Sunday, November 2, 2008

Aesop Award

The Aesop Award is given out by the Children's Folklore Section of the American Folklore Society, to a book of folklore (go figure).

This year's winner is ....Ain’t Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry, by Scott Reynolds Nelson, with Marc Aronson.

What I think is so cool about the award is that it's not just for a well-told tale, but for excellence in documenting and annotating where the story is from. The winning title should "accurately reflect the culture and worldview of the people whose folklore is the focus of the book" and that "folklore sources must be fully acknowledged and annotations referenced within the bound contents of the publication."

For years, all that critical stuff was virtually ignored in books for kids. There are still books in our folktales section that we have no idea whether they are genuine folktales or just a story the author made up and set in another country. Or books where we have no clue whether or not the author has some familiarity and understanding of the story's culture.

So I like to keep this list in mind when I'm working with teachers who are looking for folktales for their classrooms, since I know I can trust that the stories on this list have been properly researched and cited.

Aesop Accolades (runners up)
Dance in a Buffalo Skull. Told by Zitkala-Ša.
The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales. Anne Shelby.


martyn.beeny said...

I think your comments about the purpose of the Aesop awards are right on point. I noticed you have a link to Dance in a Buffalo Skull. There is a lot more to read about this book at and Also, another book from the South Dakota State Historical Society Press, Tatanka and the Lakota People also won a recent Aesop Accolade.

Melissa said...

I just read Ain't Nothing But a Man, and it is a powerful example of how real research works: dead ends, end runs, luck, determination, creative thinking, and synthesis.