Check out this roundup of some of our favorite folktales and other books based on traditional stories—picks for kids of all ages!
Throughout time, people have shared folktales with one another, sometimes for entertainment and at other times to pass on customs, philosophies and lessons to future generations. Engaging, easy to digest and filled with exciting themes, they’re also one of the most fun ways to get kids to appreciate stories. Passed down through oral tradition, folktales give kids a deeper understanding of and curiosity about their own histories as well as other cultures. And bonus: Because they’re designed to be spoken, they make super fun read-alouds.
So get ready. We rounded up some of our top folktales, fairy tales, myths and clever updates on traditional stories from around the world to pique your kid’s interest in lore, other cultures and of course, reading. Check them out below!
Top Folktales & Fairy Stories on Epic
Arrow to the Sun (Audiobook)
By: Gerald McDermott
This award-winning retelling of an ancient Pueblo myth explains how the spirit of the Lord of the Sun was brought to the world of men. It begins with a young boy as he searches for his father, then as he journeys through four ceremonial chambers to prove his worthiness to claim his heritage. Kids can follow along to this audio version of this tale celebrating the reverence of Native American Indians for the source of all life, the sun.
Written by: Cari Meister
Illustrated by: Peter George
A fixture in American folktales, this is the story of Davy Crockett. Some folks say he fell from the sky with a rifle on his back, a raccoon skin hat and a smile on his face. Back when the west was as wild as “a headless chicken on a Saturday night,” it’s said he was best known for hunting, his service in Congress and fighting and dying in the Battle of the Alamo. This picture book follows Davy as he rescues a steam boat from Ole Snag the gator on the Mississippi River, solidifying his legacy as a symbol for mastering the wilderness during the days of the American frontier.
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas (Animated Book)
By: Natasha Yim
In this Chinese-American telling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” it’s Chinese New Year, and a careless little girl named Goldy Luck is tasked with delivering turnip cakes to her neighbors. But when the Chans, a family of pandas, aren’t home, she wreaks havoc through the house—helping herself to their rice porridge, chairs and their beds—with disastrous results. Your kid will love this hilarious take on the classic tale, while learning about friendship and taking responsibility for their actions.
Written by: Cari Meister
Illustrated by: Victor Rivas
Born with a 10-pound hammer in his fist and legs the size of tree trunks, this legendary strong man was known as the fastest steel driver on the railroad. In a time when workers were competing with the newly invented steam drill for speed, legend has it that John Henry made a risky wager to save his fellow workers’ jobs. He would single-handedly clear more rock than a steam drill in one day. Faster than a jackrabbit and unwilling to quit, John Henry comes out on top. And in the end he saves the jobs of many railroad laborers.
Written by: Nadia Higgins
Illustrated by: Kathleen Petelinsek
Fans of the popular Grimm’s folktales can follow Little Red as she strolls through the woods, encounters a “friendly” wolf and comes out on top after facing peril at Grandma’s house. This gorgeously illustrated version of “Little Red Riding Hood” teaches kids about bravery, resilience, keeping your wits about you and the importance of listening to parents and caregivers.
Written by: Bobbi Miller
Illustrated by: Megan Lloyd
Meet Miss Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind, also known as the wife of Davy Crockett. This young woman could rope a hurricane, outspin a steam mill and knit a shawl with one hand—all while milking a cow, churning butter and baking bread at the same time. She could even blow out the moonlight in a single breath. In this tale, the legendary Sally Ann wrestles a “mean as tarnation” panther called Fire-eyes, only for the two to win each other’s respect and become the best of friends. The story shows that a girl can accomplish anything a boy can, and that friendships can be sparked in the most unlikely of ways.
Written by: M. J. York
Illustrated by: Michael Garland
Raised by coyotes and known for wrestling bear cubs as a toddler, he’s known as the legendary cowboy Pecos Bill. Alongside his beloved horse, Widow-Maker, Bill is a fictional creation of short story writer Edward S. O’Reilly. Legend has it he was born in 1830s Texas and fell out of his family’s covered wagon near the Pecos River. He’s known for wild feats such as lassoing a cyclone, wrangling monsters and shooting stars out of the sky. Ultimately, his story is an exciting, if exaggerated, representation of ranch life in the early American west.
Written by: George Bridge
Illustrated by: Bea Moritz
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” The cautionary story of “Chicken Little” is inextricably baked into the fabric of the tradition of contemporary North American folktales. With hilarious illustrations, this retelling follows Chicken Little and his feathered friends as they panic over the sky that (they assume) is crumbling to pieces. Eventually Chicken Little learns there’s nothing to be afraid of. And the moral of the story is that in any given situation, it’s probably a good idea to find out the whole situation before freaking out.
Written by: Susan D. Sweet, PhD, Brenda S. Miles, PhD
Illustrated by: Valeria Docampo
Once upon a time, there lived a princess named Jacqueline. She’s surrounded by royal knights who protect her from a fearsome giant and other dangers. But one day she climbs a beanstalk and meets him for herself, only to discover he’s terrified of humans. In this modern take on the classic story of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” Jacqueline shows everyone that there’s nothing to be afraid of after all. This is a great choice for teaching kids how to cope with their fears and empathize with others. If your kid likes the traditional version of this and other folktales, we have plenty of those, too.
Written by: Naomi McMillan
Illustrated by: Kathy Wilburn
Many of us are familiar with the tale of Cinderella and her mean-spirited stepmother and jealous stepsisters. This vividly illustrated Read-To-Me book stays faithful to the traditional story of how, with the help of her fairy godmother, she finds her happy ending and escapes her terrible circumstances.
Written by: Anastasia Suen
Illustrated by: Ed Myer
In this silly Read-To-Me book, kids can giggle and sing along as they learn about American pioneer Johnny Appleseed. This legend is inspired by the life of John Chapman, who brought the first apple trees to Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and what would one day become West Virginia. Known for his kindness, generosity and conservation leadership, his story symbolizes peace and good will on the American frontier.
By: Robin Koontz
This vibrantly illustrated book is about famed logger and lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his trusty sidekick Babe the blue ox. It begins when the pair are summoned to move the houses of Shadowtown to the sunny side of the mountain. There’s just one problem: Babe doesn’t know her own strength and flings the houses into the fields. So one little boy, Ezra, comes up with a solution. This book introduces little ones to an engaging piece of American lore, and includes bonus activities to improve vocabulary and reading comprehension.
By: Eric A. Kimmel
The magic trickster of West African lore, Anansi the spider, is at it again. This time, not wanting to do any chores, he steals Hyena’s stick and puts it to work doing his bidding. Tired of the other animals laughing at his messy house, he decides to make it the tidiest in town without cleaning a single thing. But when he tries to use Hyena’s magic stick to do all the chores, he gets more than he bargained for. This imaginative retelling combined with expressive illustrations makes it a silly cautionary tale for fun-loving kids. If your child loves this audiobook, they can also follow along to the story with the Read-To-Me version on Epic.
Written by: Ana Eulate
Illustrator: Nívola Uyá
This stunning picture book follows the life of a young mute Comanche boy named Walking Eagle, who’s known to have brought about unity and togetherness among differing tribes through his magical silent tales. Flying and galloping into the air, Walking Eagle and his Pinto horse carry stories of solidarity with them to different tribes. Using only his face, his smile and his eyes, he tells them everything they need to hear. Then each adds a new feather to his headdress. By touching the hearts of all the tribes, he helps forge lasting bonds. This lyrical tale is a powerful lesson about the harmony that can exist among different people through the power of stories.
By: Jon Scieszka
You and your kid will laugh out loud at this alternative take on “The Three Little Pigs,” narrated by Paul Giamatti. According to the aggrieved Alexander T. Wolf, there’s a lot more to the story than huffing and puffing. In fact, he claims, it all started with a cup of sugar and a sneeze. Follow the wolf’s version of events as he attempts to explain his “misunderstanding” involving the three brother piggies and clear his name.
By: Hans Christian Andersen
An awkward duckling braves hecklers, hunters, and trying circumstances in this magical retelling of the classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Big, gawky and grey, the baby duck looks nothing like his cute siblings. But in a happy twist, he discovers beauty comes in many forms when he grows into a swan.
Written by: Angela McAllister
Illustrated by: Christopher Corr
This book is the perfect way to immerse your kid in the world of folktales all year round. With 52 of the best-loved stories from around the world—for all 52 weeks of the year—it’s filled with myths, legends and lore celebrating the changing seasons, events and cultures across the globe. included in the collection are little-known tales and popular favorites, such as “The Shoemaker and the Dragon,” “The Little Red Hen, “The Woodcutter and the Wolf,” and even folk ghost stories for Halloween.
Written by: Aesop
Illustrated by: Annalise Olson
For centuries, kids have loved these folktales handed down by the ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop. This book includes the entire collection in English, with the clear, simple narration that the stories are known for. Each fable contains hidden lessons and features personified birds, beasts and other creatures of nature. Stories include well-known parables like “The Fox and the Crow,” “The Ants and the Grasshopper,” “The Fisherman and the Little Fish,” “The Goose and the Golden Egg” and many more.
Written by: Brothers Grimm, Karen Kelly
Illustrated by: C.B. Canga
As the first people to collect the fairy tales and folktales of Germany in one place, the Brothers Grimm brought to life many of today’s most iconic stories. This illustrated Calico Classics version of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” makes these age-old stories accessible for younger readers while staying true to the original plots. Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and more are included in this collection for older elementary school readers. If your kid enjoys this book, they might like another Calico Classics book on Epic: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll.
Written by: Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrated by: Christina Balit
Many of these classic folktales from the regions of North Africa and South Asia are familiar to us. And this beautifully illustrated book from National Geographic brings them to life in dazzling detail. From “One Thousand and One Nights” and “Sinbad the Sailor” to “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” this is the go-to volume for ancient and medieval tales from a time-honored storytelling tradition.
Written by: Michael Buckley
Illustrated by: Peter Ferguson
Treat your kid to this delightful twist on the story of the folktales-curating Brothers Grimm. In this first installment of the New York Times bestselling Sisters Grimm series, fairy detective sisters Sabrina and Daphne Grimm return to their home in New York to discover a whole lot of magical oddities: wand-wielding fairy godfathers, swashbuckling Wall Street pirates, subway-stealing dwarfs—and a murder. As the pair investigates the crime, they uncover a secret that could lead them to the bottom of things, and into an evil underground organization, the Scarlet Hand.
Want more folk tales for kids? Here are a couple of honorable mentions available on Amazon:
The Land of Stories series
By: Chris Colfer
In this #1 New York Times best-selling series, siblings Alex and Conner Bailey open a mysterious book and fall into a fairy tale world filled with magical beings, including a witch, wolves, goblins and more. Will they be able to find their way out of this foreign land and get back home? This fast-paced adventure beautifully meshes reality with a world of enchantment.
The Secret of the Kelpie
Lari Don and Philip Longson
Flora is playing with her brothers and sisters by the loch when she notices a stunning white horse. While her siblings clamor for a chance to ride the beautiful animal, Flora is worried. Where has this strange horse come from? Why are its hoof prints wet? Too late, Flora realizes this is no horse! It’s a kelpie: a shape-shifting water horse from Scottish folklore known to steal children. Can Flora reveal the secret of the kelpie in time to save her family?
That’s it! These are just a few of the huge variety of folktales for kids on our platform! We hope you enjoyed this list and explore even more of the many folktales on Epic. For more time-honored tales for your young reader, check out our post, “Best Classic Books for Kids on Epic.”