Tales Our Abuelitas Told: A Hispanic Folktale Collection

It’s not quite January, but I couldn’t resist starting my Expanding Horizons Challenge a few days early. I am so happy to have a little time to read during this much needed “Winter Break” from school, so I was delighted when this book of folktales, that I had put on hold at the library quite awhile ago, came in just before Christmas. And this was the perfect first book to read for my challenge focus on Hispanic/Latin American books and authors.

Tales Our Abuelitas Told is a lovely collection of Hispanic folktales from many different cultures, written/retold by F. Isabel Campoy and Alma Flor Ada. Abuelitas is an endearment in Spanish for “grandmothers,” and these tales, full of life lessons, are told with the loving care of our grandmothers.

These stories have journeyed far — over mountains, deserts, and oceans — carried by wind, passed on to us by our ancestors. Now they have found their way to you.
A sly fox, a bird of a thousand colors, a magical set of bagpipes, and an audacious young girl … A mixture of popular tales and literary lore, this anthology celebrates Hispanic culture and its many roots — Indigenous, African, Hebrew, and Spanish.
 

In the introduction to the book, the authors explain the history of Hispanic folklore, which I found fascinating. Twelve tales are retold and beautifully illustrated, each one ending with a brief explanation of the different versions of the story and the authors’ connections to it. My favorite was “The Happy Man’s Tunic,” a story brought to Spain most likely by the Arabs. In the story, a caliph was too busy to spend time with his kind and loving son. When his son became ill, the caliph consulted many physicians. But when none of them could find the right cure, and he despaired, an old woman came to him and told him that all his son needed to get well was to wear the tunic of a man who is truly happy. The search was on, and a young shepherd was finally found who proved to be a truly happy man. The problem was…he didn’t own a tunic! It’s a fun story with an important message, but I won’t give it away here.

The authors also included a fun list of traditional beginnings and endings to stories told in Spanish, side by side with their English-language equivalents:

Había una vez… Once upon a time…

En los tiempos e la abuela… In Grandmother’s time…

Hace mucho tiempo… A long time ago…

...y colorín colorado, este cuento se ha acabado. …and, my many-colored feathered friend, now the story has found an end.

It’s exciting to find a book of folktales that is done so nicely. This is a lovely book, beautifully written and illustrated, and it would be a great addition to a family’s collection of folktales, and a wonderful book to use as a teaching tool in school for any age group.

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6 thoughts on “Tales Our Abuelitas Told: A Hispanic Folktale Collection

  1. Nymeth

    I just have to get this book! As you know I absolutely love folklore, and yet I know so little about Hispanic and Latin American. This sounds like a great collection!

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  2. Melissa

    At a risk of sounding repetitive, this book does sound quite enchanting and wonderful. I will have to see if I can find it. Are they suitable for children, do you think? (I was just wondering if they’d make a good read-aloud for my girls.)

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  3. Robin

    Hi Melissa. I don’t know how old your girls are, but this is a book for young people, although adults can enjoy it just as much. Alma Flor Ada writes wonderful children’s books!

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