Joe Hayes is one of America’s premier storytellers, a nationally recognized teller of tales from the Hispanic, Native American and Anglo cultures. His bilingual Spanish-English tellings have earned him a distinctive place among America’s storytellers.
Joe grew up in a small town in southern Arizona. His schoolmates and friends, many of whom were Mexican-American, taught him how to speak Spanish. As Joe got older, he began reading the work of folklorists and anthropologists and gathering the old stories from the region that he calls home, the Southwestern United States. When his own children were young, Joe enjoyed telling them stories. He decided that this would be the way he would earn a living. He also decided to use both Spanish and English when telling his stories to children so that they could learn and love both languages, just like he did when he was a child.
Joe’s tales are a combination of the traditional lore of the American Southwest and his own imagination. The traditional part is based on things people have told him and on what he has learned from reading the work of folklorists and anthropologists. Joe’s own contribution is based on his instincts as a storyteller and what his experience tells him listeners need in order to feel satisfied with a story.
For many years, Joe has been the resident storyteller at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in Santa Fe. He has told stories at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN, and is featured in the book Best Loved Stories Told at the National Storytelling Festival. In 2005, Joe received the Talking Leaves Literary Award from the National Storytelling Network, an award given to members of the storytelling community who have made considerable, serious and influential contributions to the literature of storytelling. Joe has taught storytelling to teachers at the University of New Mexico and been a guest lecturer at many colleges and universities, delivering the commencement address for the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at U.C.L.A. He was designated a New Mexico Eminent Scholar by the New Mexico Commission on Higher Education, and in 1995 he received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence.
Joe began sharing his stories in print in 1982. His books have received the Arizona Young Readers Award, two Land of Enchantment Children’s Book Awards, four IPPY Awards, a Southwest Book Award and an Aesop Accolade Award. His book The Day It Snowed Tortillas was chosen by the editors of The Bloomsbury Review as one of their 15 favorite children’s books published in the past 15 years. His books have been on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List twice. In 2007, his book Ghost Fever won the Texas Bluebonnet Award, the first bilingual book to win the award.
"Here in the Southwest Joe Hayes is a folk hero: everybody's favorite teller of tales from our own favorite part of the world." —Byrd Baylor
"You told me stories in Carrizozo, NM (Lincoln County). I think I was in the second grade, maybe fourth. I am currently an 8th grade Civics teacher in Franklin Township, New Jersey. If you ever come to New York City, please get in contact with me. I'd love to hear you weave your magical web of words into a memory that will last a lifetime!"—Shena Samora
"I just want to let you know I love your book entitled, A Spoon for Every Bite. In the past,I have had my incoming students perform it in a play, and we will be doing this again this year. The book has helped my monolingual students practice English and love their culture even more. Thanks for writing this wonderful cultural book!—Rosemarie Jacobo, ELL Teacher