Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales

Book review by
Mary Dixon Weidler, Common Sense Media
Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales Book Poster Image
A spirited retelling of tales old and new.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.


A number of fairy-tale animals are punished or killed. Death is matter-of-factly accepted in all the tales. People are frequently changed into animals or inanimate objects, and unhappy endings abound. The Devil appears as a character. Some supernatural t

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the recurring theme of the worth of women make this a powerful and poignant read for anyone, but particularly for young African-American women.

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What's the story?

A spirited retelling of tales old and new, this is part collection and part celebration of the lore of African-American women. All manner of females--fairies and witches, the brave and the meek, women magical or fundamentally strong--star in this compilation of stories that broaden girls' understanding of where they came from and where they are going.


Is it any good?

Virginia Hamilton creates a beautiful book illustrated by intensely colorful paintings. The oral history of African-American women has been passed on for centuries through spoken word, spirituals and lullabies, autobiographical musings, and nighttime tales, and Hamilton has collected the best of these. The comments that accompany the stories, explaining their history, colloquial language, and imagery, are as fascinating as the stories themselves, and contribute greatly to the sense of self a girl develops when reading these accounts.

The final three stories are oral histories of three African-American women. It is this chapter -- when we meet real women speaking in their own voices -- that brings the rest of the book together, giving perspective and context to the folklore and fairy tales.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the different women in the stories. How are they connected? How are they different? Which ones do you admire most? Do any of them disappoint you?

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