Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Seven Folktales from Asia and the Pacific Islands

Though May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, an important part of any heritage are the stories which travel with immigrants from their native land to wherever they land. Below are six folktales in picture book form, and one collection of Aboriginal stories, from Asia and the Pacific Islands. They are all excellent tales, but due to time constraints, the summaries come from Goodreads.

As stated in a previous post, the only stories featuring Pacific Islander characters that I could find are the folktales featured here. I couldn't find any picture books that featured Pacific American characters, let alone protagonists. While this is sadly not surprising, the (seeming) complete lack of Pacific American representation is truly appalling. If you know of any good picture books (not Lilo & Stitch--though we're not making a judgement on that movie!) with Pacific Islander characters, please share them in the comments! I hope that some of you are authors and illustrators and involved in book publishing--this is clearly a problem that needs to be rectified!

Another issue I found in researching books to feature this month is that while some Asian cultures are well represented in picture books, multiple others are either underrepresented or completely neglected. I was hard pressed to find any books set in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, or the Samoan Islands, among other countries, or books featuring Americans of those heritages. The books we feature here represent only a fraction of the diversity of Asian and Pacific Island cultures. It is my hope that in the near future we will see a better reflection of that diversity in picture books available to us.

Pig-Boy: A Trickster Tale from Hawai'i
retold and illustrated by Gerald McDermott

"Pig-Boy is hairy. Pig-Boy is dirty. Pig-Boy is hungry! And when trouble comes, he knows just what to do. (Of course, escaping trouble comes easily to a trickster, who can shape-shift his way out of sticky situations just in time!) With the tropical colors and cadences of the islands, master artist and storyteller Gerald McDermott brings irrepressible humor and energy to a Hawaiian trickster tale that's been beloved for generations. Includes an author's note."

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

retold and illustrated by Demi

"A reward of one grain of rice doubles day by day into millions of grains of rice when a selfish raja is outwitted by a clever village girl."

The Silver Charm: A Folktale from Japan
retold by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Yoriko Ito
The Silver Charm
"Long ago, in the days when there were still ogres in the world, a little boy named Satsu went out to play with his best friends, a puppy and a fox cub. But Satsu wandered too near the edge of the forest, where a horrible ogre snatched him up. The ogre wanted to eat him for supper, but Satsu traded his silver charm for his life. Without his charm, however, he grew ill and weak. Now the puppy and the fox cub must save their friend and master. With the help of a little mouse and a little magic, they trick the ogre and return the lucky silver charm. Everyone–including the animals–celebrates with an enormous feast."

Turtle Songs: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters
retold by Margaret Olivia Wolfson, illustrated by Karla Sachi

"This magical retelling of a traditional Fijian myth features flowing prose and dream-like watercolors."

The Princess and the Beggar: A Korean Folktale
retold and illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien

"In the walled city of Pyung-yang lives a young maiden, known to all as the Weeping Princess. But it is for disobedience that the king banishes his daughter from court. The Princess begins a new life with the poor, filthy beggar, Pabo Ondal, and in doing so, makes a discovery about herself. O'Brien's engaging text and rich watercolor pastels provide an authentic look at the culture of Korea."

Monkey: A Trickster Tale from India
Retold and illustrated by Gerald McDermott

"Monkey is hungry for the delicious mangoes on the island in the river, but he can't swim! How will he get there? Crocodile offers to carry Monkey across the water on his back, so Monkey hops aboard. Trouble is, Crocodile is hungry, too—for Monkey! Will clever Monkey come up with a way to get the mangoes and escape Crocodile's sharp teeth? Master storyteller and artist Gerald McDermott brings the vibrant colors of India to his telling of this classic trickster tale, which has plenty of cleverness and a sprinkling of mischief."

Dreamtime: Aboriginal Stories
written and retold by Oodgeroo, illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft

"Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Nunukul) spent her childhood with her family on Stradbroke Island, off the Queensland coast. The first half of this book, 'Stories from Stradbroke', describes episodes from her childhood days - some happy, some sad - and gives a memorable impression of Aboriginal life on the island and of a family proud of its Aboriginal heritage. The second part of the book, 'Stories from the Old and New Dreamtime', is made up of Aboriginal folklore which the author recalls hearing as a child, and of new stories written in traditional Aboriginal forms."


  1. Dropping in from the Children's bookshelf, and grateful for the great roundup of books - my kids and I love reading folktales in story book format, and it's nice to have a theme that ties them together.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! We hope you enjoy the folktales :)

  2. This weekend I checked out a bunch of multicultural folktales. I remember seeing one from Hawai'i, but I didn't check it out because my stack was already too large. I'll have to go back and see what it was. Thanks for sharing at The Children's Bookshelf, I hope you join us again when we return in September.

    1. Hi Erica! Ooo, we would love to hear about that book from Hawai'i if you come across it again! We'll miss The Children's Bookshelf for the summer, but hope you have a great break, and will look forward to rejoining come September :)