A legend is a form of story told in the oral tradition that narrates events rooted in historic and realistic settings with characters that mimic real humans. Listed below is a combination of Christmas and non-Christmas legends to help teach young readers about the elements of legendary literature! (No pun intended.) I love to have plenty of Legends available during our Legend Study found here! Read on to find 10 LEGENDARY MENTOR TEXT WITH SUMMARIES AND TEACHING TIPS!
The Indian Paintbrush is a strikingly beautiful plant that blooms red, orange, and yellow in the spring meadows of Texas and Wyoming. How this plant received its name is explained through the story of an old Indian legend about a young Indian artist who attempts to fulfill his Dream-Vision of creating a painting that captures the vibrancy of a sunset sky. Told in moving language with beautiful illustrations, The Indian Paintbrush is a great text to have when teaching younger students about the components of legends.
Teacher tip: Have students paint flowers and provide a summary of the book.
The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving by Dandi Daley Mackall
This endearing picture book helps to remind young ones of the true spirit of Christmas, instilling the power of giving within readers to inspire them for months to come. Intended for readers aged 4-8, this text tells the legend of St. Nicholas, a man who dedicated his efforts to helping the poor throughout the world.
Teacher Tip: Have students make a list of ways they can be helpful in their community.
Myths and Legends of the World by Lonely Planet Kids
Readers will travel through time to learn about 21 magnificent stories, meeting gods, goddesses, talking fish, terrifying beasts, and other magical creatures! Offering a mixture of myths and legends, this collection of stories is perfect for teaching about the similarities and differences between the two writing forms.
Teacher tip: Compare and contrast one myth and one legend from the book. Discovering which elements are exclusive to each genre will help students learn how to distinguish the two from one another.
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
The flor de la Nochebuenao is the Mexican name for the classic holiday flower, the red poinsettia. Also known as the flower of the Holy Night, this exquisite plant is at the heart of this retelling of a Mexican legend which explains how the poinsettia gained its status within the Christmas tradition as the official holiday flower.
Teacher tip: Make a poinsettia out of paper along with a summary. Directions are found in our Legend Study Unit!
Fly, Eagle, Fly: An African Tale by Christopher Gregorowski
Following a night of treacherous storms, an African farmer takes off to find his lost calf when he discovers a baby eagle that has been blown out of its nest. The farmer brings the fledgling eagle to live amongst his chickens, where the wild bird learns to walk, eat, and think like a chicken. After failed attempts at trying to get the eagle to fly, the farmer travels into the mountains and successfully releases the bird, who lifts off and soars. This is a beautiful legend about persistence, compassion, and the wonder of flying high.
Teacher Tip: Have students write about a time they were persistent.
How the Candy Cane Got Its Stripes: A Christmas Tale by Kevin Brougher
This legend of the classic Christmas candy is spirited and exciting in its telling of how the candy cane got its stripes. The illustrations are captivating, and the rhythmic verse makes for an entrancing read-along experience.
Teacher tip: Pair a candy cane activity along with a reading of this mentor text! Students can add their own stripes to a blank outline of a candy cane shape, writing in holiday traditions overtop their colorful drawings. Get creative with this and hang them around the classroom to add some extra Christmas spirit, and don’t forget to hand out some baby candy canes while you’re at it!
The Legend of the Teddy Bear by Frank Murphy
Within this book is the telling of the great American legend that explains how the teddy bear became a staple toy that embodies love and warmth. The history of this beloved stuffed animal originates from the story of President Theodore Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a cornered bear, and how two entrepreneurs created a legend that helped to bring the teddy bear into the hearts of American children in a timeless way.
Teacher Tip: Have students write about a day in the life of a teddy bear.
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
This early American legend follows the character of lazy Rip Van Winkle into the mysterious Catskill mountains where an interaction with an outfit of odd men ends up costing him 20 years of his life! After sharing a strange flagon of brew with the men, Rip Van Winkle falls into a deep sleep for 20 years, resulting in a rude awakening as he finds his home to be a very different place than he remembered it being.
Teacher Tip: Have students pretend that they fell asleep for 20 years and then write a prediction as to what they think they will find. Illustrate it!
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Disney Book Group
This Disney retelling of the legend of Sleepy Hollow is haunting and exciting as readers learn about the tale of Ichabod Crane, a lanky and superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut. First published in 1819, this is a classic American legend about the disappearance of Ichabod and the mysterious involvement of a Headless Horseman. This spooky tale will reel readers in with its haunting charm.
Teacher tip: Ask your students to name other classic American and European legend characters and see if they know about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and more!
The Legend of the Christmas Witch by Dan Murphy and Aubrey Plaza
A best-seller on Amazon’s Children’s Books list, The Legend of the Christmas Witch is a new story not about good ol’ St. Nick, but about his sister! Starting from childhood, this book follows Santa Claus’ sister, Kristtōrn throughout her life as she begins gaining powers that grow in conjunction with her expanding temper! This new legend exhibits themes of bravery, love, and magic that are familiar to classic Christmas stories, but it packs a punch with a new and exciting plot as Kristtōrn embarks on a perilous journey to find her long-lost twin, Santa Claus.
Teacher Tip: Create a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast Kristtōrn and Santa Claus.
Now you have an amazing list to facilitate a Legend Study of your own. We also have a Christmas Legend Study with four retold Christmas Legend passages and questions to use for any legend, as well as a writing activity. Check it out HERE!
For a larger list of our collection of rockin’ legends, click here!