The best folktales for children ages 4-8

Annemarie Riley Guertin Author Of Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves
By Annemarie Riley Guertin

The Books I Picked & Why

Abiyoyo

By Pete Seeger, Michael Hays

Book cover of Abiyoyo

Why this book?

This book has been a class favorite for many years. I always use this book when opening our folktale unit of study. The children are enamored by the storyline and by the musical component embedded in the text. They love to sing the song that accompanies the story. 


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The Empty Pot

By Demi

Book cover of The Empty Pot

Why this book?

Oh, this book is one of my all-time favorites. This amazing folktale has such a powerful message about telling the truth and being true to who you are. I cannot say enough good things about this text. I have read this story every single year and it is one that my students have asked that I re-read-which doesn’t happen all that often. The storyline, the art, and the message make this folktale one of the best out there.


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How Chipmunk Got His Stripes

By James Bruchac, Joseph Bruchac, Jose Aruego

Book cover of How Chipmunk Got His Stripes

Why this book?

I love this Native American folktale because it is a lesser-known one, and its message is appropriate for young children. Chipmunk, the main character, learns a great lesson about bragging. Folktales are an excellent resource for teaching children lessons without being preachy. This one has messages about kindness, bragging, and friendship. The illustrations are amazing too!


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Strega Nona

By Tomie dePaola

Book cover of Strega Nona

Why this book?

This book is a classic. Strega Nona—"Grandma Witch"— leaves town for a few days leaving a curious Big Anthony alone to watch over her house and her magical pasta pot. Big Anthony decides to try one of Strega Nona’s spells to make pasta, but it has a disastrous outcome because he didn’t listen to instructions. Anthony learns the importance of listening carefully and following directions- a lesson that children of all ages could certainly relate to!


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Five Sisters

By Stephanie Campisi, Madalina Andronic

Book cover of Five Sisters

Why this book?

This is a stunning, beautifully illustrated Russian folktale. I love that folktales come from all over the world and that I can share these beautiful stories with my students. It introduces them to customs and cultures they may otherwise not get to experience. In this one, a great white oak gifts an old man a branch imbued with magic. The old man takes the branch and carves five matryoshka dolls, “each smaller than the last.” The wooden dolls come to life bringing the old man and his wife (who are childless) endless joy. Who doesn’t love a tale about love and happiness?


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