Friday, June 30, 2017

Folktales from Around the World: Africa

For our Co-op last semester, we were learning about the seven continents and the students are giving presentations of their own choosing. My 7yo son chose to perform a puppet show based on Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock by Eric A. Kimmel. We had SO much fun prepping for this - making puppets (yay, sewing!), and reading a slew of folktales from Africa - SO much fun that we decided to focus on folktales from each continent and explore story telling.

I've made a post for each continent except Antarctica (few people there) and Europe, because we ALL know great stories from Europe and there are a million wonderful picture books, as well as collections and research that's easy to find. (Look up the Aarne-Thompson Folktale Types to start down the rabbit hole!). We're talking the three little pigs, stone soup, and nearly every Disney movie, for better or worse.

Anyway. Here's Africa!

My absolutely favorite - Anansi and the Magic Stick by Eric A. Kimmel. Kimmel's books are favorite Anansi books, hands down. Funny with gorgeous illustrations and great text flow. See Anansi Goes FishingAnansi's Party Time, and Anansi and the talking melon by Kimmel, Eric A.

If you look into the history of Anansi, you'll find quite a bit of material because the stories followed African slaves to other parts of the world. I first heard Anansi tales voiced by Denzel Washington and I'm thrilled that you can still get these today on a CD.

Zomo The Rabbit: A Trickster Tale from West Africa by Gerald McDermott is another great picture book--not surprising since Gerald McDermott has retold other folktales from around the world with his lively illustrations. I recommend them all. This particular story invokes three impossible trials which is a common theme for folktales across cultures.

Next we stepped up our research with Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales. These tales come from all over Africa and have a higher reading level than Kimmel's picture books. Each tale is a few pages of text like the Grimm's fairytales I remember reading in upper elementary. The folktales are accompanied by great full-page illustrations and many include songs and poetry elements. You can also buy the audiobook for charity and find activities at

Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum by Ashley Bryan retells five traditional Nigerian tales in a style great for read-aloud, showing the beauty of oral tradition.

Plays from African Tales: One-Act, Royalty-Free Dramatizations for Young People, from Stories and Folktales of Africa by Barbara Winther. Great for actors who can memorize a few lines of script and understand the plot of longer folktales.

Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo. Did you know that the original Cinderella may have been a real woman who married Pharo Amasis II? Egypt spans the continents of Africa and Asia. I've placed this story here because supposedly Aesop was a friend of Rhodopis (Cinderella) and he was originally from Africa. So, it's a good opportunity to talk about cultures influences one another.

Stay tuned for Oceania/Australia! Join my Reader's Club to keep up with posts like these and other content.