The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Stories of Origin: Tales that Tell How and Why Things Came to Be - June 2014

Selected and annotated by Emily Bayci


Aardema, Verna, ad. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale; illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. Picture Puffin Books, 1992. 5-8 yrs.
In this West African folktale, Mosquito starts a rumor, which leads to a jungle disaster and the reason behind mosquitoes buzzing into ears. This comedic tale teaches a lesson about telling the truth.

Baden, Robert. And Sunday Makes Seven. Whitman, 1990. 5-8 yrs.
In this book peppered with Spanish vocabulary, twelve witches reward Carlos for finishing their song about the days of the week, but when Carlos' greedy cousin Ricardo sings for the witches, he receives a nasty surprise.

Blair, Walter. Tall Tale America: A Legendary History of Our Humorous Heroes. Coward-McCann, 1944. Gr. 1-3.
This humorous collection features some of the most colorful American legends. Blair reimagines American history, including the founding of America, the invention of the prairie dog, and even the enlistment of famous heroes of American folklore during World War II.

Bruchac, Joseph and James Bruchac. How Chipmunk Got His Stripes. Dial, 2001. Gr. K-2.
Chipmunk finds out the hard way why not to get into an argument with Bear and learns a lesson about teasing in a process with everlasting consequences in this tale the Bruchacs adapted from Cherokee, Abenaki, and Mohawk sources.

Courlander, Harold. People of the Short Blue Corn: Tales and Legends of the Hopi Indians; illus. by Enrico Arno. Harcourt Brace, 1970. Gr. 5-8.
This collection of stories includes creation stories and trickster stories, which explain the reasons behind many Hopi traditions. There are source notes for the stories and a pronunciation guide for traditional names.

Crespo, George. How the Sea Began: A Taino Myth. Clarion, 1993. 6-9 yrs.
A hurricane comes a sweeps up Yayael, a skilled hunter. His hunting tools are stored in a gourd, which provides fish for the village, but four young boys become too greedy and become part of a great creation story.

Duarte, Margarida Banderia. The Legend of the Palm Tree. Grosset & Dunlap; 1968. Gr. 4-6.
This picture book imported from Brazil tells an old folktale that describes how the palm tree saved a tribal people and became so abundant.

Duvall, Deborah L. How Rabbit Lost His Tail: A Traditional Cherokee Legend. University of New Mexico, 2003. 5-9 yrs.
Rabbit is jealous of Otter's fine coat, so he steals it to show off for the Council of the Animals. Bear becomes very angry when he figures out the deceit and grabs onto Rabbit's tail. This Cherokee tale works out in the end, however, because now no one can ever catch Rabbit.

Emberley, Barbara. The Story of Paul Bunyan. Prentice-Hall, 1967. Gr. 4-6.
There’s more than enough room in this book for giant lumberjack legend Paul Bunyan, his equally giant blue ox, Babe, and their improbable adventures. Two-toned woodcut illustrations fully capture the rustic, woodland charm of the timberlands and the sweet friendship between Paul and Babe.

Fregosi, Claudia. Snow Maiden. Prentice-Hall, 1979. 28p. Gr. 1-3.
This Russian rendering of the myth of Persephone depicts the mythology behind Spring, with the Queen in this version being the daughter of Frost and Wind who melts away when caught in the sun without her husband.

Goble, Paul. Storm Maker's Tipi; illus. by Paul Goble. Atheneum, 2001. 5-8 yrs.
Goble adapts a Blackfoot story about why tipis are shaped the way they are and how one man's tipi decorations change his people's lives in this informative and entertaining story.

Hamilton, Martha & Mitch Weiss. How and Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read & Tell. August House, 1999. Gr. 2-6.
These twenty-five tales explain various animal behaviors, like why hens scratch the dirt and why tigers have stripes. This is a great source for quick pourquoi stories to tell youngsters.

Knutson, Barbara, ad. How the Guinea Fowl Got Her Spots: A Swahili Tale of Friendship; ad. and illus. by Barbara Knutson. Carolrhoda, 1990. 3-5 yrs.
Guinea and Cow were friends who ate and watched for the lion together every day. When Guinea twice foils the lion's plans to eat Cow, the cow repays the bird with white speckles on her feathers to help her avoid the lion, too.

Lattimore, Deborah Nourse. Why There is No Arguing in Heaven: A Mayan Myth. Harper, 1989. Gr. 2-5.
This is a Maya creation story that describes how the four gods created man and argued the whole time. They learn to work together and, through appreciation of their creation, there is no more arguing in heaven.

Medicine Story. The Children of the Morning Light: Wampanoag Tales as told by Manitonquat (Medicine Story); illus. by Mary F. Arquette. Macmillian, 1994. Ages 6 and up.
This collection of Wampanoag tales includes simple stories and colorful illustrations. They cover the creation of the world and of the first people as well as stories of Maushop, the Creator's helper.

Reneaux, J.J. How Animals Saved the People: Animal Tales from the South; illus. by James Ransome. Morrow, 2001. Gr 3-6.
This collection of eight stories from the Deep South features a variety of tales about animals interacting with humans and one another. The combination of highly textured images and an engaging voice provide many selections for an animal storytime.

Ross, Gayle. How Turtle's Back Was Cracked: A Traditional Cherokee Tale; illus. by Murv Jacob. Dial, 1995. 4-8 yrs.
Long ago, Turtle’s back was smooth and shiny. Then trouble hit Turtle and his friend Possum, and Turtle’s lies lead to a cracked back.

Rylant, Cynthia. The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths, Retold; illus. by Carson Ellis. HMH Books, 2009. Gr. 5 and up.
In lyrical writing with black-and-white illustrations, Cynthia Rylant retells some of her favorite stories, which explain love, loss and nature.

Troughton, Joanna. How Stories Came into the World: a Folk Tale from West Africa. Bedrick/Blackie, 1990. 4-6 yrs.
Mouse collects stories and cares for them like children. Within this collection of stories within a story—from the Ekoi, Efik Ibibio, and Yoruba peoples—Mouse shares wisdom about the hare, the hippo, and lightning and thunder.

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