Pourquoi is French for “why.” Pourquoi tales are folktales that teach the reader why something happens — for instance, why mosquitos buzz or why pandas are black and white. They present an opportunity to connect to a variety of cultures and time periods, allowing us to expand our worldview and putting our lives into perspective. Read one of these fascinating stories to children and share in their wonder at learning why something may have come to be.
Teaching with Pourquoi Tales
Frey, Yvonne Amar.
One-person Puppetry Streamlined and Simplified: with 38 Folktale Scripts. 2005.
Over the course of 20 years, Frey has perfected nontraditional shortcuts that make solo amateur puppetry painless, cost-effective-and fun! Children’s librarians, teachers, pre-school programs, even parents and homeschoolers can entertain their audiences using this simple proven system. Three of these folktales are pourquoi tales.
[Main Stacks 791.5 F897o]
Hamilton, Martha and Mitch Weiss.
How and Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read & Tell. 1999.
A collection of twenty-five traditional stories explaining why an animal or plant or natural object looks or acts the way it does. Following each story are storytelling tips and short modern, scientific explanations for the subject of the story.
[Education Curriculum TEXT. 398.2 AUGHO1999]
Kraus, Anne Marie.
Folktale Themes and Activities for Children, Volume 1: Pourquoi Tales. 1998-1999.
The exploits of how-and-why stories offer many exciting opportunities for learning. Kraus’s bibliographic and activity guides help you design dynamic story times and projects to excite students’ imaginations. Activity pages (e.g., Venn diagrams, shadow puppets, multimedia projects), teaching ideas, and other materials can be used to prepare story hours, art and drama projects, literature reading units, cultural explorations, and science and nature studies. There are myriad opportunities for integrating multicultural concepts into science, literature, and social studies.
[Education Curriculum CURR. 372.64 TEAIP1998-1999]
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: a West African Tale. 1975.
A retelling of a traditional West African tale that reveals how the mosquito developed its annoying habit.
[Education S Collection SE.AA72W]
Bruchac, Joseph and James Bruchac.
How Chipmunk Got His Stripes: a Tale of Bragging and Teasing. 2001.
When Bear and Brown Squirrel have a disagreement about whether Bear can stop the sun from rising, Brown Squirrel ends up with claw marks on his back and becomes Chipmunk, the striped one.
[Education S Collection Q. S.398.2 B831h]
Connolly, James E (compiler).
Why the Possum’s Tail is Bare, and Other North American Indian Nature Tales. 1985.
Thirteen tales collected from eight Indian tribes of eastern and western North America, featuring animals and nature lore.
[Education Storage S.398.208997 C762W]
How Snake Got His Hiss: an Original Tale. 1996.
Explains how long ago a self-absorbed snake became responsible for the hyena’s spots, the lion’s mane, the monkey’s chattering, the ostrich’s speed, and its own unique shape.
[Center for Children’s Books S.D311h]
Doucet, Sharon Arms.
Why Lapin’s Ears are Long and Other Stories of the Louisiana Bayou. 1997.
These three spicy and hilariously illustrated tales feature the trickster rabbit Compere Lapin. The first two tales are pourquoi tales explaining how he got his long ears and short tail.
[Center for Children’s Books Q. S.398.209763 D744w]
Why Ducks Sleep on One Leg. 1993.
A Vietnamese folktale explaining why ducks sleep on one leg.
[Education Storage Q.SE. G1834W]
The Legend of the Panda. 1998.
The original Chinese folk tale of how the panda came to have its distinctive black-and-white coat is a story of love, bravery and the sacrifice of a young shepherdess. As retold by master historian Linda Granfield, The Legend of the Panda is augmented with fascinating information about panda bears and the efforts to save them.
[Education Storage S.398.20951 G765l1998]
Hurston, Zora Neale.
What’s the Hurry Fox? And Other Animal Stories. 2004.
Presents a volume of pourquoi tales collected by Zora Neale Hurston from her field research in the Gulf states in the 1920s.
[Education Storage Q. S.398.2 T364w]
The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote. 1994.
Rabbit outwits Coyote in this Zapotec tale which explains why coyotes howl at the moon.
[Education Storage S.398.2 J648T]
Feathers and Tails: Animal Fables from Around the World. 1992.
A collection of animal fables, folklore, pourquoi, and trickster tales from such sources as the Bidpai fables, Aesop, Panchatantra, Grimm, and Wu Cheng-en.
[Center for Children’s Books Q.SE. K528F]
A Collection of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. 2004.
In this gorgeous collection featuring eight of Kipling’s Just So Stories, each tale is illustrated by a different leading contemporary artist. How did the rude Rhinoceros get his baggy skin? First told aloud to his young daughter, Rudyard Kipling’s inspired answers to these and other burning questions draw from the fables he heard as a child in India and the folktales he gathered from around the world.
[Education S Collection S. K628ju2004]
“Why Goats Smell Bad” and other Stories from Benin. 1998.
A collection of nineteen folk stories from the Fon people of Benin. The second section of this anthology focuses on pourquoi tales and stories of animal wisdom.
[Center for Children’s Books S.398.2089 M31w]
Rainbow Bird: an Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia. 1993.
Describes how fire was given to people when Bird woman stole it from Crocodile Man.
[Education Storage S.398.24 M263R]
When the World was Young: Creation and Pourquoi Tales. 1996.
This lyrically told, lushly illustrated book collects ten imaginative tales from diverse cultures to create a provocative portrait of the origins of our earth.
[Center for Children’s Books Reference S.398.2 M4541w1996]
How Spiders Got Eight Legs. 1998.
Hoping to beat the other animals in a race without working too hard, Spider asks Great Hippo for different legs, before ending up with the eight he has today.
[Education S Collection S.398.2 M461H]
Poole, Amy Lowry.
How the Rooster got His Crown. 1999.
According to Miao tradition — a minority group in western China — in the early days of the world, the six suns refuse to come out for fear of a skillful archer’s arrows. A small rooster saves the day by coaxing the suns out with his crowing.
[Education Storage S.398.20951 P785h]
How the Elephant Got Its Trunk: a Retelling of the Rudyard Kipling Tale. 2003.
Because of his curiosity about what the crocodile has for dinner, a little elephant and all elephants thereafter end up with long trunks.
[Education S Collection Q. SE. R391h]
How Animals Got their Colors: Animal Myths from Around the World. 1992.
A collection of tales from around the world explaining how various animals got their colors.
[Education S Collection S.398.2 R722h]
How Turtle’s Back was Cracked: a Traditional Cherokee Tale. 1995.
Turtle’s shell is cracked when the wolves plot to stop his boastful ways.
[Education Storage S.398.2 R733ht]
The Legend of the Lady’s Slipper. 2001.
One winter, when the people of her village become terribly ill, Running Flower braves the snow and freezing cold to race to the village on the other side of the forest for medicine. Based on an Ojibwa legend about why the lady slipper flower came into existence.
[Education S Collection Q. S.398.2 W231l]
A Pride of African Tales. 2004.
A collection of African folktales originating in the storytelling tradition, including a pourquoi tale “The Boy Who Wanted the Moon,” set in the Congo, which explains why there are monkeys in the world.
[Center for Children’s Books Q. S.398.2 W276p]