Favorite Children's Stories From Asia - Tibet, China, Japan, Vietnam

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Best Children's Tales From Asia - Top Short Story Collections

Recommended Children's Short Story Collections
Photo by Dennis Kennedy

Here are some excellent collections of short stories - folk tales, fairy tales and other traditional tales - from Asia. So far, I've found four story collections to recommend, including timeless children's short stories from Tibet, China, Japan and Vietnam. As I discover other Asian story collections for children, I will add them. At present, you'll find overviews of the following children's short story collections:

  • Tibetan Tales from the Top of the World
  • Chinese Fables: “The Dragon Slayer” and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom
  • Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories
  • Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories

These stories stress such values as honesty, responsibility and respect. As one storyteller said, "It was though oral stories that my parents taught my sibling and me how to value virtue and live honorable lives. It was through traditional folktales that our grandparents taught us the morals we strive to apply and pass down to the younger generation." (Source: Tran Thi Minh Phuoc, Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories)

All of the books are good-sized and nicely illustrated, making them perfect for reading aloud to a group as well as sharing with your own children. Young readers will also enjoy the stories on their own, as will some teens and adults.

For each book, I have included links to additional resources to provide you with information about the history, geography, food, and related facts that you can share with your children.

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Tibetan Tales from the Top of the World - Children's Book

Tibetan Tales from the Top of the World cover art
Clear Light Publishing

Title: Tibetan Tales from the Top of the World

Author and Illustrator: Naomi C. Rose is also the author of another book of short stories from Tibet Tibetan Tales for Little Buddhas.

Translator: Tenzin Palsang holds a Master's Degree from the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics and translated the stories into Tibetan for both of Rose's books of Tibetan tales.

Summary: Tibetan Tales from the Top of the World contains three tales from Tibet, each told in English and Tibetan. In his foreword, The Dalai Lama writes, "Because the stories are set in Tibet, readers in other lands will naturally become aware of the existence of our country and of the values we hold dear." There is also a brief section about the Tibetan heart-mind connection and a pronunciation guide. The stories feature dramatic full-page paintings, as well as some spot illustrations.

The three stories are "Prince Jampa's Surprise," "Sonan and the Stolen Cow" and "Tashi's Gold." The stories tell of the importance of not judging others without seeing for yourself, of truth, responsibility and kindness and folly of greediness.

Length: 63 pages, 12” x 8.5”

Format: Hardcover, with a dust jacket

Awards:

  • Silver Winner, 2010 Nautilus Book Awards
  • Award-winning Finalist, 2010 International Book Awards

Recommended for: The publisher recommends Tibetan Tales from the Top of the World for ages 4 and up while I'd especially recommend it for ages 8 to 14, as well as some older teens and adults.

Publisher: Dancing Dakini Press

Publication Date: 2009

ISBN: 9781574160895

Additional Resources from About.com:

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Chinese Fables - Children's Book of Tales from China

Chinese Fables - cover art
Tuttle Publishing

Title: Chinese Fables: “The Dragon Slayer” and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom

Author: Shiho S. Nunes is most known for her young adult books based on Hawaiian culture.

Illustrator: Lak-Khee Tay-Audouard was born and raised in Singapore and presently lives in France. Among the other books she's illustrated are Monkey: The Classic Chinese Adventure Tale and Singapore Children's Favorite Stories.

Summary: Chinese Fables: “The Dragon Slayer” and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom features 19 tales, some dating back to the third century BCE, now retold for a modern English audience. The illustrations by Lak-Khee Tay-Audouard, created with colored pencils and wash on bamboo rag paper, add interest to the stories. As the author states in the preface, ""as fables and parables the world over have always done, these Chinese tales illustrate both the wisdom and foolishness of ordinary folk."

There is a lot of humor in the fables that children and adults alike will enjoy. There are a great many silly people in the stories who learn valuable lessons through their own choices and experiences. Unlike many fables, such as Aesop's Fables, these fables feature people rather than animals.

Length: 64 pages, 10” x 10”

Format: Hardcover, with a dust jacket

Awards:

  • 2014 Aesop Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature
  • 2013 Gelett Burgess Children's Book Award for Fables, Folklore & Fairytales
  • 2014 Creative Child Magazine Book of the Year Award

Recommended for: While the publisher does not list an age range for Chinese Fables: The Dragon Slayer and Other Timeless Tales of Wisdom, I recommend the book for children 7 to 12, as well as some teens and adults.

Publisher: Tuttle Publishing

Publication Date: 2013

ISBN: 9780804841528

Additional Resources from About.com:

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Japanese Children's Favorite Stories - Book of Tales from Japan

Japanese Children's Favorite Stories
Tuttle Publishing

Title: Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories

Author: Florence Sakude was an editor, author and compiler of books related to Japan, including several others illustrated by Yoshisuke Kurosaki

Illustrator: Yoshisuke Kurosaki and Florence Sakude's also collaborated on Little One-Inch and Other Japanese Children's Favorite Stories and Peach Boy and Other Japanese Children's Favorite Stories.

Summary: The 60th Anniversary Edition of Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories reflects the enduring popularity of the 20 stories. These traditional tales, passed down from generation to generation, emphasize honesty, kindness, perseverance, respect and other virtues in a most entertaining manner. The lively illustrations featuring much that will be new to young English-speaking readers and listeners add to the fun.

The tales feature goblins, walking statues, toothpick warriors, a magic teakettle and other amazing creatures and objects. A few of the tales may be familiar to you in somewhat different versions.

Length: 112 pages, 10" x 10"

Format: Hardcover, with a dust jacket

Recommended for: While the publisher does not list an age range for Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories, I recommend the book for ages 7-14, as well as some older teens and adults.

Publisher: Tuttle Publishing

Publication Date: Originally published in 1959; Anniversary Edition, 2013

ISBN: 9784805312605

Additional Resources from About.com:

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Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories - Tales from Vietnam

Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories
Tuttle Publishing

Title: Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories

Author: Retold by Tran Thi Minh Phuoc

Illustrators: Nguyen Thi Hop and Nguyen Dong

Summary: Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories contains 80 color illustrations and 15 stories, along with a two-page introduction by Tran Thi Minh Phuoc in which she discusses the stories. For detailed information, read my full book review of Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories.

Length: 96 pages, 9” x 9”

Format: Hardcover, with a dust jacket

Recommended for: While the publisher does not list an age range for Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories, I recommend the book for ages 7-14. as well as some older teens and adults.

Publisher: Tuttle Publishing

Publication Date: 2015

ISBN: 9780804844291

Additional Resources from About.com: