Category Archives: Folk Tales

The Village that Vanished


The Village that Vanished

by Ann Grifalconi,
illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2002

This original story reads like an African folk tale and stirs the imagination of how it could be true.

During the time when slavers stole families from African villages, young Abikanile watched her mother pray for magic to protect their village. When they were warned that slavers were coming, Abikanile’s mother decides they must disappear and leave the village behind. In fear they discuss, burning the village, but Aabikanile’s mother says they must dismantle their straw hutches and scatter the materials in the woods. They do so, and disappear to hide in the forest.  Unable to find anyone, the slavers leave, sure someone had been there.  And that is how the village of Yao vanished and all survived.

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The Storyteller

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The Storyteller

by Evan Turk
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016

Ancient storytellers draw in readers one scene, one suspense at a time; so enthralled are the listeners, that they barely notice they are under the storyteller’s spell.

The Storyteller does what a good storyteller does, wraps one story inside another, inside another and always leaves you wanting for more—the true magic of a storyteller.

This story is about a boy who lives in the Moroccan deserts and finds himself on the doorway of death, when he meets an ancient, long forgotten storyteller.  The storyteller charms the boy with stories of a glorious blue bird and rich, blue miraculous yarns.  That night the sandstorm announces he will return at sundown take over the kingdom.  Inspired, the boy offers to tell him a story, and he repeats the storyteller’s story, stretching the story out two nights.  In that time, the boy gathers water sellers and through his own ingenuity, finds a way to save the city.

In an oversized format dressed in Moroccan colors and arts, readers will eagerly be swept off to another land in the magic of the storyteller.

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Interstellar Cinderella

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Interstellar Cinderella

by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Meg Hunt
Chronicle Books, 2015

Versions of the Cinderella story come from many countries around the world, and now one version comes from space!  In this version, Cinderella brings her confident, independent self with her!  It’s fun to compare our traditional American version with this modern Interstellar version.

Written in rhyme, it’s fun to turn each page to see what Interstellar space looks like and what Cinderella does next.  Instead of meeting her prince charming at a ball, Cinderella fixes the Prince’s spaceship!  Instead of seeking his love using a glass slipper, the prince uses a sonic socket wrench.  When he asks, “Be my bride,” Cinderella makes a counter-offer!

Children who especially love tools, will love this story.  The end papers feature old and space-age tools to examine.  This updated version truly fits the attitudes most girls have today:  independence and a huge amount of confidence.  A joy to read!

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Whispers of the Wolf

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Whispers of the Wolf

by Pauline Ts’o
Wisdom Tales, 2015

Whispers of the Wolf quietly, deeply engulfs the reader into the story.  Supported with wind-swept pastel illustrations the reader virtually experiences the boy’s emotions of finding, raising, protecting and, eventually releasing, a wolf.

Two Birds is a quiet Pueblo boy, always last when running with the other boys, so he doesn’t run.  When he hears whimpers one day, he discovers an abandoned wolf pup destined to die.  Determined, he cares for the pup and it finds its strength.  When the other boys discover the pup, they want to hold it, but Two Birds cries out no, it is too fragile.  As the pup grows, Two Birds becomes adept at hunting rabbits to feed the animal.  When it Is finally big enough, Two Birds takes the wolf hunting with him.  The other boys are eventually allowed to hold the pup and Two Birds shares stories he heard from the wolf.  The boys listen to his stories and learn other ways to hunt rabbits.  Then the day comes that the wolf wants to follow the other wolves and Two Birds must decide between keeping the wolf or setting him free.

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My Grandfather’s Coat (A Contemporary “Recycling” Story!)

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My Grandfather’s Coat
By Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Scholastic Press, 2014
Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner

Expecting the traditional tale of My Grandfather’s Coat, where grandfather’s coat is transformed into a jacket, a vest and a tie, I was surprised and delighted at the story’s new, fresh ending!  And illustrator Barbara McClintock did a beautiful job of breaking the story into spreads with large drawings and scattered small drawings, highlighting Jim Aylesworth’s rhymes and repetition.  Plenty to delight a young listener into this multi-generational story that emphasizing families and thriftiness.

While the story has always focused on being frugal, in today’s world of recycling cans, food, and cloth, the story underscores the message that we use our resources until there is nothing to send to the landfill!  A wonderful message!

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The Thunder Egg

thunderEggThe Thunder Egg
by Tim J. Myers, illustrated by Winfield Coleman
Wisdom Tales, 2015

A tale of “the girl who cared for the Thunderbird’s child—and saved her people.”

A young Cheyenne girl, sensitive to her environment, finds a Thunder Egg.  She is led to care for the egg, even when other children ridicule her.  Her grandma comforts her, saying “Someday you’ll find your power, and with it the good you can do in the world.” In the middle of a drought, each tribe member is asked to make sacrifices.  The girl chooses to sacrifice her egg, her most valuable possession.  She leaves it near a tree where lightning has struck before.  Lightning strikes it, breaking it open.  In thanks for her caring for the Thunder Egg, the Thunderbird brings rain to the land.

A touching story of a sensitive girl’s resolve.

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Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth

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Good Fortune in a Wrapping Cloth
by Joan Schoettler, illustrated by Jessica Lanan
Shen’s Books, 2011

Ji-su’s mother is chosen to work as a seamstress at the Korean King’s palace and moves away.  Ji-su loves her mother and vows to join her by matching her sewing skills.  Her grandmother continues Ji-su’s training.  So determined to be with her mother, Ji-su is sewing when her friends are playing.  When her work is good, she sends an example to her mother, but her mother never receives it.  Find out where the example is sent and how it results in a visit from the palace.

A story of love and a story of working hard for your goals.  Beautifully rendered illustrations wrap the two into a warm, engaging book.  Lovely.

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Gon, The Little Fox

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Gon, The Little Fox
by Nankichi Niimi, illustrated by Genjirou Mita
Museyon, Inc., 2015
Originally published in Japan, 1969

A beloved story of Japan, Gon, The Little Fox, is a beautifully illustrated book with a definite Japanese touch.

One day the mischief-loving Gon steals a fish basket from Hyoju, a fisherman, and throws the fish back into the stream.  He is spotted by Hyoju as he holds the squirming eel.  Later Gon learns the eel was meant for Hyoju’s dying mother.  Out of character, Gon feels remorse for his actions and thinks, “Now, Hyoju is all alone just like me.”  To befriend the villager, he steals sardines from another and secretly leaves them for Hyoju.  This leads to more trouble for Hyoju.  Hyoju learns too late that it was Gon’s awkward attempt at friendship.

Unlike traditional American stories written with happy endings, this endearing tale is written with a bittersweet one.  The tale provides parents an opportunity to discuss with their child issues of sadness and loss, among others.  Likely better for the 6-8 year old reader.

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Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll: The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village


Yuko-Chan and the Daruma Doll
The Adventures of a Blind Japanese Girl Who Saves Her Village
by Sunny Seki
Tuttle Publishing, 2012

There’s magic in this story. While simply told, there’s something in it that stirs the heart and imagination.

Sunny Seki, originally from Japan, and an artist and story teller, gently tells the story of Yuko-Chan, a blind young girl. While many villagers feel sorry for her, she does not. She teases the village leaders who stop reciting scriptures when lights are blown out. ““Wow! You’re handicapped aren’t you,” she joked,” after she had continued reciting the scriptures, because she had memorized them.

As a female and someone with a disability, she was not allowed in school, but when the boys were left alone and made ‘noise’, she redirected them into producing harmony. Yuko-Chan heads out in a snow storm to deliver food and tumbles. She discovers the gourd, shaped like Daruma-san (Father of Zen Buddhism) up-righted itself. She came up with the idea that the villagers could make dolls that always stood upright and sell them to help them through a recent disaster where a volcano had ruined their crops. The dolls sold, and today people come from around the world to purchase them. The village’s success following the disaster started from a single idea from a blind girl.

The book includes text in both English and Japanese.

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The Lion and the Mouse

The Lion and the Mouse

By Jerry Pinkney
Little Brown and Company, 2009
Caldecott Medal Winner

Award-winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney tells us the story of the lion and the mouse through his loose drawings done with pencil, watercolor, and colored pencils on paper.  The masterful lion’s head fills the front cover, yet he is watching something.  We turn over the book and find a mouse watching him.  We already know we are in for a treat.

We open with the mouse, running for her life from her predators.  She unknowingly happens upon the lion, who idly picks her up by her tail.  They seem to have a discussion, and then the mouse is let go.  The mouse scampers home to her babies and the lion struts around to be noticed.  We then see men arrive with a large net.  The net captures the lion, hoisting him up into the trees.  The beast roars, fighting to get out.  The mouse hears the call and knows the lion is in trouble.  She runs to see if she can help.  She decides she can gnaw through the rope.  We can see the humiliation and gratitude on the beast’s face of being saved by a tiny mouse.  The mouse works away, until at last the lion falls to the ground.  The lion thanks the mouse, and she runs off with a rope knot, evidence of her encounter.  Her children play with the knot as a toy, while the mother looks on, knowing they have no idea what she just experienced.

Jerry captures every emotion of the mouse and lion, telling the story on many levels.  Each picture requires a study to soak in the messages shared.  This wordless book invites you to study each expression, each landscape to take in Jerry’s rich story.

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