A new crop of mosquitoes hatched today and about 40 of them attacked my legs while I was watering my garden this morning. They also forced us indoors this afternoon as I was trying to celebrate the starred review my upcoming book (Gifts From the Gods) received from Publishers Weekly! This made me get back to a “project” I have been working on for a young teacher friend of mine. She is trying to incorporate storytelling and folktales about the natural world into her outdoor education classes and canoe guiding expeditions with children. I have been putting together a list of resources of insect stories for her and today’s fresh crop of mosquitoes made me decide that I should share these more widely, so here goes:
There are an incredible number of individual stories about insects but I thought it would be useful to high-light some collections rather than individual books.
One outstanding collection is Tales with Tails: storytelling the wonders of the natural world by Kevin Strauss. This volume contains stories about every kind of insect from tales about why wasps have skinny waists to why bees have stingers. It’s a well-organized guide for anyone who wishes to combine science and story. Part one defines an environmental story and provides basic information on environmental education and the art of storytelling. Part two consists of more than 60 tales, some original, others from a wide variety of cultures, with source notes provided at the end of the volume. Kevin Strauss also has an excellent website filled with ideas. Go to: www.naturestory.com and check it out.
Insect Fact and Folklore by Patricia Kite is packed with fascinating facts and intriguing lore about familiar insects. Children find out that mosquitoes provoked Napoleon into selling the Louisiana Territory, discover why crickets came to be kept as pets in China, and learn how and why fireflies emit light. There are several folktales and legends as well with stories that reveal how beetle released stars into the sky and explain why the Creator made butterflies. A helpful list of further readings and web sites is included.
An older book with the exact same title (Insect Fact and Folklore) by Lucy W. Clausen is a hugely entertaining book for adults. It is filled with stories about how insects have affected humans, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad, with legends and fairytales and amazing facts such as how the British, when they first landed in the West Indies mistook the light emitted from fireflies for “Spaniards advancing upon them with lighted matches and so retired to their ships.”
Candace Miller’s Tales from the Creature Kingdom: More Than 160 Multicultural Legends and Pourquoi Stories About Mammals, Insects, Reptiles and Water Creatures. This collection of stories is hard to get hold of but I managed to get a copy through interlibrary loan and it was well worth it. It’s not fancy, but contains brief stories about every insect you can think of as well as some you could’t!
Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, How & Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read & Tell contains a number of great stories such as “Why Ants Are Found Everywhere,” as well as animals stories like “Why do cats wash their paws after eating?” With 25 lively how and why stories from everywhere, this is not only a resource for storytellers but also an informal guide to encourage kids to tell the stories themselves.
Finally, I have to recommend Anne Marie Kraus’s Folktale Themes and Activities For Children, vol.1 Pourquoi Tales. While this is not a collection of stories, it contains a wealth of references, creative activities, as well as an extensive annotated bibliography of pourquoi tales. The stories are organized by theme and motif, as well as by cultural and geographic groups and are adapted to suit a variety of age and ability levels. This is a truly solid, carefully researched combination of the philosophical and the practical.