Do your kids know about folktales? These are stories from a culture’s oral traditions meant to share values and / or explain something in the natural world or about human nature, often are about ordinary people, and can including talking animals like fables. Sometimes folktales contain a wise life lesson at the end just like a fable does.
When researching about folktales, it is clear that there is quite a bit of overlap with myths, fables, and legends. One website I read said, “Folktales include myths, legends, fables, animal tales and fairy tales.” Which makes it a bit confusing when trying to distinguish the difference between these different stories. Plus, tall tales are considered folk tales.
For now, we’ll just say that folktales are stories meant to teach something that are traditionally passed down from generation to generation.
(More or less.)
However, the point of this post is not to define folktales so much as but to share with you new folktales picture books for kids that recently impressed me. I think you’ll really like these titles.
Folktales for Kids
Helga’s Dowry: A Troll Love Story by Tomie dePaola
A hardworking, clever troll named Helga earns her own dowery so that Lars will finally marry her, not Inge. But once she’s amassed a dowery, she realizes that Lars doesn’t love her, he just wants her money. But there is someone who loves Helga and doesn’t need money — the king! Tomie dePaola does it again!
Martina: The Beautiful Cockroach / Martina, la hermosa cucaracha by Berta de Llano, illustrated by Jaime Rivera Contreras
Doña Julia wanted to help Martina find a suitable groom. So she devised a tricky test for prospective suitors. Anyone who would drink the disgusting tembleque with added salt would show that they really liked being with Martina. Eventually, she meets Perez, a kind mouse, who passes the test and they get married in a big ceremony. Adorable!
The Crane Girl adapted by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Lin Wang (JAPAN)
The Cat from Hunger Mountain by Ed Young (ASIA, maybe CHINA)
Yokki and the Parno Gry by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby, illustrated by Marieke Nelissen (ROMANI)
The Romani, or Traveling Folk, carry with them many rich traditions, of of which is this traditional story about a boy who told stories about a Parno Gry, a flying white horse, to lift the spirits of his family during a hard time. In the stories, the Parno Gry takes them to bustling markets where they sold their wares again. But these are just stories and the people are loosing hope in the face of hunger and lack of jobs. Then one day, the Parno Gry arrives to fly the Romani to a new location with more food and hopeful possibilities.
Elephant in the Dark based on a poem by Rumi, retold by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (INDIA)
Never Trust a Tiger (Animal Stories) A Story From Korea retold by Lari Don, illustrated by Melanie Williamson (KOREA)
A man saves a tiger from a pit only to have the tiger want to EAT him. But, that’s not right says the man. A good deed should be followed by another good deed. Of course, the tiger doesn’t care about the man’s moralizing. So the man insists they ask someone else to judge. After asking an ox, a tree, and a hare, you’ll love the surprise ending that the hare sets into motion. Superb! While this is set up as an early chapter book, it’s also great for reading aloud, too. Discover more Animal Stories from Barefoot Books.
The Gigantic Turnip by Aleksei Tolstoy, Niamh Sharkey, and Imelda Staunton (RUSSIA)
The illustrations are so amazing, they’re the perfect tone for this delightful folktale. An old man and an old woman plant many vegetables one year. The vegetables grow and get harvested, all except for the turnip because it’s so gigantic. Since the couple can’t pull it out themselves, they ask one farm animal after another to help, making a long chain of pullers. Finally, they ask the last, smallest creature to help — a mouse. And what do you think happens? It comes out! And everyone has turnip stew for dinner. Just goes to show us that even the littlest can help. Find more Barefoot Books about world cultures.