.  Someone must step forward and help.  They must fly to the sun and bring back fire.  Who will take on this daunting task and what will happen to them in their quest?

This book is beautiful, exciting and a wonderful lesson about how courage and service to those you love can truly save the day!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR THIS BOOK

Have you ever done something that required great courage?  What was it?

Was Crow a hero?  Why?

Do you think Crow was afraid when he set out on his journey?  If so, why did he continue?

If you were one of the other woodland creatures, could you come up with another way to save your family and friends?  Tell the story or write your own legend about it.

Suggested Reading Level – 4 and up (or preschool and up)


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Written by Verna Aardema
This wonderful “Reading Rainbow” book is loosely based on a folktale from Kenya.  Ki-Pat is a herder out on the plain in Africa who knows that everyone in his village needs rain and they may not survive.  But what can he do, and how do his actions change everything?  The answer is an engaging read-aloud or read-along selection that will easily become a child’s or a classroom favorite.  It’s a beautiful folk tale turned into a classic children’s book!
 Suggested Reading level: Ages 4-8

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