Our family owns many picture books but there are some all our eight kids wanted to read over and over again. Strangely all of us, including Mama, agree on which are our favorites. Honestly, I never got tired of reading these to my kids. There must be some magic about them. To my surprise, I just now notice that the books are from five very different cultures. It just so happened. I was not trying for ‘diversity’ which is my pet peeve. We just seem to love legends and folk tales.
The Khan’s Daughter by Lawrence Yep, illustrated by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng
This is a extraordinary combination of masterful storytelling and illustration creating magic in one book. In an exotic Mongolian world a universal human tale takes place. Cocky shepherd Mongke finds favor in the eyes of the princess. She cleverly tricks her parents into accepting him as a son- in-law while teaching her husband-to-be a lesson in humility. We fell in love with the adventure and the humor of the story and with the gorgeous art. We especially enjoyed the horse head cello and the beautiful Mongolian wedding clothes.
Margaret Hodges: St. George and the Dragon, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Margaret Hodges has a rare gift of retelling ancient stories for children. In this book, she is adapting an excerpt from Spencer’s Faerie Queene in beautiful, poetic prose. At the end of the story, she even quotes a couple of verses from Spenser directly. This is fascinating stuff. You may want to discuss the Christian imagery with older kids. Kids love Schart Hyman’s illustrations. They are framed by margins which display scenes from the story or are inhabited by small plants and creatures complementing the setting. The pages resemble an illuminated manuscript from the Middle Ages. There is so much to discover.
Tam Lin by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Charles Mikolaycack
This is a retelling of an old Scottish ballad. We love Celtic folklore, we love scary stories with a happy ending and we love Jane Yole's writing. Along with Mikolaycack’ s dramatic illustrations, this was bound to be a favorite.
The Man Who Caught Fish written and illustrated by Walter Lyon Krudop
This is a cautionary tale from Thai folklore illustrated with beautiful water colors by the author. A man with a fishing pole arrives at a village. He catches one fish for each person. When the greedy king hears about him, he asks for many fish. The surprising end teaches what consequence may result from unbridled greed.
Rikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel illustrated by Blair Lent
Another folktale, this time from China, teaches parents not to favor one of their children. Rikki Tikki Tembo-No Sa Rembo-Chari Bari Ruchi-Pip Peri Pembo is the older of two brothers and his parents favorite, while his younger brother is simply called Chang. We loved reading the remarkable story about how his long name almost cost the older brother his life. We also loved trying to pronounce his complicated name as fast as possible. Mama got pretty good at it!
We hope you enjoy our favorite picture books. How about sharing your own here?