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26 World Folk and Fairy Tale Picture Books

My children and I have recently finished our 5-month-long Homeschool World Trip. This started as a small idea that soon grew into a semester-long adventure into books, music, and food from around the world.  My children absolutely loved our World Trip, so much, in fact, that next semester we will be doing a similar adventure in exploring the different regions and states of the United States. In the coming months, I will be sharing our favorite books, music, and recipes from our Homeschool World Trip.

Why Folk and Fairy Tales? 

In reading our way around the world, I decided to place a special focus on reading folk and fairy tales from the different cultures we visited on our World Trip. Folk and fairy tales are valuable because:

  • they offer a unique insight into the culture of any specific place,

  • they often include moral lessons which are so important for children to integrate into their consciousness, and

  • children find them to be very engaging. 

The following are our favorite folk and fairy tales from the 20 countries we "visited" on our World Trip. These books were a pleasure for me to read aloud to my children, and were especially enjoyed by both of my children (who are currently 6 and 9 years old).



The Paper Crane tells a story of wonder when an origami crane comes to life. This story illustrates kindness being repaid.


Baboushka and the Three Kings is a Russian Christmas folktale about a peasant woman who is visited by the three kings and then sets off on a search for the Christ child which ends in her giving gifts to children along the way.


The Emperor and the Kite tells the story of a small, nearly-forgotten princess who saves her father and the kingdom. This story is inspirational in its demonstration that even the smallest can do great deeds.

Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior is a compelling tale about a young girl who saves her family by secretly taking her father's place as a warrior. Mulan becomes a great general of much acclaim, before returning to her home and family. My 9-year-old daughter was especially enamored with this book.


Indian Tales is a collection of Indian folktales which highlights the regions of India.  It includes information about each of the Indian states, followed by folktales from each region that my children found to be very engaging.

Monkey: A Trickster Tale From India is a classic tale of a monkey outwitting a crocodile. My 6-year-old son especially enjoyed this book and wanted me to read it again and again.

Middle East


Lugalbanda: The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War is a beautifully-illustrated picture book that tells the oldest written story in the world (which was discovered on ancient Sumerian clay tablets only 150 years ago). My children were enthralled to hear this story of Lugalbanda's epic adventures.

Gilgamesh the King tells the beginning of the world-famous story of Gilgamesh. This book, and the two others in the series, have some of the most beautiful illustrations I've ever seen in a picture book, and my children were engrossed in the story of Gilgamesh as he changed from a lonely, mean tyrant, into a kind and beloved man.


Joseph and the Sabbath Fish is a Jewish parable that illustrates the principles of charity and giving versus greed and selfishness. This is a sweet little book that makes these lessons very accessible to kids. 



Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky is an African folktale that was fascinating to my children. This story sparked some imaginative discussions in understanding how ancient peoples crafted their myths to explain the world around them.

West Africa

Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock is a book that had both of my kids laughing hysterically. They loved hearing about Anansi the trickster spider and how he was repaid for his tricks.



The Bear and the Kingbird is a humorous tale by the Brothers Grimm. The bear insults the kingbirds, and a battle amongst all the creatures of the land and air ensues. The detailed illustrations in this book were a studied minutely by my children, giggling all the while.


Mr. Semolina Semolinus tells of princess Areti, who creates a perfect man from sugar, almonds, and semolina. When her perfect man is kidnapped by an evil queen, Areti journeys far to rescue him. This is one my children's all-time favorite stories.

Unwitting Wisdom: An Anthology of Aesop's Fables is a lavishly-illustrated collection of some of the most famous fables of all time.  These engaging tales illustrate life lessons so well, and had both of my children begging for more and more.

Atlantis: The Legend of a Lost City weaves the story of an island blessed by the sea god Poseidon. When the people of Atlantis lose their way and decay into bickering, treacherous people, Poseidon's wrath sinks the island to the bottom of the sea forever.  


Rapunzel is a well-known classic fairytale, yet this book by Zelinski gives it a whole new depth. The paintings in this book are gorgeous, and both of children listened with rapt attention to see what would happen with the evil sorceress and the entrapped girl.

Puss in Boots, by Perrault and Marcellino, tells of a crafty feline who rescues his owner from poverty. My kids loved this feline hero, and the book led us to interesting discussions about the propriety of the cat's actions.

South America


The Dancing Turtle tells of a flute-playing turtle who loves to dance. When turtle is captured, her only chance of escape is to convince the hunter's children to open her cage. My children were rooting for turtle, and this book led to some valuable discussion about children and their parents.

North America


The Honey Jar is a short chapter book that tells Mayan myths about the earth, sky, nature, and animals. My kids loved hearing these different perspectives on how the world came to be as it is.


The Bossy Gallito, which is written in both English and Spanish, is a fun tale about a rooster trying to make it to his uncle's wedding. Since we have hens and a rooster, any books featuring chickens are especially adored by my children. The illustrations in this book are entertaining, and my kids loved pointing out the error of the Bossy Gallito's ways. 


The Twenty-Five Mixtec Cats is a folktale that combines superstition and mysticism when a healer brings home twenty-five kittens. My kids thought this tale was quite funny and engaging.

United States

The Children's Book of America  is a great treasury of American Tall Tales, poems, and historical passages. My children especially loved the stories of Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and the Legend of the Grand Canyon.

The Story of Jumping Mouse is a Native American folktale about a mouse on a journey to a far-off land. On the way, the mouse faces many obstacles and sacrifices his own natural gifts to help others in need. My children loved hearing about the mouse's journey and his wonderful transformation at the end of the story.

The Magic Hummingbird is a Hopi folktale from our area of the United States. My daughter, especially, loves this story of the hummingbird who saves the children from starvation during the long drought.

Canada/United States

Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back is a collection of Native American tales about the thirteen moons of the year. This book took us on a beautiful journey through the seasons of the year. 


is a folktale about a frog who drinks all the water from the land. The rest of the animals conspire to find some way to make the frog laugh and spill the water back out onto the land. My children thought this story was very funny. 

These are all of our favorite folk and fairy tales from our Homeschool World Trip. I will be sharing another list with the rest of our favorite picture books from our World Trip soon. Another excellent resource for world book recommendations is Jamie Martin's Give Your Child the World.

What are your favorite folk or fairy tale picture books?

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