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Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys

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From China to Burma, Afghanistan to America, this collection of fourteen familiar and little-known stories tells the tales of sons, brothers, kings, and trolls--men and boys united by a common heroism that comes from strength of character, wisdom, and compassion. These stories show that brains trump brawn every time. Renowned storyteller Jane Yolen has created an exciting From China to Burma, Afghanistan to America, this collection of fourteen familiar and little-known stories tells the tales of sons, brothers, kings, and trolls--men and boys united by a common heroism that comes from strength of character, wisdom, and compassion. These stories show that brains trump brawn every time. Renowned storyteller Jane Yolen has created an exciting companion book to her Book Sense 76 Pick Not One Damsel in Distress. An inspired collection of dramatic tales, Mightier Than the Sword will inspire boys and girls alike.


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From China to Burma, Afghanistan to America, this collection of fourteen familiar and little-known stories tells the tales of sons, brothers, kings, and trolls--men and boys united by a common heroism that comes from strength of character, wisdom, and compassion. These stories show that brains trump brawn every time. Renowned storyteller Jane Yolen has created an exciting From China to Burma, Afghanistan to America, this collection of fourteen familiar and little-known stories tells the tales of sons, brothers, kings, and trolls--men and boys united by a common heroism that comes from strength of character, wisdom, and compassion. These stories show that brains trump brawn every time. Renowned storyteller Jane Yolen has created an exciting companion book to her Book Sense 76 Pick Not One Damsel in Distress. An inspired collection of dramatic tales, Mightier Than the Sword will inspire boys and girls alike.

30 review for Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys

  1. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    I’ve been reading this to the kids (boys, ages 7 and 3.5) off and on all summer. I pack it our suitcases when we travel and read it when Hubby is away at bedtime (otherwise the kids each get their own story read to them). I really like this book. First of I love the premise--it is a tales of boys/men from around the world who win the day using their wits rather than their physical strength. This is not to say it is non-violent. There is some gore and some of the heros have to endure some pretty I’ve been reading this to the kids (boys, ages 7 and 3.5) off and on all summer. I pack it our suitcases when we travel and read it when Hubby is away at bedtime (otherwise the kids each get their own story read to them). I really like this book. First of I love the premise--it is a tales of boys/men from around the world who win the day using their wits rather than their physical strength. This is not to say it is non-violent. There is some gore and some of the heros have to endure some pretty serious discomfort to succeed. For example, in one of the stories the hero has to knock out a couple of his own teeth to proceed with this task. My kids are not at all frightened by this sort of thing, and in these cases its not violence and gore for its own sake. I don’t have any problem reading them at bedtime, but if my kids were different then I would pre-read. Violence is the exception rather than the rule. Another thing that is really great about this collection is the writing. It is not written in baby language or low-level vocabulary, but is also not overly academic or old fashioned. I’ve tried to read from other fairy-tale collections and found them hard for my older son to follow. This is collection seems to be accessible even to the 3.5 year old though its hard to tell if he could/would follow it without his brother there to clue him in. The 7 year old finds it very engaging, and I enjoy reading it aloud. I think that my older son is actually understanding the messages behind the stories as well. Some of them are more obvious than others and some of the heros are even close to anti-heros. I can think of one “hero” in particular that actually strikes me as quiet lazy and antisocial. F, the elder, will often want to discuss stories again days or weeks after we’ve read them and I think its great that they’ve given him something to think about. We have also had good laugh about family planning. There are several stories feature three brothers. The eldest are lazy/greedy/unsuccessful and the youngest is smart, considerate hero. We laugh that its a good thing we stopped at two boys and that they can both be smart and noble.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jerri Miller

    1. Genre: Traditional Literature 2. This book is a collection of tales regarding boys being heroes in ways other than strength and have been taken from many different parts of the world. 3. a. Organization b. Because this particular book is a collection, I chose to focus on the organization. I feel that when reading a book that has multiple stories in it that it is important to be organized. After reading the book I feel very satisfied that the collector of these tales succeeded in this aspect. T 1. Genre: Traditional Literature 2. This book is a collection of tales regarding boys being heroes in ways other than strength and have been taken from many different parts of the world. 3. a. Organization b. Because this particular book is a collection, I chose to focus on the organization. I feel that when reading a book that has multiple stories in it that it is important to be organized. After reading the book I feel very satisfied that the collector of these tales succeeded in this aspect. There was a table of contents which allowed me to view the contents of the book. Each tale began with a title but also a little one sentence blurb underneath that explained what the moral of each tale was. Lastly, collector included notes in the back of the book on each tale, giving the reader an idea as to how and where these stories originated and how they had been changed and adapted to this particular book. c. Example of a note from "The Magic Brocade": Unlike many similar European stories of three brothers who go off to seek help for their parents- where the lazy ones end up either forgiven or torn to pieces- this tale ends on a note of some particular justice, as the two older brothers are left beggars. (This is in the original story and I have not tampered with it). 4. This collection of stories from all over the world would be good to use in a higher grade lever as examples of common folklore and tales. Like so many other works of folklore and traditional literature, these contain morals and character traits that would be good to share with the students.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Krista the Krazy Kataloguer

    A very enjoyable collection of folktales from around the world. I especially liked the Finnish version of "Puss in Boots," called "Mighty Mikko." A few I had heard before. In fact, I had just read a picture book entitled Juan Verdades, about a Southwestern rancher whose foreman always tells the truth, when in this book I read "The Truthful Shepherd," a Hungarian tale, apparently quite old, with the same theme. One had to have influenced the other, as there were too many specific story elements i A very enjoyable collection of folktales from around the world. I especially liked the Finnish version of "Puss in Boots," called "Mighty Mikko." A few I had heard before. In fact, I had just read a picture book entitled Juan Verdades, about a Southwestern rancher whose foreman always tells the truth, when in this book I read "The Truthful Shepherd," a Hungarian tale, apparently quite old, with the same theme. One had to have influenced the other, as there were too many specific story elements in common to be coincidence. I also especially appreciated Jane Yolen's introduction, "An Open Letter to My Sons and Grandson," in which she explained that heroes don't have to wield swords and fight to be heroes. The stories she chose for this book indicate other virtues that make boys heroes. And at the end of the book, her sons and grandson address a letter to her, requesting that girls be encouraged to read the book too. Nice. Recommended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Scott Houston

    This is a great source for classrooms because it is anthology of fourteen short stories from around the world. It can be used to explore other cultures outside our own, but it is most important because it shows boys that there is great strength without force or violence. Movies and American culture are obsessed with violence, but I enjoy this book for its craft of showing virtue without resorting to punching and kicking! I would love to show this book to my future male students because it shows This is a great source for classrooms because it is anthology of fourteen short stories from around the world. It can be used to explore other cultures outside our own, but it is most important because it shows boys that there is great strength without force or violence. Movies and American culture are obsessed with violence, but I enjoy this book for its craft of showing virtue without resorting to punching and kicking! I would love to show this book to my future male students because it shows them that brains are more important than brawn, and that they do not need to be violent to succeed. I would recommend this book to male students who are being bullied, or students in the class that cause trouble or bully themselves.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Mightier Than the Sword by Jane Yolen Excellent stories and values, doing what's right, standing up for oneself and others, cleverness and persistence in the face of problems. A student once asked why "all" my stories were about women (not quite so but an understandable preference). If I'd had this book, I'd have added a few more to his liking. The writing is splendid, and the illustrations add to the pleasure. Excellent for readers of all ages and gender. <3 and I’ve requested NOT ONE DAMSEL IN Mightier Than the Sword by Jane Yolen Excellent stories and values, doing what's right, standing up for oneself and others, cleverness and persistence in the face of problems. A student once asked why "all" my stories were about women (not quite so but an understandable preference). If I'd had this book, I'd have added a few more to his liking. The writing is splendid, and the illustrations add to the pleasure. Excellent for readers of all ages and gender. <3 and I’ve requested NOT ONE DAMSEL IN DISTRESS also. https://www.amazon.com/review/RXD29MQ...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Reading Through the Lists

    It probably goes without saying that the stories in Mightier than the Sword are by no means limited to boys. Though they all feature a male protagonist, Yolen illuminates core folktale morals and motifs through tales both familiar and strange. The pen-and-ink illustrations by Raul Colón compliment the stories and give the book visual appeal. While I don’t remember enjoying the companion volume Not One Damsel in Distress nearly as much, I feel it’s time to give it a re-read as well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    AMY

    Great book of folktales for boys; some stories I would not read aloud; most of them are interesting, but maybe on second thought I would not read these aloud; I think it is good to have in the collection though.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    I've always had a fascination with old myths / folktales from around the world. The author's notes at the end relating to how she merged, modified and modernized were very interesting. I've always had a fascination with old myths / folktales from around the world. The author's notes at the end relating to how she merged, modified and modernized were very interesting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Ann

    This was a nice little book with some short folk tales encouraging young boys to be a different kind of hero. I liked how each story came from a different location, and how each had parable beneath the title. The notes in the back on where each tale came from were great. As for the tales themselves, I knew the eating contest from The Troll With No Heart in His Body and other Tales of Trolls, from Norway. The only other story I really enjoyed was the Magic brocade. I could see myself telling that This was a nice little book with some short folk tales encouraging young boys to be a different kind of hero. I liked how each story came from a different location, and how each had parable beneath the title. The notes in the back on where each tale came from were great. As for the tales themselves, I knew the eating contest from The Troll With No Heart in His Body and other Tales of Trolls, from Norway. The only other story I really enjoyed was the Magic brocade. I could see myself telling that one. The illustrations were not my favorite.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Kelly

    Jane Yolen is one of my favorites. She is so very prolific in so many ways... This collection of folktales for strong (smart) boys is awesome. Although it is intended to show boys that "hero is a word for winner, not whipper; for smarty, not smarty pants; for holding on, not holding back" it is also worthwhile to show to girls for all the same reasons. The stories are interesting in their portrayal of what smart is in different countries. The trope of being tricked and then tricking the trickster Jane Yolen is one of my favorites. She is so very prolific in so many ways... This collection of folktales for strong (smart) boys is awesome. Although it is intended to show boys that "hero is a word for winner, not whipper; for smarty, not smarty pants; for holding on, not holding back" it is also worthwhile to show to girls for all the same reasons. The stories are interesting in their portrayal of what smart is in different countries. The trope of being tricked and then tricking the trickster is common among them, but the *ways* in which the hero beats the trickster are so varied! awesome.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Davis

    The book "Mightier than the Sword" by Jane Yolen a Folk Lore is intended for grades 3-5 It was a Aesop Prize Winner, The Sibert Medal and a Caldecott honor. It tells about 14 folk tales of boys regarding courage, honor, bravery, etc. The tales are about sons, brothers, kings and trolls. I rated this book with 3 stars because it had a little illustrations in book. It tells of value and strength and victory without picking up the sword (using violence). I think children would like this book because The book "Mightier than the Sword" by Jane Yolen a Folk Lore is intended for grades 3-5 It was a Aesop Prize Winner, The Sibert Medal and a Caldecott honor. It tells about 14 folk tales of boys regarding courage, honor, bravery, etc. The tales are about sons, brothers, kings and trolls. I rated this book with 3 stars because it had a little illustrations in book. It tells of value and strength and victory without picking up the sword (using violence). I think children would like this book because of the bravery it shows of boys winning without resorting to violence. I could use this book in my classroom to show the kids that problems can be solved without the use of force.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Friend of Pixie

    Logan, who is almost 6, could not get enough of this book! The stories come from many different cultures and I particularly like the ones with some humor for the grown-ups (The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs and Mighty Mikko come to mind). The only story that was totally obscure for Logan (and not to my mind a great retelling) was The False Night on the Road. We are not religious and it eluded L that the knight was the Devil. Small complaint though for such a winner. We plan to try the tales Logan, who is almost 6, could not get enough of this book! The stories come from many different cultures and I particularly like the ones with some humor for the grown-ups (The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs and Mighty Mikko come to mind). The only story that was totally obscure for Logan (and not to my mind a great retelling) was The False Night on the Road. We are not religious and it eluded L that the knight was the Devil. Small complaint though for such a winner. We plan to try the tales for strong girls by the same author.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I read this book with my two boys ages 5 and 3. It is a collection of folktales from around the world. In all of the stories the people use clever solutions to get out of tricky situations instead of the sword. We all enjoyed the stories, although some of them were a little over the heads of my boys and I had to do some explaining. I think it is one that I will get again in a few years to read again with them.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jan Duncan-O'Neal

    This is a "break through" book for me. The author's purpose in redefining "strong boys" and finding good folktales for them helps teachers, librarians, and parents search for better role models. Too many bullies and macho men influence kids in all media. The wise words of Yolen's book should be spread across our country and world! This is a "break through" book for me. The author's purpose in redefining "strong boys" and finding good folktales for them helps teachers, librarians, and parents search for better role models. Too many bullies and macho men influence kids in all media. The wise words of Yolen's book should be spread across our country and world!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book was very interesting. It has folktales in it from all around the world. Each folktale is roughly 4-5 pages so you could pick one to read at a time. I also liked how you get to read other cultures tales.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josephine

    This anthology really highlights the power and worth of fairy and folk tales. They can be so much more than just a good story. In a few short pages, they can illustrate an idea or ideal that can shape young (and not so young) minds.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kami

    To be honest, I only read a few of the stories. But I wasn't all that impressed by the ones I did read. I think the Childcraft books Tales of Freedom and the like are much better. The pictures left a lot to be desired too. To be honest, I only read a few of the stories. But I wasn't all that impressed by the ones I did read. I think the Childcraft books Tales of Freedom and the like are much better. The pictures left a lot to be desired too.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Smith

    Very Nice. Had read most of the folktales before,but they did a good job reaching out to a younger audience rather than having a lot of the more frightning tales like the ones from the color fairy books.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Erin Sterling

    What a great collection of stories from around the world about clever heroes that rely on their wit rather than brawn. Everything from eating with trolls to a truthful shepherd.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Reed

    I bought this to read to my four boys. I wish more story books were like it! How refreshing to read stories esteeming virtuous character and wit, with life lessons woven in.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bree

    Notes: most stories were adventurous and exciting some were too scary or gross for my sensitive boy well-written

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    moving beyond the usual "brawn over brains" for hero tales. moving beyond the usual "brawn over brains" for hero tales.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Annmarie Wise

    Great book for young boys; showcases creativity and integrity and intelligence as a means to being a hero.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alandra

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Vigil

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lindamarie

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary-helen Giles

  29. 5 out of 5

    Q

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jena Valdez

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