Background Information

Folktales are a fundamental part of education. Passed along by parents and others,
folktales are parables that teach children about their heritage, culture, and codes of behavior.
As students come to understand the logic behind the telling of folktales, they also begin to
understand the workings of a foreign culture. As many students will find, certain folktales
are very similar to popular stories today. Through this awareness, students will discover the
similarities between themselves and people who practice a different way of life.
The folktale presented in this lesson is called Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's
Ears, by Verna Aardema, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. This book is also
accompanied by two other African folktales entitled Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John L.
Steptoe and Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock by Eric Kimmel. The story, Why
Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears, was chosen because of it's accessibility and popularity.
It has a theme that addresses lying and the damage it entails. This lesson can be adapted to
almost any type of folktale.
The author, Verna Aardema, began writing for unusual reasons. She was born in
1911 and from the age of eleven, she wanted to be a writer. Consequentially, she received a
B.A. in Journalism. After she had children, she discovered that her daughter would not eat
without being told a story. Verna had been studying Africa and adapted and retold folktales to
urge her daughter to eat. Some of her stories take place in Ashantiland, or known as
the present day country of Ghana. Other stories primarily take place in the Khalahari,
which consists of parts of Botswana and South Africa. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's
Ears was written in 1975 and then received the Caldecott Medal in 1976 and soon after,
the Brooklyn Art Books for Children Award in 1977.
I hope you enjoy this lesson and the wonderful books that accompany it.

Back to Lesson Plan
Tyresha Hale
Dr. Deborah Byrnes
Utah State University 1998