Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Meet Juan Bobo!

During the course of the year, my students and I share a lot of folktales together. Juan Bobo is always one of their favorites. Juan Bobo, or Simple John, is a Puerto Rico folktale character and one that would be considered a "noodlehead." He often misunderstands directions or situations, resulting in hilarious mix-ups that keep kids engaged. But he has his moments of wisdom as well. (You can read about some other wise fools from Asia in this post.) Here are a few of my favorite stories featuring Juan Bobo.


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.


Juan Bobo and the Pig (1993) retold by Felix Pitre and illustrated by Christy Hale and Juan Bobo Sends the Pig to Mass as told by Ari Acevedo-Feliciano and illustrated by Tom Wrenn. In this story, based on one told to him by the author's grandfather, Juan Bobo is left alone to take care of the pig after his mother dresses up all fancy and leaves for church. Unclear what the pig wants, Juan Bobo eventually dresses the pig up like his mother and tries sending the pig to church!

Juan Bobo: four folktales from Puerto Rico (1994) retold by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand and illustrated by Ernesto Ramos Nieves. This collection of four stories includes a shorter retelling of Juan Bobo and the pig as well as several other quick tales. This one is geared towards younger readers and has larger font.

Juan Bobo and the Horse of Seven Colors: a Puerto Rican legend (1995). Retold by Ian Mike and illustrated by Charles Reasoner. This story takes the traditional trope of being granted wishes, and imagines what kind of wishes a fool might wish. Juan Bobo is granted seven wishes by the horse of seven colors, but he starts using them nearly immediately!

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday Challenge is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and is a weekly roundup of educator blogs that are sharing nonfiction picture books. Click the link to check out other nonfiction posts.


  1. I've only read two of these! Thanks for sharing so many great Jaun Bobo titles. I have only recently learned about him. He is a great example of noodle head tales.

    1. Thanks, Crystal. He really is, and those kinds of stories go over well with kids.

  2. This is really very interesting. We have a Juan Tamad story in the Philippines. Tamad means Lazy. What is even more curious is that "Bobo" is also a Tagalog word which means stupid. I wonder if this Puerto Rican folktale is rooted in a similar vein with the Philippines' Juan Tamad.

    1. That is a really cool connection! I don't know enough about whether there is a direct Philippines-Puerto Rico connection, but I am sure they are related somehow. Off to search for Juan Tamad books here ... !


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