Dialect Variations

This list provides examples of children's books on dialect variation in Children's Literature, and was prepared with the assistance of members of the LM-NET listserv for school librarians, particularly Josephine G. Dervan, Library Media Specialist; Strathmore Elementary School, Aberdeen, NJ 07747.

  • African-American Stories

    Hamilton, V. (1985). The people could fly: American Black folktales. New York, NY: Knopf.
    Retold African-American folk-tales of animals, fantasy, the supernatural, and desire for freedom, born of the sorrow of the slaves, but passed on in hope. Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon.
    Call# J 398.2H

    Harris, J. C. (1955). The complete tales of Uncle Remus. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
    Call# J 398.2H

    Jaquith, P. (1995). Bo Rabbit smart for true: Tall tales from the Gullah. New York, NY: Philomel Books.
    Animal tales in the Gullah dialect. Illustrations by Ed Young.
    Call# J 398.2J

    McKissack, P. (1986). Flossie & the Fox. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.
    A wily fox, notorious for stealing eggs, meets his match when he encounters a bold little girl in the woods who wants proof that he is a fox before she will be frightened. Illustrated by Rachel Isadora.
    Call# JPM

    McKissack, P. (1988). Mirandy and Brother Wind. New York, NY: Knopf.
    This Caldecott Honor book takes place in the rural South 40 years after the end of slavery. Mirandy tries to capture the wind for her partner, to win the first prize in the Junior Cakewalk. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
    Call# J P M

    Polacco, P. (1998). Chicken Sunday. New York, NY: PaperStar.
    To thank Miss Eula for her wonderful Sunday chicken dinners, three children sell decorated eggs to buy her a beautiful Easter hat.
    Call# J P P

    San Souci, R. D. (1989). The talking eggs: A folktale from the American South. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers
    A Southern folktale in which kind Blanche, following the instructions of an old witch, gains riches, while her greedy sister makes fun of the old woman and is duly rewarded. A Cinderella-type story from Louisiana. Illustrations by Jerry Pinkney.
    Call# J 398.2S

    San Souci, R. D. (1992). Sukey and the mermaid. New York, NY: Four Winds Press.
    This story is based on a folktale from the Sea Islands of South Carolina, as well as on Caribbean and West African sources. Unhappy with her life at home, Sukey receives kindness and wealth from Mama Jo the mermaid. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney.
    Call# J 398.2S

    Sierra, J. (1996). Wiley and the Hairy Man. New York, NY: Lodestar Books.
    A popular Alabama folktale is given new life, when Wiley encounters the Hairy Man in the swamp one day. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney.
    Call# J 398.2S

    Taylor, T. (1969). The cay. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
    When the freighter on which they are traveling is torpedoed by a German submarine during World War II, an adolescent white boy, blinded by a blow on the head, and an old black man are stranded on a tiny Caribbean island where the boy acquires a new kind of vision, courage, and love from his old companion.
    Call# J F T

    Williams, S. A. (1998). Working cotton.  San Diego, CA: Scholastic Inc.
    A young black girl relates the daily events of her family's migrant life in the cotton fields of central California.
    Call# J P W

    Yarbrough, C. (1989). The shimmershine queens. New York, NY: Putnam & Grosset.
    Two fifth graders try to uplift themselves and their class-mates out of a less than beautiful urban present by encouraging dreams and the desire to achieve them.
    Call# J F Y

  • Caribbean Stories

    Buffett, J. &  Buffett, S.  J. (1988). The Jolly Mon. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
    Relates the adventures of a fisherman who finds a magic guitar floating in the Caribbean Sea. It includes the music for the song "Jolly Mon Sing". Illustrated by Lambert Davis.

    Hurst, M. (2001). Grannie and the Jumbie: A Caribbean tale. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
    When a young Caribbean boy does not listen to his grandmother, an evil spirit threatens to snatch him.
    Call# J 398.2 H

    Joseph, L. (1992). An island Christmas. New York, NY: Clarion Books.
    Speaking in a lyrical patois, a young girl describes in wordy discourse the preparations she and her family are making for a traditional Christmas on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Illustrated by Catherine Stock.
    Call# J P J

    Temple, F. (1994). Tiger soup: An Anansi story from Jamaica. New York, NY: Orchard Books.
    A West Indian pourquoi story about Anansi the Spider; after tricking Tiger into leaving the soup he has been cooking, Anansi eats the soup himself and manages to put the blame on the monkeys.
    Call# J 398.24T

    San Souci, R. D. (1995). The faithful friend. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
    This folktale from the French West Indies tells the story of two young men, one black, one white, who are friends from childhood. Together they encounter love, zombies, and danger on the island of Martinique. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney.
    Call# J 398.21S

    Williams, K. L. (1994). Tap-tap. New York, NY: Clarion Books.
    After selling oranges in the market, a Haitian mother and daughter have enough money to ride the tap-tap, a truck that picks up passengers and lets them off when they bang on the side of the vehicle. Illustrated by Catherine Stock.
    Call# J P W

  • Creole Stories

    Fleming, C. (2004). Gator gumbo: A spicy hot tale. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
    A hungry alligator, slow with age, hopes to catch some good meat to add to his spicy gumbo.
    Call# J P F

    Hamilton, V. (2000). The girl who spun gold. New York, NY: The Blue Sky Press.
    In this West Indian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story, Lit'mahn spins thread into gold cloth for the king's new bride.
    Call# J 398.2H

    San Souci, R. D. (1998). Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
    A Creole version of the familiar Cinderella tale set in Martinique and narrated by the godmother who helps Cendrillon find true love.  Illustrated by Brian Pinkney.
    Call# J 398.2S

    Sisnett, A. (1997). Grannie jus' come! San Francisco, CA: Children's Book Press.
    A Panamanian girl enjoys her grandmother's weekly visit, during which the girl admires her grandmother's dress, shoes, hat, skin, and hair, finally
    proclaiming: Oh, Grannie! Ah luv yu so much! Illustrations by Karen Lusebrink.
    Call# J P S

    Williams, K. L. (1998). Painted dreams. New York, NY: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
    Because her Haitian family is too poor to be able to buy paints for her, eight-year-old Ti Marie finds her own way to create pictures that make the heart sing. Illustrated by Catherine Stock.
    Call# J P W

    Wolkstein, D. (1997). Bouki dances the kokioko: a comical tale from Haiti. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
    The king offers a reward to anyone who can dance the Kokioko, and clever Malice takes home the money without dancing a step. A guide to unfamiliar words is included. Illustrated by Jesse Sweetwater.

  • Cajun Stories

    Appelt, K. (1995). Bayou lullaby. New York, NY: Morrow Junior Books.
    A colorful goodnight poem to a "bayou gal." Includes a glossary with Cajun pronunciation. Illustrations by Neil Waldman.
    Call# J P A

    Thomassie, T. (1995). Feliciana Feydra Leroux: A Cajun tall tale. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.
    Although Grampa Baby spoils Feliciana most of the time, he refuses to take her alligator hunting. Feliciana, a spunky, determined young girl, decides to go anyway and sneaks off to the swamp after her grandfather and brothers. Told in a lilting Cajun dialect, this original tale includes a glossary and a brief history of the Cajun people. Illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith.
    Call# J P T

    Thomassie, T. (1998). Feliciana meets d'Loup Garou: A Cajun tall tale. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.
    D'Loup Garou is a werewolf that lives deep in the swamps of Louisiana and comes out when the moon is full. His favorite meal is a naughty girl or a sassy boy. Illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith.
    Call# J P T

  • Irish Stories

    De Paola, T. (1981). Fin M'Coul, the giant of Knockmany Hill. New York, NY: Holiday House.
    Fin M'Coul's wife, Oonagh, helps him outwit his archrival, Cucullin.
    Call# J 398.2D

    Stuart, C. (1996). The Ballymara flood.  San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace.
    Pandemonium reigns when a boy's bathtub overflows and floods the Irish town of Ballymara.
    Call# J P S

  • Other Regional U.S. Dialects

    Chase, R. (Ed.). (1943). The Jack tales. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1943.
    The Jack Tales are told by R. M. Ward and his kindred in the Beech Mountain section of western North Carolina and by other descendants of Council Harmon (1803-1896) elsewhere in the southern mountains; with three tales from Wise County, Virginia. With an appendix compiled by Herbert Halpert; and illustrated by Berkeley Williams, Jr.
    Call# J 398.2C

    Hooks, W. H. (1989). The three little pigs and the fox. New York, NY: Macmillan.
    In this Appalachian version of the classic tale, Hamlet, the youngest pig, rescues her two greedy brothers from the clutches of the "mean, tricky old drooly-mouth fox." Illustrated by S.D. Schindler.
    Call# J 398.2H

    Hunt, I. (1993). Across five Aprils.  Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett Press.
    Young Jethro Creighton grows from a boy to a man when he is left to take care of the family farm in Illinois during the difficult years of the Civil War.
    Call# J F H

    Lenski, L. (1945). Strawberry girl. New York, NY: Harper-Collins Publishers.
    Set in a little-known backwoods region of Florida, Strawberry Girl is the first of the Lenski regional books and the winner of the Newbery Award.
    Call# J F L

    Mayer, M. (1976). Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp. New York, NY: Parents' Magazine Press.
    With her quick thinking Liza Lou manages to outwit all the haunts, gobblygooks, witches, and devils in the Yeller Belly Swamp.
    Call# J P M

    Mills, L. (1991). The rag coat. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.
    Eight-year-old Minna is teased at school because the coat she wears is made of rags. But she tells her classmates that the coat is made from pieces of all their childhoods, and they come to understand how special it really is. The Appalachian setting is strong.
    Call# J P M

    Van Laan, N. (1990). Possum come a-knockin'. New York, NY: Knopf.
    While Granny is a-rockin' and a-knittin' and Ma's a-cookin' and Pa's a-fixin', that old possum in his top hat and vest just keeps on knocking. The narrator, a redheaded boy, tries to tell family members about the possum, and when the family checks, the possum hides. A cumulative tale in verse about a mysterious stranger that interrupts a family's daily routine. Illustrated by George Booth.
    Call# J P V

  • Spanish Dialect Stories

    Anaya, R. (1995). The farolitos of Christmas. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.
    With her father away fighting in World War II and her grandfather too sick to create the traditional luminaria, Luz helps create farolitos, little lanterns, for their Christmas celebration instead. The Spanish words are a natural part of the narrative (they're explained in a glossary at the back). Illustrations by Edward Gonzales.
    Call# J P A

    Cardova, A. (1997).  Abuelita's heart. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
    Before returning to the city with her parents, a young girl walks with her grandmother, learning about the special feelings, places, and plants that are part of her heritage and the Southwestern desert where Abuelita lives. Spanish words, followed by their English translations, appear frequently in the text.
    Call# J P C

    Cazet, D. (1993). Born in the gravy. New York, NY: Orchard Books.
    Margarita's lively retelling of her first day in kindergarten to her papa is sprinkled with Spanish words and phrases, true to the speech patterns of most bilingual children.
    Call# J P C

    Dorros, A. (1991). Abuela. New York, NY: Dutton Children's Books.
    We join Rosalba and her grandmother, her abuela, on a magical journey, as they fly over the streets, sights, and people of Manhattan. The story is narrated in English and sprinkled with Spanish phrases. Illustrated by Elisa Kleven.
    Call# J P D

    Dorros, A. (1995). Isla. New York, NY: Dutton Children's Books.
    A little girl and her grand-mother, first seen flying over New York City in Abuela (1991), take off on another imaginary flight, this time to the Caribbean island where Abuela grew up. Complete with a glossary and pronunciation guide for the Spanish words that are sprinkled throughout the text. Illustrated by Elisa Kleven.
    Call# J P D

    Soto, G. (1995). Chato's kitchen. New York, NY: Putnam.
    Chato, a cat, prepares to serve up a housewarming party for his new neighbors, a family of mice, in which the guests are also the main course. There's a glossary of Spanish words, but it's the characters and their talk that give the story its special flavor. Illustrated by Susan Guevara.
    Call# J P S

    Soto, G. (1996). The old man and his door. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam.
    Instead of bringing el puerco, a pig, to their neighbors for a barbecue as his wife asked, el viejo puts the door, la puerta, over his back and heads to the house of la comadre. A glossary at the front explains the Spanish words in the text, and Soto quotes from a Mexican song that frames his story. Illustrations by Joe Cepeda.
    Call# J P S