Telling Traditional Tales with Puffin Classics October 27, 2017 – Posted in: Booklist Updates – Tags: , , ,

If you’re searching for high-quality collections of stories from around the world, then there’s no need to scour the globe! Look no further than three new titles from Puffin Classics that bring together traditional tales from the Caribbean, India and Africa.

Tales from the Caribbean is a collection of dazzling folk stories from the islands of the West Indies. Author Trish Cooke’s retellings are written in a clear, readable style, and the lush landscapes, delicious-sounding food and mythical characters grab the reader’s imagination throughout. Anansi the spider, a trickster; the terrifying devil-like figure of Jab; and the giant, cloven-hoofed guardian of the forest, Papa Bwa, are just some of the many figures that spring to life from the pages.

Meanwhile Bali Rai’s Tales from India also features a wealth of wonderful retellings, including engaging versions of the Akbar and Birbal stories from the time of the Mughal empire. In these tales, the impetuous ruler Akbar’s exchanges with his shrewd, sardonic advisor form a mechanism through which wisdom and morality can be explored, with Birbal continually outwitting his foes through his logic and riddle-solving.

In Tales from Africa, K.P. Kojo gathers stories from across an entire continent, ranging from a tale of the Berbers in the north, to one from the Ndebele and Zulu peoples in the south. Children are introduced to characters such as the powerful Sky Chief; the immortal Marimba, the ‘mother of music’; and the monstrous Night Howlers, while they can also read about the harmattan wind and the tweneboa tree, and discover what an attu is (it’s ‘a big hug’!).

In many of the tales from all three books, animals and plants speak (in one of the Indian stories, even the earth itself has a voice), suggesting the interconnectedness of humankind and the world around us, which might make a good starting point for thinking about the environment in class.

There are some excellent endnotes in each book to give context to the stories, including notes on the historical background – for instance, facts on the languages of Africa, or information on the Indian caste system – as well as recipes to follow, a useful glossary, and some fun ideas for Caribbean, Indian or African-inspired activities and games that could be built on during lesson time.

Although written for a young readership, the books haven’t glossed over some of the slightly darker aspects of the original stories, making them best suited to children at Upper Key Stage 2 level. These fresh and accessible interpretations of enduring folk tales would make wonderful additions to any Year 5 or 6 classroom reading corner, as well as great key texts for any topic focusing on these fascinating parts of the world.