Folk Tales, Fables, and Fairy Tales: Books for Young Children

These books highlight folk tales, fables, and fairy tales from many cultures and countries. They also include culturally diverse reimaginings or retellings of classic stories and rhymes that young children just might recognize!

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For more titles, see the following booklists:

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'Ohana Means Family

Hawaiian family together
Illustrated by: Kenard Pak
Age Level: 3-6, 6-9
Language: Hawaiian

Join the family, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration with a poetic text in the style of The House That Jack Built.

Agua, Agua, Agua

By: Pat Mora
Illustrated by: Jose Ortega
Age Level: 3-6

Crow knows where to find water amid rocks and how to get it even though it's below the reach of his beak. The predictable patterns and repetition of words in this simple retelling of a fable invites participation. Bold illustrations use broad shapes and confident line in strong borders contained in a small format ideal for a new reader or to share on a lap.

Beautiful Blackbird

Age Level: 3-6

In a story of the Ila people of Zambia, the colorful birds of Africa ask Blackbird, whom they think is the most beautiful of birds, to decorate them with some of his "blackening brew." The story line is simple and the rhythmic chants of the flock frequently interspersed throughout the text add drama and a rapper's cadence to this award-winning book that is ready-made for participative storytelling.

Burro's Tortillas

Illustration of Burro making tortillas
Illustrated by: Sherry Rogers
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish

Product Description: In this humorous Southwestern retelling of "The Little Red Hen," Burro finds it difficult to get any help from his friends as he diligently works to turn corn into tortillas. In addition to its Southwestern flavor and clever puns, the delightful story imparts an accurate picture of the traditional way that tortillas are made. (Spanish version available through Kindle.)

Doña Flor

woman hugging the wind
By: Pat Mora
Illustrated by: Raúl Colón
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish vocabulary featured

Dona Flor has gigantic proportions and unusual skills such as understanding the language of plants. Eventually, her talents are appreciated by the villagers in this attractively illustrated, richly told original tale. Winner of Pura Belpré Award for Illustration and the Pura Belpré Honor Award for narrative. Also available in Spanish.

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
Illustrated by: Grace Zong
Age Level: 6-9

It's Chinese New Year, and Goldy Luck’s mother wants her to take a plate of turnip cakes to the neighbors. The Chans aren’t home, but that doesn’t stop Goldy from trying out their rice porridge, their chairs, and their beds — with disastrous results. In this funny and festive retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Natasha Yim and Grace Zong introduce a plucky heroine who takes responsibility for her actions and makes a new friend (and a whole plate of turnip cakes!), just in time for Chinese New Year.

Grandma and the Great Gourd: A Bengali Folktale

Illustrated by: Susy Waters
Age Level: 3-6

An old woman left her small village to visit her daughter and granddaughter, telling three hungry predators to wait to eat her until she is plumped up on her way back. How the women outwit the bear, fox and tiger is satisfyingly told and handsomely illustrated in saturated color illustrations in this Indian folktale that the author recalls from her childhood.

Half-Chicken: A Folk Tale in English and Spanish

Illustration of a chicken
Illustrated by: Kim Howard
Age Level: 3-6
Language: Spanish (Bilingual Eng/Sp)

Do you know why a weather vane has a little rooster on the top, spinning around to tell us which way the wind is blowing? Here is the answer in this old story about Half-Chicken, who has one eye, one leg, and one wing. His adventures take him far and wide until he's carried straight to the top, in this lively retelling — in Spanish and English — of a traditional folktale.

How Chipmunk Got His Stripes

Illustrated by: Ariane Dewey
Age Level: 3-6

When Bear brags and Chipmunk teases, the results are an angry bear and a striped chipmunk. Animated language and colorful illustrations tell a porquoi story — a tale that explains — that's perfect for sharing aloud.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Age Level: 3-6

The traditional tale of a boy who planted magic beans is reimagined as a city story of a spell broken. Illustrations are photographs that have been manipulated for good effect.

La Princesa and the Pea

A princess on a pile of mattresses
Illustrated by: Juana Martinez-Neal
Age Level: 3-6, 6-9
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

The Princess and the Pea gets a fresh twist in this charming bilingual retelling, winner of the Pura Belpré Medal for Illustration. El príncipe knows this girl is the one for him, but, as usual, his mother doesn’t agree. The queen has a secret test in mind to see if this girl is really a princesa, but the prince might just have a sneaky plan, too. Readers will be enchanted by this Latino twist on the classic story, and captivated by the vibrant art inspired by the culture of Peru.

Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood
Age Level: 3-6

When the girl in the red cape goes to visit her grandmother who lives on the other side of the snow-filled forest, she is approached by a sly wolf who then precedes her to her destination. While the story is well known, this version is distinguished by opulent illustrations that depict a brown-skinned child.

Paco and the Giant Chile Plant

Illustrated by: Elizabeth O. Dulemba
Age Level: 3-6

Product description: The Southwestern desert is the setting for this humorous variation on the classic fairy tale "Jack and the Beanstalk." This bilingual book is presented as embedded text with the story told mostly in English and a sprinkling of Spanish throughout. The dusty desert feel is captured in deep pastel colored illustrations.

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred

Illustration of young woman running with bowl and wooden mixing spoon
Illustrated by: Rafael López
Age Level: 3-6
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

Start with a farm maiden and a pot, invite some friends to help her, and before you know it, you have arroz con leche — and a rollicking party! Told in the style of "The House That Jack Built," this lively story incorporates new Spanish words into each refrain, which are highlighted by Rafael López's vibrant and entertaining illustrations. Activity guide available.

The Clever Wife: A Kyrgyz Folktale

A man and his wife
Illustrated by: Ayesha Gamiet
Age Level: 6-9

The Clever Wife is based on a traditional folktale from Kyrgyzstan in central Asia. Beautifully retold by award-winning author Rukhsana Khan, it is the story of a spirited young heroine named Danyshman, whose wit and courage draw the attention and admiration of the ruling Khan Bolotbek. But will intrigue, betrayal, and exile threaten her relationship with the khan? Superbly illustrated by Ayesha Gamiet, a master in the art of Islamic manuscript illumination, this classic “thinking outside the box” story will inspire young readers far and wide.

The First Tortilla: A Bilingual Story

Illustrated by: Amy Córdova
Age Level: 3-6

Jade's village is running out of water. When a small blue hummingbird tells Jade that she most go to the Mountain Spirit to ask for rain, she is afraid to make the journey alone — but she knows that it may be her village's only hope. Based on an ancient Mexican legend, Rudolf Anaya has created a memorable story to introduce young readers to the importance of corn — and tortillas — as Mexican food staples.

The Lion & the Mouse

The Lion & the Mouse
Age Level: 3-6

The well-known fable about how the smallest creature — a mouse — saves the majestic lion is a tale of kindness returned. Here it is effectively recast as a wordless story in a new setting. Stunning illustrations are expressive and emotive, evoking Africa's Serengeti while retaining the tale's power.

The Park Our Town Built

A town park
Illustrated by: Tanja Bauerle
Age Level: 3-6
Language: English, Spanish vocabulary featured

In the style of "The House That Jack Built," Diane Gonzales Bertrand offers a lively picture book that tells the story of a community coming together to build a park for the town. The story highlights key vocabulary words in English and Spanish with matching pictures, making it an excellent read-aloud choice for young children learning comprehension and predicting skills in either language.

The Runaway Piggy

Illustrated by: Laura Lacamara
Age Level: 3-6

Product Description: In the classic tradition of "The Gingerbread Man," James Luna's piggy cookie leaps off the baking tray and takes the reader on a mad dash through the barrio. The cochinito fugitivo avoids being eaten by the long line of people chasing him through the neighborhood streets…until he meets a crafty little girl named Rosa! Children — and adults too — will delight in the clever piggy's escape from Martha's Panaderia in this entertaining re-telling of a familiar story set in a colorful Latino neighborhood.

The Seven Chinese Sisters

Illustrated by: Grace Lin
Age Level: 3-6

Sisters each use their special talent while working together to save the sister who was snatched by a not-too-scary dragon. Uncluttered illustrations add detail to the crisply told original tale likely inspired by a Chinese folktale.
Country of origin: China