SPLENDID CHINESE FOLKTALES FOR KIDS
This is a fantastic time to read Chinese folktales to your children since Chinese New Year is coming up soon. This is the most recent entry in a series of book lists that includes folktales from different cultures.
Rabbit’s Gift is a sweet tale about treating others kindly. While eating a turnip he found in the snow, Rabbit considers his companion Donkey and worries whether she has any food. When Donkey discovers the extra turnip that Rabbit left at her door, she gives it to Goat, a neighboring animal. It continues, with each companion taking into account the welfare of the others in turn. They eventually get along and have supper together. A fantastic tale.
The Emperor and the Kite. Due to her little size, Princess Djeow is ignored by her family. Every day, she flies a kite, “like a flower in the sky,” as her favorite toy. Her siblings lose all purpose once her father is arrested and locked up in a tower, where they spend their days wailing and crying. However, Djeow uses her kite to deliver food baskets to her father. One day a wandering monk inspires her with a poem, and the brave princess devises a plan to use her kite to save her father. She serves as his right-hand woman now that he recognizes her value. If your youngster enjoys reading about princesses, they should not miss this fantastic book.
Tikki Tikki Tembo. This Chinese proverb about the kid with a lengthy name who fell into a well is one that I’m sure you’ve all heard. When I was little, I recall repeating Tikki Tikki Tembo’s whole name with my buddies. When I was a youngster, it always disturbed me a little bit that the mother preferred one child over another. I questioned whether others had that sentiment. The plot was still fantastic, however! If you missed out on this book for any reason, be sure you get a copy as soon as possible to share with your children. Note: I just found out that this is not a culturally authentic picture book and is not a Chinese folktale. To learn more, click here. I’m still including the book on this list in the hopes that more people will learn about its consequences. We are all always learning!
The Seven Chinese Sisters. I’m glad I could locate a book drawn by Grace Lin to put on this list since it is a humorous take on the Seven Chinese Brothers (see below). Each of the sisters had a unique gift, and my kids enjoyed their “modern talents,” like being able to catch any ball or ride a scooter as quickly as the wind. My oldest kid, who enjoys arithmetic, found it amusing that one of his sisters could “count to five hundred and beyond.” (He told me he was capable of much better!) The other six utilize their talents to rescue the baby sister when the dragon eats her.
The Seven Chinese Brothers is a fantastic book to read if your kids are like superheroes since it is the “original” (clearly, all folktales are variations of oral tales, so who is to claim it is the original) version of the above narrative. Each of the brothers has a kind of superpower. One has steel-like bones; another has excellent vision, yet another has exceptional hearing, etc. I like how the baby brother can wipe a whole town clean with his numerous tears, which is his “power.” (Don’t we, fellow parents, know that to be true!) The brutal Emperor Chi’in Shih Huang tries to kill the brothers, but they successfully escape because of their incredible power. I value writing that is both intelligent and humorous. There are notes regarding the story in the book.
King Pom and the Fox is a variation of the tale of the puss-in-boots. Loves his pomegranate tree, Li Ming (hence the moniker “King Pom”). The fox pledges to make Li Ming wealthy when he captures the one stealing the priceless fruit. Through a series of deceptions, the fox persuades everyone that Li-Ming is a legitimate monarch and secures for him the daughter of the Emperor. A lively read-aloud.
Two of Everything was a favorite of my five-year-old! He found it humorous because there is a folktale about a couple with a barrel replicating whatever falls into it. In his yard, a guy discovers a large pot. He learns about the pot’s ability when he uses it to keep his gold coin bag in it. The couple uses the pot to double everything they possess, including themselves, and expand their riches. I loved how the pair didn’t quickly get corrupted by their sudden money and that the novel didn’t have a didactic message about greed. Simply a delightful tale to read out loud.
The Empty Pot. It’s unclear to me whether or not this is a folktale. The book has no notes. I chose to include it because the narrative is interesting and still sounds folkloric. Ping loves gardening and produces the most exquisite flowers and plants. A dying emperor who has no heirs declares that his successor will be the one who raises the most magnificent flower. Every youngster receives a seed from him, but Ping is upset because his seed hasn’t blossomed even after a year. He brings the barren pot to the emperor, who reveals why it is empty. Numerous people like Demi’s drawings, which is one of my faves. Additionally offered as an ebook.
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China. I must say that I am not a huge fan of Cinderella tales, with its gorgeous, mistreated princess who works hard and triumphs in every way. I’m not very interested in this kind of plot. Unfortunately, that is true. Despite this, Cinderella tales are very popular and are found in many different cultures. This one is interesting to read since it is said to be the oldest, predating the Western version by at least 1000 years. The envious stepmother and sisters, the ball, the shoes, the search for the enigmatic girl, and the punishment of the mother and sisters are all there despite the godmother being replaced by a fish. The main distinction is that the narrative has a little more depth because of Yeh-benevolence Shen’s to the fish.
Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China. When a woman travels to see her grandmother, she leaves her three kids alone at home. As soon as she departs, a wolf posing as the grandma shows up. To mislead the wolf into being trapped, the eldest kid sees through the plan and climbs up the gingko tree with her siblings. Although there is danger in this tale and a very fearsome wolf, it is evident that the children are the more powerful ones. Young won the 1990 Caldecott Award for his exquisite and ominous paneled images inspired by Chinese imagery.
The Water Dragon: A Chinese Legend contains English and Chinese text. Ah, Bao comes upon a red stone one day while gathering wood. The rice overflows the cooker when he drops the stone in it during cooking. On his money container, the stone has the same effect. He travels in pursuit of the Water Dragon after discovering that the stone absorbs water when he tries to use it to recreate water during a drought. He encounters friendly creatures along the route who give him guidance and presents. I won’t say anything more to avoid giving away the conclusion. I had no idea what to anticipate, and it was different! (In a positive manner.
The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty & the Beast Tale. I was excited to learn about this Chinese adaptation of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast since I only knew Yep as the author of chapter books. Although there is a lot of content, the gorgeous and bright graphics provide lap readers with more than enough visual stimulation. The youngest of a poor farmer’s seven daughters offers to marry the farmer when a dragon threatens to devour him unless she does. The dragon changes into a prince once she can see beyond its outward aspect. One of Seven’s sisters betrays her when she comes home (the daughters are all named according to their birth order), but the Dragon Prince recognizes her trickery.
The Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac. Have your children ever questioned the absence of the “year of the cat”? This tale explains how each animal was selected and assigned a place in the Chinese zodiac. The Jade Emperor competes in a river swim across. The cunning but bad-swimmer rat devises a strategy to ride an ox, but when he realizes the cat could catch up to him, he pushes the cat into the water. The first year of the calendar is given to the rat as compensation for succeeding. He never faces the consequences for his mistreatment of the cat, but I guess that’s just life.
The Lost Horse: A Chinese Folktale makes the adage “a loss may be a gain” come to life. Sai, a smart man, loses his horse, and his neighbors suggest that maybe it wasn’t such a horrible thing after all. The horse has a partner when he returns, so it seems that nothing unpleasant happened. The tale then continues in a cycle of loss-gain-loss-gain until the new horse tosses Sai’s kid. The main takeaway is that there are various pathways in life and that fortunes may change at any time. Picture books based on various Chinese folktales have been adapted and drawn by Ed Young. Many of them include a lot of material, but this one is easy to read and has a fable-like framework, making it perfect for sharing with young children. To locate other options, enter Ed Young’s name into the library’s catalog.
The Magic Horse of Han Gan is a fictitious account of Han Gan, a real-life historical character who existed in ancient China. When he was a young child living in poverty, a famous artist recognized his creative aptitude and hired him as an apprentice. Horses were his favorite subject, although he usually depicted them tied. He gave the reason that they are so lifelike that they would otherwise spring from the pages when asked why he did it. That is precisely what occurs, as the steed is transformed into the mount of a powerful warrior and survives several conflicts before being brought back to the painting. The notion that a picture may come to life captivated my 5-year-old. I was concerned he would find the fighting scenes too frightful when I read it. Both the warrior and the horse have wide, frightened eyes. They didn’t disturb him, however, which is a credit to how beautifully the narrative was written.