9 fantastic folklore books to enjoy with your children

Published on: 16 June 2021

Author Vita Murrow's new book Once Upon Our Planet weaves together established mythology with original storytelling for some wonderfully wild bedtime stories.

Here, Vita celebrates the folklore tradition and recommends more brilliant books to enjoy with your children...

The front cover of Once Upon Our Planet

Folklore is the cultural witness, and archive, of community. It can convey beliefs, customs, and stories, and is passed through generations by retelling, resharing and reimagining. Folklore and myth often root us in a particular place, and connect us to one another, even when we are far apart.

It is this storytelling tradition, honouring place and people, that underpins my newest book Once Upon Our Planet. I hope it will join the vast and exciting collection of folklore nurtured, in part, by the authors and stories assembled in this list.

1. A Year Full of Stories by Angela McAllister, illustrated by Christopher Corr

Take a turn around the sun with this monthly pathway of festivals, customs, season and stories. Angela McAllister presents readers aged 6-9 with a comprehensive and inclusive collection of global folklore and legends that offer windows in, mirrors of affirmation, and doors that welcome the reader to experiences, cultures and places held dear.

2. Dark Tales from the Woods by Daniel Morden, illustrated by Brett Breckon

The front cover of Dark Tales from the Woods

Lauded Welsh storyteller Daniel Morden knows his reader and listener well. In this collection of seven magical and mysterious tales, readers aged 9-11 will be rapt with drama, character, and a lasting sense of place. This book is truly the stuff of dreams.

3. Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folk Tale by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters

You've got to love a story about a smart and intrepid granny! I love the wisdom, humour, quick wit and colorful atmosphere in this great addition to stories of perilous journey. It's perfect for storytime with readers aged 5- 8, but the bright, evocative art can transport even the youngest eyes to the fun that is India or inspire a fond nostalgia in older readers.

4. Hildafolk series by Luke Pearson

If this series has escaped you, have no fear - it's never too late to get on board. Or maybe you know a youngster aged 8-12, just now ready for this epic series.

Luke Pearson's Hilda is one of this generation's greatest contributions to the genre, and stars a plucky and relatable heroine who is sure to spark joy in any kid eager to run free, make mistakes, form friendships, and take on incredible mythical creatures. Read 'em all and then relive the fun in Netflix's phenomenal adaptation.

5. Myth Match: A Fantastical Flipbook of Extraordinary Beasts by Good Wives and Warriors

A dragon on the front cover of Myth Match

An illustrated feast for the eyes from two master storytellers and artists, who are dedicated to bringing to life the magical and the mythical. One part reference book, one part surrealist activity, this wonderful flip book will enchant readers of all ages, particularly those aged 8-12.

6. Tales Our Abuelitas Told: A Hispanic Folktale Collection by Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy and Felipe Davalos, illustrated by Susan Guevara, Leyla Torres and Vivi Escriva

The power of oral storytelling meets the power of collaboration in this assembly of stories, research, personal memory and art, suitable for children aged 5-10. A team of Latinx authors and collaborating artists paint a picture of their far-reaching culture, with roots in indigenous, African, Spanish, Arab and Hebrew contexts. The authors celebrate universal storytelling alongside the unique voice of their people, places, and lore.

7. The Niuhi Shark Saga by Lehua Parker

Did somebody say 'trilogy'? When one book isn't enough, the story must go on - or even back to the beginning, prequel-style. In this saga set-in modern-day Hawaii, magical realism meets contemporary life when the boundaries between myth and reality aren't fixed.

These stories told from an indigenous perspective, by an own voices author, offer YA and Teen readers a chance to explore the folklore genre in ways that meet them in their own pursuit of autonomy, expression and self-discovery.

8. The Phoenix of Persia by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif

The front cover of The Phoenix of Persia

A team after my own heart, Sally Pomme Clayton and Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif offer a modern retelling of an ancient Persian tale. Readers may recognise themes and story elements from Snow White and other similar tales of fitting in, love lost, reunion and homecoming. There is even a QR code included to hear accompanying Iranian music. A great book for youngsters aged 5-7.

9. The Snake Goddess Colors the World: A Chinese Tale Told in English and Chinese by Jian Li

Imagine a world without colour. Fortunately, we don't have to thanks to the star of this story, Nuwa, the Snake Goddess. Follow her on her quest to collect the stones necessary to fix the sky above her, in order to ensure colour blankets the world we live in now. Li's expertise as an artist, educator and champion of children's tales fully shines through - this would be great for children aged 4-8 in a school library or on the shelf at home for bedtime.


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