Kidlit: Myths, Legends & Folktales

A few summers ago, we brought Mary Pope’s version of The Odyssey written for kids (highly recommended) along on a trip to the south of Italy. A rocky shore, it turned out, was the perfect place to hear about Odysseus losing his men to Scylla and Charybdis and climbing out of the water into a cave. We weren’t far from the Strait of Messina, after all! And it sparked everyone’s imagination for the rest of our stay and helped to bring to life all of the history we were encountering. 

So I was especially excited to learn of this new collection of mythology with a global focus—and even more excited when my friend and former colleague (and kidlit contributor) turned out to be its author! Once again, Alli Brydon, a children’s book editor and writer based in the south of England, has generously agreed to help us expand our childrens’-book libraries:

Right now, I’m in the mood for mythology.
I’m loving those legends. I’m fired up about folktales.

Maybe it’s the coziness of late autumn…
Maybe it’s the spookiness of Halloween just gone…
Maybe because this week has been declared #FolktaleWeek.

Or maybe…it’s because I have a new book just published called Myths and Legends of the World!
In honor of my latest children’s book publication, out with Lonely Planet Kids right now, I thought I’d bring you on a tour of some of my favorite kidlit featuring myths, legends, and folktales. (And offer a giveaway!) I hope you’ll find these books as awesome, adventurous, and spellbinding as I do.

Myths and Legends of the World, retold by Alli Brydon and illustrated by Julia Iredale, is an inspired collection of 21 stories from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, Europe, and the Arctic. The collection covers a wide and diverse variety of stories that have been passed down orally for generations and play a large part in various cultural histories. Dazzling illustrations by Julia Iredale breathe otherworldly life into tales such as “Coyote Steals Fire for the People” (Native American), “The Selkies” (Scottish), and “Anansi and the Box of Stories” (Ghanaian). (Lonely Planet Kids, for ages 9 – 12)

Classic Starts: The Odyssey and Classic Starts: The Iliad, abridged retellings of Homer’s originals, focus on high interest/low vocabulary designed to get a 7 – 9 year old reader absolutely hooked on these classics! Both of these thrilling epic tales are given the royal treatment, with beautiful pencil drawings throughout which illuminate some of the most important scenes. Questions in the back are perfect for sparking discussion between curious readers and parents or teachers. (Sterling Publishing, for ages 7 – 9)

There are many retellings of the classic folktales The Lion & the Mouse, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Tortoise & the Hare, but none are more engaging than Jerry Pinkney’s nearly-wordless versions. This award-winning author and illustrator spares no detail and delivers a jam-packed visual wonderland for the youngest readers. Since there are no words on most pages, I like to have my kids tell these stories out loud, giving them the power to be the orators of the family. (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, for ages 3 – 6)

Rick Riordan has several book series for mythology lovers of all ages with Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, Magnus Chase, Kane Chronicles, and The Trials of Apollo. Whether riffing off of Greek, Egyptian, or Norse mythology, Riordan’s novels grab the reader and pull him or her into underworlds, onto godly mountaintops, through the realm of mortals—all with a contemporary flair and sense of true adventure. The books also win the prize for having the funniest chapter titles ever. And when your kids repeatedly shout “Ragnarok!” while running around the house (like mine do), you’ll know who to thank. (Disney-Hyperion, various ages by mostly from 7 – 14)

There are tons more of these classic adventure stories, which are sure to appeal to your little reader (and yourself). Be bold, go forth to your local library or bookstore…and explore!

Thank you, Alli! Do any of you have any favorites to add to the list? 

And great news: Alli has been generous enough to offer to send a copy of the book to a lucky reader. Please visit @allibrydon and follow the directions to enter.

Alli Brydon is a freelance children’s book author, editor, and lifelong New Yorker who recently moved to the south of England with her family. She edited the #1 New York Times bestselling picture book Last Week Tonight with John Oliver presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, and has books published or forthcoming with Scholastic, Quarto, National Geographic Kids, and more. Her latest book, Myths and Legends of the World, is out this season with Lonely Planet Kids. Please visit to say “hi” and learn more about her work.

P.S. See more Kidlit picks on Hither & Thither, including favorite chapter books for kids.


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