World and American Folk Tales
in the best children's books



Retellings of both world and American folk tales can be found in many excellent children's books on the market today. In fact, children's books based on folk narratives from other cultures have grown in popularity over recent years, likely a result of our increasingly globalized world. 

Below are some of the best children's books of the genre.

We have a lot more world and American folk tales to add to this list. Check back this summer, and, if you know of good world or American folk tales, let us know!

Note
: The interest age of the world and American folk tales listed below increases as you move down the page.

We also have lists of the best books in other genres.
For the book lists for other genres or other language arts topics (phonics, parts of speech, etc), click here.



The Hungry Coat : A Tale from Turkey
The Hungry Coat
A Tale from Turkey

Summary:
A Turkish folk tale about judging by appearances. When well-liked Nasrettin is ignored at a party, he realizes it's due to his old coat. He returns wearing a new coat and is well received. He then feeds the party food to his coat, and when questioned why, says that it was obvious that it was the coat that was invited to the party, not him.


Rdg Levels:   Interest--K-Gr.4      Difficulty--age 4-8
The Legend of the Bluebonnet
The Legend of the Bluebonnet
An Old Tale of Texas

Summary: 
A popular Comanche legend that tells the story of how the state flower of Texas--the bluebonnet--came into existence due to the bravery of a young Indian girl who ended the suffering of her people by sacrificing her most valued possession. (Pair this with dePaola's Legend of the Indian Paintbrush).

Reading Levels:
Interest Level-- K-Gr.2     Difficulty Level--age 4-8

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA & Lexile, etc
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
by Tomie dePaola

Summary:
Little Gopher is small for his age but he does have a special talent: he's an artist. One night in a dream, he is told where to find brushes filled with vibrant colors. The next day he locates them and paints beautifully colored flowers called 'Indian Paintbrush'. (This tale of how a flower came to be is great when paired with dePaola's Legend of the Bluebonnet).

Reading Levels:
Interest Level--K-Gr. 2     Difficulty Level--age 4-8

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA & Lexile, etc

The Legend of the Poinsettia
The Legend of the Poinsettia
by Tomie dePaola

Summary:
In the tradition of dePaola's books Native American folk tales, this book shares the Mexican tale of how the poinsettia came into existence. Lucinda wanted to give a special gift to baby Jesus at Christmas- time, but she was poor and had nothing to give save a bundle of weeds, which, through her faith and prayers, miraculously turn into beautiful poinsettias.


Reading Levels:
Interest Level-- K-Gr.2     Difficulty Level--age 4-8

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA & Lexile, etc




Folklore & Folk Tales

Folklore is an umbrella term for the music, oral history, beliefs, jokes, legends and customs that together form the unique traditions of a culture.

This means the genre of world and American folk tales can be a bit confusing, since folk narratives can include fairy tales, ghost stories, myths and legends, tall tales, even urban legends. Even though these types of narratives are clearly part of other genres, if they are derived from the traditions and stories of a particular culture, they can also be considered in the genre of folk tales/narratives.



The Paper Crane by Molly Bang
The Paper Crane
by Molly Bang

Summary:
A thriving restaurant is losing business when a new highway passes them by. But then, a customer gives the restaurant a magical paper crane that comes alive and dances, bringing new customers and prosperity. Illustrated with striking 3D collages. "A delight to the eye and imagination." (Horn Book)

Reading Levels:
Interest Level-- K-Gr.2     Difficulty Level--age 4-8
Three Kings
The King and the Three Thieves
by Kristen Balouch

Summary: A Persian tale of a king who disguises himself and slips out of his palace, only to meet 3 men planning to rob him. "Action- packed pictures and graceful telling" make it a great read aloud. (SLJ)

Rdg Levels:  Interest--K-Gr.2   Difficulty--age 4-8

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA & Lexile, etc
One Grain of Rice by Demi
One Grain of Rice:
A Mathematical Folktale

Summary:
An Indian folktale about clever young girl who out- smarts the greedy king (raja) through her knowledge of the power of doubling. When Rani does a good deed, the raja offers to reward her, but all she asks for is one grain of rice, doubled each day for 30 days. The raja is happy to comply, not realizing it will amount to enough rice to feed her entire village!

Rdg Levels:  Interest--Gr. 1+      Difficulty--age 4-8

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA & Lexile, etc






Stories to Solve by George Shannon
Stories to Solve:
Folktales from Around the World

Summary:
A collection of 14 short folktales from around the world, each a page or two in length and accompanied by black-and-white speckled drawings that provide humor and clues.  Each folktale presents a mystery with clues embedded in the tale. Scientific American called this book "an effective introduction to folklore" and a rich source of "good brain teasers for work with the gifted."

Reading Levels:
Interest Level-- Gr. 4-6     Difficulty--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA & Lexile, etc
More Stories to Solve by George Shannon
More Stories to Solve:
Legendary mysteries come to life!

Summary: 
Another collection of 15 folklore riddles, each from a different culture, most relying on logic and trickery (ie: an Irish man tricks the devil into letting his father live "as long as a candle stub lasts", then blows the candle out, stopping it from getting smaller.) School Library Journal called the collection "a satisfying gathering of brain teasers...especially useful for teachers introducing...world folklore."


Reading Levels:
Interest Level--Gr. 2-5     Difficulty--age 9-12

Coming Next: lesson ideas, DRA & Lexile, etc







Do you know of other world or American folk tales that we should add to our list?  If so, please let us know by completing the Suggest a Book form, located in the top right hand column. Thank you!

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