It's no surprise that we found so many great books on North America and some on NC specifically--that's where we're from! Our library was stocked, and local authors were able to help us identify what to look for. Have you ever heard of the Jack Tales? Now you have!
Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott
Coyote: A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest by Gerald McDermott
Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale by Gerald McDermott
Pig-Boy: A Trickster Tale from Hawai'i by Gerald McDermott
The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote: A Zapotec Tale by Tony Johnston. A coyote and rabbit face off; the coyote wants to eat the rabbit, but the rabbit makes it to the moon instead.
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush told by Tomie de Paola. There are several in this series; The Legend of the Bluebonnet, and The Legend of the Poinsettia.
The story of Jumping Mouse: a native American legend by John Steptoe, tells the legend of a mouse who wishes to travel far to a new land. Along the way a magic frog gives him jumping legs, and the mouse in turn gives up bits of his magic to help others, until the frog returns and turns him into an eagle as a reward. This folktale is from the plains area. The book's lengthier text makes a great read for upper elementary.
Plays from Hispanic tales: one-act, royalty-free dramatizations for young people, from Hispanic stories and folktales by Barabara Winther. Each play has a forward explaining where the tale comes from and their variation. Great for actors who can memorize a few lines of script and understand the plot of longer folktales.
A Spoon for Every Bite by Joe Hayes ; illustrated by Rebecca Leer. A folktale of roughly Mexican origin in which a poor couple tells a rich man about a man so rich he uses a different spoon for every bite. After the rich man has spent his fortune on spoons, he learns that the 'spoon' in this case is a tortilla.
Little Gold Star: a Cinderella cuento = Estrellita de oro by Joe Hayes. This variation of Cinderella also shares aspects of the European fairytale "Diamonds and Toads" where the good sister gets rewarded (with a star on her forehead) and the bad sisters try to copy her but get punished (with ugly things on their foreheads).
Juan Bobo: Four Folktales from Puerto Rico, retold by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand. An I Can Read book featuring the mishaps of silly Juan Bobo.
Rabbit's snow dance : a traditional Iroquois story as told by James & Joseph Bruchac ; illustrated by Jeff Newman. A cute illustrated story where rabbit makes it snow and loses his long tail.
The Pleiades and the Pine Tree: A Cherokee Myth. A concise, online version of the Cherokee Myth original published in The Three Princes of Persia collection. We find this one fascinating because many cultures have myths surrounding the Pleiades constellation. The website has several other Cherokee myths you can find on the right sidebar.
Cut from the same cloth : American women of myth, legend, and tall tale collected and told by Robert D. San Souci ; illustrated by Brian Pinkney ; introduction by Jane Yolen.
Yonder Mountain : a Cherokee legend / as told by Robert H. Bushyhead ; written by Kay Thorpe Bannon ; foreword by Joseph Bruchac ; illustrated by Kristina Rodanas. Great illustrations and a gentle, important message. Three young men climb a mountain and bring back what they find. All do well, but its the one who gets to the top and sees another tribe's cry for help that is crowned as the next chief. Look for it in your library.
Itse selu : Cherokee harvest festival / by Daniel Pennington ; illustrated by Don Stewart. Pennington shows the Cherokee Harvest Festival as a slice-of-life story, including a page-length fable about a tricky rabbit and grumpy wildcat, similar to Brer Rabbit. Also shows several Cherokee words and how to pronounce them, as well as illustrations of traditional crafts, etc.
The first strawberries : a Cherokee story / retold by Joseph Bruchac ; pictures by Anna Vojtech. The legend of the first strawberries is a sweet one, told here with great illustrations.
The story of the Milky Way : a Cherokee tale / by Joseph Bruchac and Gayle Ross ; paintings by Virginia A. Stroud.
Native American Stories, told by Joseph Bruchac.
The Origin of the Milky Way and other living stories of the Cherokee by Barbara R. Duncan.
Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story by Geri Keams
Myths, legends, and folktales of America by David Leeming and Jake Page. This one's not a picture book, but an anthology for adults that I ran across in my search. I'm including it because it has an impressively thorough overview of legends, from native American, to African-American, to Anglo-american (like Uncle Sam), and Mexican-American. Provides a good jumping-off point to research these legends.
The talking eggs : a folktale from the American South, retold by Robert D. San Souci ; pictures by Jerry Pinkney. This tale follows the classic pattern of "Diamonds and Toads," where a good person is rewarded and then a bad person attempts to get the reward but fails. Aarne-Thompson Folktale Type 480: The Kind and the Unkind Girls. These basic structures and themes appear throughout Indo-European tales, which were carried over to the Americas, and also in other cultures where they developed independently from Europe. More types listed here.
How animals saved the people : animal tales from the South, retold by J.J. Reneaux ; illustrated by James Ransome. A well-written and illustrated collection of tales with a good mix of indigenous, African-American (a Br'er Rabbit tale!), and other tales that may be lesser known and not found in other children's books. This book includes an Appalachian tale (see the Jack Tales below), though it is not my favorite because it repeatedly talks about the antagonist being a rich guy. Two other tales have illustrations of nude people, FYI, but the illustration are not too detailed, and I still found the stories appropriate for my young children. Includes two ghost stories and a story about having faith in God (in which a character dies).
Stockings of buttermilk : American folktales / edited by Neil Philip ; illustrated by Jacqueline Mair. An entertaining mix of tales.
The tale of Tricky Fox : a New England trickster tale / retold by Jim Aylesworth ; illustrated by Barbara McClintock. This has a modern twist on it where a teacher outwits the fox at the end, which makes it great for a classroom. The fox character is a classic trickster character tracing back to European origins (see Reynard the fox, but maybe don't show the kids). The original version of this tale can be found in What They Say in New England and other American Folklore. Nickel Creek does a great version of The Fox folk song, which dates back to a poem from the 15th century and is appropriate for children.
Kumak's fish : a tall tale from the far north by Michael Bania. This adorable, funny tale isn't a traditional folktale, but I included it because of the great illustrations showing Inupiat (Eskimo) people and their life, from an author who's been there. There's another one: Kumak's House by Michael Bania.
The Runaway Tortilla by Eric A. Kimmel ; illustrated by Randy Cecil. A modern re-telling of the gingerbread man set in the desert of Southwestern USA. The book features quite a bit of Spanish, actual desert animals from that region, and the classic ending where the gingerbread man is eaten by a wolf--or in this case, a tortilla eaten by a coyote.
The 'Jack Tales' come from the Appalachian Mountains, evolved from the European Jack and the Bean Stalk. You'll see the similarities, but many also have a distinctly NC flavor to them:
Fearless Jack, adapted and illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson and Jack Outwits the Giants, adapted and illustrated by Paul Brett Johnson. These were our favorite Jack Tales picture books. They are longer than the Gerald McDermott books and Eric A. Kimmel's Anansi books, so they are great for upper elementary while still sporting big illustrations. Another thing I like about these versions is that some versions emphasize Jack being stupid or slow, but not this one. Paul Brett Johnson really captures the dialect and the hilariously over-the-top story-telling methods of these mountain tales. Read Fearless Jack first, then Jack Outwits the Giants for an extra giggle. In Fearless Jack, Jack keeps accidentally besting the strange beasts plaguing a local town. In Jack Outwits the Giants, the Giants want to eat Jack, so Jack tricks them into believing that he could beat them in a fight. Also check out Bearhide and Crow, another Appalachian tale by Paul Brett Johnson, where Sam and Amos outwit each other into unfair barter trades.
Jack the giant chaser : an Appalachian tale / by Kenn and Joanne Compton ; illustrated by Kenn Compton.
The Jack Tales : Folk Tales from the Southern Appalachians Collected and Retold by Richard Chase collects 18 tales in 180+ pages, with a glossary in the back in case you don't know what a piggin is. These are the authentic versions of the tales in the picture books listed above, along with others: proceed with caution, as there are plenty of chopped off heads, and even a witch hunt. Many tales have obvious parallels to European folktales, with Jack as the main character.
The tale of Willie Monroe / retold by Alan Schroeder ; illustrated by Andrew Glass. Like Jack plus Paul Bunyan. Willie Monroe thinks he's the strongest man around until he meets a ridiculously strong girl and her granny, who then agree to train him up to win a local contest.
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