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Cuban Folktales in English and Spanish

by Joe Hayes
illustrated by Mauricio Trenard Sayago
Currently unavailable.

Américas Book Award Honor Book
Anne Izard's Storytellers' Choice Award
Skipping Stones Honor Book
Bank Street’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2009
Críticas' Children’s Best Books of 2008
Tejas Star List

Product Details

10-digit ISBN1-933693-17-7
13-digit ISBN9781933693170
LanguageBilingual - English & Spanish
Also Available InPaperback
Page Count128
Product Dimensions8.5 x 10.5 x .5
Publication DateOctober 1, 2008
Starred Review5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars - see reviews
RightsAll Rights Available
These folk stories teach the deep-hearted wisdom of the Cuban people.

Like a warm sea breeze, these tales will sweep your imagination away to the tropical island of Cuba. There you’ll meet a stingy old lady who owns the only fire in the world. She’s just skin and bones, but she can dance for three days and nights without stopping. She’ll give you a bit of her fire if your music is good enough to keep her high-stepping that long.

And—as if one wild dance weren’t enough—at another fiesta you’ll hear the animals playing such good tunes that you’ll be dying to get in—because you can’t enter if your head’s still attached to your shoulders!

You’ll also find yams that talk and a rose bush that sings a beautiful song—and an old devil man who leaves hairy footprints wherever he goes.

Like the green island of Cuba, these thirteen tales are full of warmth, laughter, magic and wisdom. Have fun reading and re-telling them yourself. Then you’ll be participating in the wonderful spirit of Cuban storytelling.

Learn more about the process of creating this book and Joe Hayes' trips to Cuba here on our blog. Joe made many trips to Cuba and spent time Holguín, Cuba which is a sister city of his hometown, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Dance, Nana, Dance includes the following 13 folktales as well as a note from Joe Hayes:
  • Yams Don’t Talk / Los ñames no hablan

  • The Fig Tree / La mata de higo

  • The Gift / El regalo

  • Dance, Nana, Dance / Baila, Nana, Baila

  • The Lazy Old Crows / Los viejos cuervos perezosos

  • Pedro Malito / Pedro Malito

  • Born To Be Poor / El que nace para pobre

  • Young Heron’s New Clothes / La ropa nueva del joven garza

  • We Sing Like This / Nosotras cantamos así

  • Buy Me Some Salt / Cómprame sal

  • The Hairy Old Devil Man / El diablo peludo

  • Compay Monkey and Comay Turtle / Compay Mono y Comay Jicotea

  • You Can’t Dance / No baila

  • Notes to Readers and Storytellers

Watch Joe Hayes tell Dance, Nana, Dance in this free, online video, part of the Joe Hayes Storytelling Collection.

Joe Hayes is one of America’s premier storytellers. His bilingual Spanish-English tellings have earned him a distinctive place among America’s storytellers. Joe has published over twenty books. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and travels extensively throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

Mauricio Trenard Sayago was born in Santiago de Cuba in 1963. He was raised in a home that was closely linked with art and was surrounded by the artistic debates sustained by the various artists and art history professors in his family. This environment strongly influenced him. Mauricio came to the United States in 2000, and now lives in Brooklyn.
Críticas 5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars
*STARRED REVIEW* These 13 bilingual folktales introduce readers to Cuban classics, which are, in turn, heavily influenced by Spanish, African, and Caribbean cultures. The entertaining collection present readers with a variety of colorful characters, such as a blue bird with gold wings, a yam that terrifies the bravest man in the army, an old lady who can dance for days, an old devil who leaves hairy footprints as he walks, a boy who can never remember what his mother wants from the store, and the man who “had never done a day’s work in his life.”

Hayes’s language is characteristically expressive and descriptive in both languages. Some of the tales have a musical verse or two that will encourage listeners to join in during storytelling sessions. A bold pastel illustration that beautifully celebrates Afro-Cuban culture accompanies each story. The book includes an introduction, table of contents, and on the back pages, helpful notes to readers and storytellers, as well as background information on the stories. In this last part, the author provides connections to stories told by the Grimm brothers and Native Americans, as well as to African and Latin American folktales.

A great acquisition for upper elementary and middle school libraries, and an excellent resource for storytellers.
- November 1, 2008 
Kirkus Reviews
Lively, often funny and sometimes a bit scary.

Known for Mexican and Mexican-American stories, Hayes reaches beyond his usual borders and finds a strong new source of tales in Cuba. Thirteen stories are told on opposite pages in English and Spanish, ready to read aloud or to be tucked into storytellers’ repertoires. They are lively, often funny and sometimes a bit scary. Many different types appear: “Young Heron’s New Clothes” is related to the Anansi stories, “The Fig Tree” has elements of the Grimms’ “The Juniper Tree” and “The Gift,” a patakí, is a myth about the Orishas, the holy figures of the Afro-Cuban religion of Santería. The excellent notes at the end include references to the stories as they are found in different cultures. Sayago, a Cuban artist now living in the United States, provides bold paintings that appear to be done on textured paper and portray most of the human characters as Afro-Cubans.

Eminently tellable, all the stories have refrains and songs sure to get audiences joining in.
- October 1, 2008 
World Wide Work bulletin
A lively bilingual collection of 13 folktales from Cuba with the type of vivid color illustrations books from Cinco Puntos Press typically include.
- December 13, 2008 
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Renowned storyteller Hayes retells thirteen Cuban folktales in both English and Spanish, with facing pages presenting the English version on one side and the corresponding Spanish on the other. Folklore fans will find many of the stories’ elements familiar: tricksters abound, characters both good and bad receive their just rewards, and families are happily reunited. Elements more specific to Cuban culture are also present, as in the stories that feature the Orishas, the holy ones of the Afro-Cuban religion Santería. The accessibility of Hayes’ vivid but streamlined language coupled with rock-solid structure of the stories themselves (replete with the repetition and building of tension that tellers and listeners rely on) make this accessible both to young readers and to storytellers and other adult readers-aloud.

Humorous characters or situations (particularly evident in the last story, “You Can’t Dance”) further extend the entertainment value of the stories; brief songs appear in almost every story, and in his introduction Hayes encourages tellers to invent their own melodies for them. Sayago’s full-page paintings (one per story), painted in rich, saturated colors on what appear to be textured surfaces, offer stylized depictions of the tales’ featured animals and people. There is no bibliography or glossary, but there is a useful introduction in which Hayes describes his motivation and the general processes he used to collect and adapt the tales; unfamiliar words are defined within or at the end of each story, and lively notes for each story appear at book’s end.
- January 1, 2009 
Review of Texas Books
Unique and Entertaining Folktales

Joe Hayes, in the introduction of his book of Cuban folktales Dance, Nana, Dance / Baila, Nana, Baila, writes, “the most important thing is to have fun reading and telling stories.” Indeed, readers will have fun doing both with these unique and entertaining stories.

Each folktale in the collection is written in English and Spanish and illustrated by Cuban born artist Mauricio Trenard Sayago, who now resides in the United States. A full page illustration precedes each of the thirteen folktales and provides readers with a perfect visual reference for the stories that Mr. Hayes has taken care to retell in the Cuban tradition.

Mr. Hayes has also included a section at the back of the book titled “Notes to Readers and Storytellers,” which gives a short background for each retold story in this rich collection.
- July 9, 2009 
Tucson Citizen
This collection of Cuban folk tales is a delicious mix of stories passed down for generations. Hayes, who first visited Cuba in 2001, fell in love with the island and its people and that love is reflected in his delightful book. These are stories that are even better when read out loud.
- December 11, 2008 
REFORMA Newsletter
A captivating collection of thirteen folktales with influences from the Caribbean, Spain and Africa; Hayes has captured the essence and diversity of Cuba. Creation myths, legends and Pataki comprise this fascinating folktale anthology. Sayago’s illustrations are a visual feast adding to the cultural details. Helpful features of the book include the short Spanish glossary after each tale and the brief annotated bibliography. Perfect for teaching bilingual students or units on world myths in the classroom. Recommended.
- July 23, 2009 
The American Folklore Society: Aesop Prize commendation
Winner of the 2009 Aesop Prize
This colorful bilingual anthology of thirteen Cuban folktales has sabor, the flavor of the Caribbean, bringing the rich mixture of Spanish, African and American influences to his readers. Cuban folkloric wisdom and wit fill these pages. There is a rhythmic quality to the linguistic expression in both the English and Spanish narratives, reminiscent of the importance of rhythm in the Cuban way of life.
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