Books, Movies & More,  Motherhood

Reading time with kids (part 3) – stories, legends, fairy tales and fables

by Flamingo

Another year has gone by, another list of books my son is most passionate about. It’s amazing to see kids grow and their taste in literature evolving with them. From illustrated stories by great contemporary authors like Julia Donaldson, Mo Willems or Benji Davis, my son turned his attention to old stories, legends, myths, fairy tales and fables

I rekindled my childhood joy in rereading these stories with him, some of them I’d long forgotten. I discovered them beautifully illustrated in the edition of Usborne Illustrated Stories. This edition has many volumes of different tales for children between 4 and 12 years old. My son, being prone to collecting (a trait he sadly got from myself), got his hands on an impressive number of volumes of Usborne Illustrated and read most of them, some by himself and some together. 

Here are some of the books I recommend for kids aged 6 plus in this amazing collection. 

Illustrated Stories for Bedtime, Illustrated Fairy Tales and Magical Illustrated Stories

These 3 volumes are among the first in our collection. They contain lots of Brothers Grimm stories, Christian Anderson, Charles Perault, as well as retold stories in a more accessible language for young kids, by Goethe, Hoffmann or Aleksey Tolstoy. There are also some new beautiful stories in these books as well, written by Usborne writers like Russel Punter or Lesley Sims. Each story takes about 15 minutes of reading time, some are funny, some a bit sad, but altogether they are great for this age and for literature background. Our personal favorites in these volumes are: The inch prince, The enormous turnip, The clumsy crocodile, The princess and the pea, The Nutcracker, The sorcerer’s apprentice and The elves and the shoemaker

Five-Minute Bedtime Stories, 10 Ten-Minute Stories and 10 Ten-Minute Animal Stories

These stories are more accessible to younger kids (5 yo up), being shorter, but no less amazing. 

The Five-Minute Bedtime Stories contain cute and gentle little animal tales about friendship, adventure and day to day life. They are all contemporary, written by Sam Taplin. The illustrations were the first that attracted me to this book, they are lovely and bright. Favorite stories of ours: Dog’s Umbrella and Little Bear and the clock

The first 10 minute stories are classics, all of them are retold in a beautiful and easy way. Some of our favorites: Pinocchio, The king’s pudding and The firebird

The next volume of animal stories is my personal favorite. It contains delightful classics, fables and new ones as well: Puss in boots, Chicken Licken, The little red hen and Scaredy Cat

Illustrated Stories from the Greek Myths, Illustrated Norse Myths and Illustrated Stories from Aesop

My son adores the myths, especially the Norse ones. He began with the Greek, which are thrilling and an easier read. All the myths are pretty long, so they are dedicated to kids with lots of patience. Some of the legends have chapters, so it’s a great transition from short stories to longer ones and it increases the reading stamina.The two volumes are epic, full of battles, heroes and gods. Our favorites are: The Minotaur, The twelve tasks of Heracles, Thor’s wedding day, Thiazi and the golden apples.

The Stories from Aesop are fables about pride, greed, quarrels and trickery. The tales are timeless and educational, the characters are beloved animals from Aesop’s world. Our favorites: The fox and the crow, The wolf in sheep’s clothing, The ant and the grasshopper

Illustrated Stories from Around the World, Illustrated Stories for Christmas, Illustrated Stories of Monsters, Ogres and Giants and Illustrated Stories of Dragons 

These four books have amazing stories, some known and some that are unknown to the western culture. These are great reads for adults as well, they are rich in traditional details. 

The Stories from Around the World especially have many tales of faraway places in Africa and Asia (India, China, Japan and Middle East), but Europe as well (Scandinavia, Greece, England and Russia). Our favorites are: The fish that talked, The Genie in the Bottle

Similar to the former is Illustrated Stories about Dragons. There are tales about these magnificent creatures from all around the world. In my opinion girls would also love these stories, not only boys, but patient kids all together, because they are long. Our selection: Jörmungandr, The reluctant dragon, The four dragons and Fran Bolovan

If there are dragons, there also must  be Stories about Monsters, Ogres and Giants. My son loved them very much, these are more classic than the others, stories we all know and love like: The Billy goats Gruff, The brave little tailor, Theseus and the Minotaur and a new version with a twist of Jack and the Beanstalk. These stories are shorter, up to 10 minutes reading time for each. 

Christmas stories never get old, in my opinion one can not have enough stories at home about the merry time of the year. There are some classics, some originals by Russell Punter and some surprises along the way. Some of them are longer, up to 20 minutes of reading time and some shorter up to 10 minutes. I loved the way they rewrote A Christmas Carol and The Snow Queen, the illustrations are really beautiful as well. Personal favorites: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, East of the Sun. West of the Moon, The Elf and the Toymaker and Snowy and Icy

Poppy and Sam’s Bedtime Stories, Just So Stories for Little Children and Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage

These three books are not in the Illustrated Collections, but they are nonetheless great stories with great art. 

If you are familiar with the Usborne publishing house then you are surely acquainted with the characters Poppy and Sam, two siblings that lead a typical idyllic country life at a farm. They appear in lots of activity books for younger kids and they also have their own tales. This book has a part of their tales and it’s perfect also for the younger group of readers like 4 to 6 years old. My son loves them still, we read them together last summer for the first time. Sometimes even older kids enjoy simple readings, with simple action and gentle writing. It helps them relax in time for their bedtime and they are a nice change from the complicated long stories that they are used to in their older years. Our favorite Poppy and Sam stories are: Kitten’s day out, The snow storm and The old steam train

Just so stories for little children is a collection of retold fables like tales written by the famous Rudyard Kipling. I never knew these stories and I enjoyed them immensely. They are clever in describing how an animal got an important part of its identity. Our selection: How the Elephant got his trunk, How the Leopard got his Spots and Why the Kangaroo jumps. These are perfect stories for the younger audience as well. They are easy and very enjoyable. 

The Forgotten Fairy Tales of Kindness and Courage appeals to the older kids, 7 plus. These are very rare and old stories written after 1850. Both boys and girls are heroes in these stories and they teach about overcoming obstacles and showing kindness all around. So in my opinion they are as important as the fables or other more celebrated classics. The ones we liked most were: The girl in the book, The princess and the Goblins and the Water babies

Illustrated Pirate Stories, Illustrated Classics for Children and Illustrated Classics for Boys

These collections of three volumes are definitely for older kids (7-8 yo +). The stories are long, some have lots of long chapters, but they are very entertaining. 

The stories about pirates are the original ones, written by the Usborne usual authors . They are full of adventure, fun and humor, with comical illustrations. They are perfect for the swashbuckler in every kid. Our favorites are: The Captain’s Cat, Bobby and the Slime Pirates and Captain’s Strong Grandma

Illustrated Classics for Children and Classics for Boys both feature long children’s novels retold in a shorter version and using a less difficult language. Some stories like Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, The Secret Garden or Heidi, which I personally found boring and long in my childhood, are really well captured in their essence and perfect for the young readers. Our favorites from these two volumes are: Around the world in 80 days, Robin Hood, The Wizard of Oz and Railway Children.

Illustrated Ghost Stories, Illustrated Adventure Stories and Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare

The last category of books is dedicated to older readers (9-12yo). Although we tackled some of the stories, they are difficult for my 7 yo. Some of the stories are very scary, for example from the Ghost Stories volume, but nonetheless very entertaining. We liked The 4:15 Express and The Haunted Hill, but still, they were not suited for him. 

The Adventure Stories are really amazing retellings of great novels like The three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, The prisoner of Zenda, Don Quixote and others. I personally loved them, but they are long, the subject very tricky and not so entertaining to young kids. 

The same goes for the Shakespeare Stories. Although I think we will give it a try starting with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, my favorite play. For those of you readers, who have older children and are interested in this book category, Usborne also published Illustrated Stories from Dickens, Illustrated Tales of King Arthur, Illustrated Arabian Nights and others. 

Why I love this collection so much is because kids grow up loving different stories from around the world, old and new, some full of teachings, others just full of fun, for girls and boys alike. These books are in my opinion the backbone of literature and where the love of books begins.

For more amazing book ideas for younger kids, they can be found in these two older articles I wrote: Reading time with kids (part 1) for 0-5 yo and Reading time with kids (part 2) for 4-7yo. As I recommended in the past, the Book Depository delivers for free in the entire world.