Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 #nf10for10

Somehow I missed figuring out when the date was for February's Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 (#nf10for10) and did not realize it had come until my inbox overflowed with wonderful posts on Feb. 19th! So, alas, here is my belated addition.

Now in its third year, Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 is co-hosted by Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning, Julie Balen of Write at the Edge, and Cathy Mere of Reflect & Refine.  This year all activity is collected on the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.

Top 10 Nonfiction Folktales for Reading Aloud

Traditional tales fall under the Dewey realm of nonfiction. Since our third grade curriculum is based around world geography and world cultures, many of the books that I share aloud with students are folktales from different countries and cultures. This post brings together ten of my favorites, all of which are ideal for reading aloud to kids (and most of which are quite humorous). They are listed in geographical order, based on our units of study during the year.

African Folktales

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock (1988) by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Janet Stevens is probably my favorite of the Anansi the trickster stories from west Africa. Last year I turned it into a quick Reader's Theater-style play that my third graders ended up performing in front of the whole school, and it was riot. Here, Anansi discovers a strange moss-covered rock with the power to knock its viewer unconscious, and he uses it to trick a variety of animals. But little does Anansi know that he is being observed, and he ends up being tricked himself. Read about all the Anansi stories by Eric Kimmel in this post.

Talk, Talk: an Ashanti legend (1993) by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate come from the Ashanti people of west Africa. Everything was going along just fine for Jumaani the farmer until his much-ignored yams decide to tell him just what they think about it! From then on, all sorts of creatures and objects begin sharing their opinions, and poor Jumaani and rest don't know what to think. Kids love the humor of all the unexpected talking - including the surprise twist of the ending.

The Spider Weaver: a legend of Kente cloth (2001) by Margaret Musgrove and Julia Cairns. This picture book relates the legend of the discovery of kente cloth by two Ghanaian weavers. Students enjoy seeing how the weavers learn from the spider and how kente cloth has become what it is today.

Asian Folktales

Goha the Wise Fool (2005) by Denys Johnson-Davies and illustrated by Hag Hamdy and Hany. Goha is the Egyptian name for the "foolish" folk hero of the Middle East also known as Nasreddin and many other variations. These short, pithy tellings of the stories are wonderful and will keep your students cracking up. The amazing artwork was hand-sewn by a pair of Egyptian tentmakers. You can read more about Goha and other "foolish" wise men in this collection of tales.

Tales Told in Tents: stories from Central Asia (2004) retold by Sally Pomme Clayton and illustrated by Sophie Herxheimer. This collection of tales includes those from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Favorites of mine include The Secret of Felt and The Bag of Trickness, featuring the well-known Central Asian trickster Alder Kose.

The Empty Pot (2001) by Demi. This retelling of a Chinese folktale is also available in a multilingual printing that includes two versions of the Hmong language. Young Ping is overjoyed when the emperor puts forth a challenge - the child who can grow the most beautiful plant will become his heir. This story highlights the importance of honesty and good character, and kids will be surprised by the twist at the end!

Tasty Baby Belly Buttons (1999) retold by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Meilo So. This Japanese folktale features Uriko-hime, the melon princess, born from inside a watermelon. She is the only one fearless enough to take on the terrible Oni when they kidnap the children of the town in order to devour their tasty baby belly buttons. The whole premise of the story keeps kids engaged, as do her rather creative solutions.

European Folktales

Squash It! (1997) retold by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Robert Rayevsky. This absurdist tale comes from a collection of folktales from Spain and features ... a louse. Now, a louse is not normally a welcomed guest, but in this case, when a louse has bitten the King of Spain, he must be treated with respect, for he now has royal blood. The story only continues to ramp up from there, and kids will be delighted by the unexpected twists and circular ending of this humorous tale.

Latin American and Caribbean Folktales


Juan Bobo Goes to Work: a Puerto Rican folktale (2000) by Marison Montes and illustrated by Joe Cepeda (also available in Spanish, Juan Bobo Busca Trabajo. There really should be a bilingual version). This story introduces children to Juan Bobo or Simple John, an endearing character for whom nothing seems to ever go right. Children will be delighted by Juan's antics, as each day's problems escalate in silliness.


Love and Roast Chicken: a trickster tale from the Andes Mountains (2004) retold by Barbara Knutson (also available in Spanish as Amor Y Pollo Asado). Poor cuy (guinea pig) is such a small, defenseless creature, that he must rely on his wits when he is threatened by Tio Antonio, the fox. His clever solutions to difficult situations will keep kids laughing and impressed by his creativity.

Do you have a favorite folktale for reading aloud that I have missed? Please share in the comments below!

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