9 Kids Books Inspired By Myths, Legends, and Folklore

Some stories withstand the test of time and enter the realm of legends, myths, and folklore. But even today those stories are being reinvented and retold to a new generation of readers. You might know the original tales by heart, but we bet you haven’t read stories quite like these before! Take a look at some of our favorite middle school books and what elements of myth, legend, or folklore inspired them.

The Turning by Emily Whitman

Inspired by: Selkies

A selkie is a mythical creature that resembles a seal in the water but assumes human form on land. In The Turning, however, Aran was born in his human form, without a pelt to transform him into a sleek, strong seal. Each day he waits, left behind while his selkie family explores the deep ocean. What if his pelt never comes? Is he putting his clan at risk? When his mother undertakes a journey to the far north to seek help, Aran is left in the care of a reclusive human woman on a remote island. Life on land is full of more wonders — and more dangers — than Aran could have ever imagined. But soon Aran will be forced to decide: will he fight for his place on land, or return to his home in the sea?

Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge

Inspired by: Rougarous

A rougarou is a Cajun variation of the original French “loup garou” — a terrifying werewolf-like creature. In Evangeline of the Bayou, Evangeline is training to be a haunt huntress, just like her mother and grandmother before her, so she can hunt the monsters (like rougarous) that lurk in the bayous of Louisiana. But when Evangeline and her grandmother are called to New Orleans to resolve an unusual case, she uncovers a secret that will shake her to the soles of her silver-tipped alligator-skin boots.

The Lost Frost Girl by Amy Wilson

Inspired by: Jack Frost

Jack Frost is the personification of frost, ice, snow, sleet, winter, and freezing cold. And in The Lost Frost Girl, a girl named Owl is Jack Frost’s daughter! Determined to meet the father she has never known, Owl delves into Jack’s wonderful world of winter and magic — the kind of place she thought only existed in fairy tales. And as she notices frost patterns appearing on her skin and her tears turning to ice, Owl starts to wonder if being Jack Frost’s daughter means that she has powers of her very own.

Pixie Piper by Annabelle Fisher

Inspired by: Mother Goose

Just about everyone remembers growing up with the nursery rhymes and fairy tales of the imaginary author Mother Goose. But Pixie Piper has discovered that she is a direct descendant of Mother Goose — and she has the magical ability and poetry power to prove it! In this two book series, Pixie and her best friend Gray discover more about Pixie’s magical abilities, forge new friendships, and try to save everyone from the evil Sinister Sisters.

The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper:

Pixie Piper and the Matter of the Batter:

Riders of the Realm by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Inspired by: Pegasus

Pegasus was the winged horse of Zeus, according to Greek mythology, but today just about any winged horse is called a pegasus. In the new series Riders of the Realm, a small herd of pegasi have made a long and treacherous journey to seek a new, free land. But what they find are the Sandwens — humans who ride and train pegasi as battle horses. When the unthinkable happens, both humans and pegasi will have to work together — or neither will survive.

Argos by Ralph Hardy

Inspired by: The Odyssey

The Odyssey is an ancient Greek epic poem that tells the story of Odysseus after the ten-year Trojan War. In Argos, it is Odysseus’s loyal dog (also named Argos) who tells the story. While Odysseus struggles to return to his home in Ithaka, Argos finds a way to track his master. Any animal who sets foot or wing on Ithaka brings Argos news of Odysseus’s voyage — and what a voyage it is! Meanwhile, Argos watches over his master’s family and protects them from the dangers that surround a throne without its king.

Cavall in Camelot by Audrey Mackaman & Mice of the Round Table by Julie Leung

Inspired by: Camelot and King Arthur

Camelot is the kingdom of the legendary King Arthur, and the story of King Arthur has inspired several stories throughout the ages. Two such stories tell the tale of King Arthur from an animal’s point of view: Cavall in Camelot and the Mice of the Round Table series. Cavall in Camelot is told by King Arthur’s dog, Cavall, as he rallies with the other dogs of the kingdom to save his King from a terrible dream world where Morgan has captured him. The Mice of the Round Table series follows the young mouse Calib Christopher as he trains to become a Knight of the Round Table, just as generations of his family have defended Camelot out of sight of the humans.

Cavall in Camelot:

Mice of the Round Table #1: A Tail of Camelot:

Mice of the Round Table #2: Voyage to Avalon:

Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

Inspired by: Rapunzel

There have been many retellings about Rapunzel, the girl trapped in a tower whose hair grew so long it could be used as a rope to help her escape. Though the hints are very subtle, elements of The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre have been inspired by the Rapunzel fairy tale (for one thing, Peregrine, or Perry for short, also gets trapped in a tower). But the focus of the story is really on Perry — a girl who was raised among the Latki ruling class, but discovers she is actually one of the Bamarre, those she had previously only seen as the castle’s servants. Now she faces a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Inspired by: Cinderella

Cinderella may be best known for her glass slipper, but in Ella Enchanted it’s the stepmother and stepsisters that inspired this story. At her birth, Ella of Frell receives a foolish fairy’s gift — the “gift” of obedience. Ella must obey any order she’s given, even those given to her by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. But strong-willed Ella refuses to accept her fate, and instead embarks on a quest to break the curse once and for all.


What are some of your favorite books inspired by myths, legends, and folklore? Tell us in the comments below!