I just got Best-Loved Folktales of the World at the San Leandro public library sale. I have only read three tales so far – two African-American and one Southern one – but I can already tell I’m going to love reading this book to my 9-year-old. This 780-page book contains 200 tales from all over the world (though there are none from Argentina). The tales are, of necessity, pretty short but they’re very nicely written. The three tales I read were written in the style/language in which they would have originally been told. It was a bit hard for me to read them outloud – no, I cannot do a southern country accent -, but it was pretty fun. The stories in the book are not without controversy, however. One of them comes from Uncle Remus (that one I couldn’t read outloud, I tried but my daughter couldn’t understand me) and another contains the word “nigger” in it. Still, that gave me the opportunity to talk to my daughter about the word, which thankfully she never had encountered before.
The three stories I read were very good, and my daughter enjoyed them. “People who could fly” is a story about an African with doctor, captured and brought to America as a slave, who helps the other slaves in his plantation escape by giving them wings. It’s a story of hope and very touching. Beware that its description of slavery is pretty overt.
“Baby in the Crib” is merely half a page, and it’s perhaps a joke more than a story, but it is really funny and well told.
Finally, “The Two Old Women’s Bet” was just hilarious. It’s about two women who bet about who has the most foolish husband. One – in the style of “The Emperor has no Clothes” – convinces her husband she’s made him a suit he cannot see. The other, tricks her husband into thinking that he’s ill, and then that he’s dead. Mika laughed and laughed and laughed. You can see one version of the story online, but the one in the book is told much better.
I am looking forward to reading the rest of the stories to Mika. The language in the stories is complicated enough that I don’t think my 6-year-old would grasp it, but I’m sure one day I’ll read them to her as well.