March 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Folk and Fairy Tales Retold: Spin-offs | Focus On

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Fresh, funny, and boundary-breaking, these fractured fairy tales encourage children to revisit old friends, rethink familiar settings and scenarios, and let their imaginations soar. Splendidly illustrated and superbly told, they update, recast, and otherwise reinvent longtime favorites, providing clever and comical twists, reforging tried-and-true characterizations, and turning the traditional upside down.

Selected from an extensive and impressive body of work, the books featured here focus on well-known European folk and fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The titles have been chosen to represent an engaging array of storytelling styles and approaches, including poetry and epistle forms, first-person perspectives and omniscient narrations, as well as a magnificent variety of artistic mediums and methods. Not-to-be-forgotten classics have been mixed in with newer works, as the genre continues to evolve and expand. Appropriate for preschool and elementary-age youngsters, these offerings will enchant independent readers and bedazzle classroom and storytime audiences.

Firmly grounded in familiar fairy-tale territory, these spin-offs make great jump-off points for comparison and discussion. Children can explore variations in perspective and point of view, contemplate characterization and motivation, and identify similarities and differences from the original tales. Texts flavored with Spanish terms will delight bilingual readers and aid language instruction. These irresistible offerings might also motivate kids to write and/or illustrate their own versions of their favorite tales, spiced up, twisted, and reconfigured to suit their own sensibilities. And of course, the revved-up retellings incorporate the same universal themes and timeless wonder of the stories that inspired them, icing on an already-packed-with-child-appeal cake.

Book CoversADA, Alma Flor. Dear Peter Rabbit. 1994. RTE $18.99. ISBN 978-0-689-31850-4; ISBN 978-0-689-81289-7.
–––– . Yours Truly, Goldilocks. 1998. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-689-81608-6; ISBN 978-0-689-84452-2.
–––– . With Love, Little Red Hen. 2001. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-689-82581-1; ISBN 978-0-689-87061-3.
ea vol: illus. by Leslie Tryon. S & S/Atheneum. pap. $7.99.
K-Gr 4—The intertwining adventures of storybook characters are related through captivating communiqués penned by Baby Bear, Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, and other residents of Hidden Forest. Tryon’s watercolor illustrations depict this make-believe world with delectable detail and irresistible charm. Use in the classroom for letter-composition units, creative-writing projects, and character comparisons.

AHLBERG, Allan. Previously. illus. by Bruce Ingman. Candlewick. 2007. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-3542-8; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5304-0.
PreS-Gr 3—Ahlberg retells seven well-known tales from end to beginning, smoothly interconnecting plot elements into a cohesive whole. The imagination-tickling adventure backtracks through the escapades of Goldilocks, who had earlier met a just-down-from-the-beanstalk boy named Jack, who had come from hill-tumbling with Jill, and so on. Fanciful sherbet-hued paintings depict the antics and keep the sequencing crystal clear.

ARTELL, Mike. Three Little Cajun Pigs. illus. by Jim Harris. Dial. 2006. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-2815-8.
K-Gr 4—Down in the “south Loo-siana” bayou, porcine siblings Trosclair, Thibodeaux, and Ulysses leave home to build their own abodes but soon find themselves stalked by a tail-thwacking gator with a taste for couchon de lait (roast pig). Sly humor, crackling Cajun-flavored couplets, and winning watercolor artwork make for laugh-out-loud fun.

BROWNE, Anthony. Me and You. illus. by author. Farrar. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-374-34908-0.
PreS-Gr 3— Browne’s discussion-provoking “Goldilocks” unfolds from parallel perspectives. A small bear narrates from bright-hued pages as he and his parents take a porridge-cooling stroll. Meanwhile, wordless sepia-toned illustrations show a fiery-haired girl getting separated from her mother, wandering their derelict neighborhood, and finding refuge at a cozy-looking house. Visual and thematic contrasts power the familiar plot with nuance and emotion.

COLE, Babette. Prince Cinders. illus. by author. Putnam. 1987. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-6981-1554-5.
K-Gr 4—Left hearthside, a scrawny prince yearns to be more like his three big-and-hairy, slick-suit-wearing, palace-disco-going brothers. When a flaky fairy grants his wish, but mistakenly turns him into an outsize monkey sporting a red-and-white-striped swimsuit, he still manages to catch Princess Lovelypenny’s eye and luck into a happy ending. An absolute hoot, with deadpan text and vivacious artwork.

CREWS, Nina, retel. Jack and the Beanstalk. illus. by reteller. Holt/Christy Ottaviano Bks. 2011. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-8765-9.
PreS-Gr 3—Featuring a modern-day multicultural cast and city setting, Crews’s colorful collage photos blend contemporary elements with once-upon-a-time wonder. In this updated, gently told version, Jack earns a jar of multicolored beans for doing chores, the not-too-scary giant and his wife set him to scrubbing spaghetti-crusted dishes, and the traditional ending is jazzed up with a surprise twist.

DUFFY, Chris, ed. Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists. First Second. 2011. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-600-8.
Gr 3 Up—An eye-dazzling anthology of chant-along classics, reinterpreted to suit contemporary sensibilities. Utilizing a variety of visual styles, mediums, and moods, children’s book illustrators, comics creators, and other artists present exhilarating reimaginings that spin out inventive backstories, play fast and loose with the familiar, and celebrate the rhymes’ glorious nonsensicality and time-tested appeal. A must-have volume.
ELYA, Susan Middleton. Rubia and the Three Osos. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Hyperion/Disney. 2010. RTE $15.99. ISBN 978-1-4231-1252-5.
PreS-Gr 1—This jaunty “Goldilocks” retelling incorporates rhythmic rhymes, smoothly integrated Spanish terms, and a “fabuloso” ending in which Rubia makes amends to the family Oso and earns their friendship. Starring a golden-haired, cowgirl-boot-wearing darling and three packed-with-personality bears, Sweet’s mixed-media paintings explode with action and humor. A tongue-pleasing read-aloud with bilingual zing.

ERNST, Lisa Campbell. The Gingerbread Girl Goes Animal Crackers. illus. by author. Dial. 2011. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-42259-4.
Pres-Gr 2—Having outsmarted a greedy fox in The Gingerbread Girl (Dutton, 2006), the youngster returns for another madcap chase. This time she’s the pursuer, dashing after a zoo full of cookie critters that have burst out of their box, through the door, and off to explore. Candy-coated artwork and boastful, buoyant rhymes add up to a sweet read-aloud treat.

ERNST, Lisa Campbell. Little Red Riding Hood: A Newfangled Prairie Tale. illus. by author. S & S. 1995. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-689-82191-2.
K-Gr 3—Set in the contemporary Midwest, this tale introduces a red-hoodie-wearing, bicycle-riding protagonist who totes a basket of delicious-smelling muffins; a sneery-eyed wolf determined to steal Grandma’s secret recipe for said treats; and a tough-as-nails, tractor-driving granny with no patience for lupine bullies. Humor and clever touches abound in the earth-toned artwork and bursting-with-action text.

GRAVES, Keith. Chicken Big. illus. by author. Chronicle. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-7237-9.
PreS-Gr 3—When a humongous yellow hatchling emerges from an egg, the bird-brained coop dwellers don’t know what to make of him. However, after the feathered giant rescues the frantic flock from several comically exaggerated Chicken-Little-esque scenarios (and an egg-snatching fox), he earns true recognition and a place in their hearts. An eye-rolling yet heartwarming spoof, with appealingly over-the-top artwork.

ISADORA, Rachel, retel. Rapunzel. illus. by reteller. Putnam. 2008. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24772-9.
K-Gr 4—Isadora adds a multicultural spin to this familiar tale by setting the action in a mythical African kingdom. In the dazzling verdant-hued spreads, Rapunzel’s tower is woven from branches, she lets down beautiful flower-strewn dreadlocks, and the prince rides a gallant zebra. Other simply told, recast-in-Africa offerings by Isadora include Hansel and Gretel (2009) and The Princess and the Pea (2007, both Putnam).

KETTEMAN, Helen. Señorita Gordita. illus. by Will Terry. Albert Whitman. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8075-7302-0.
K-Gr 3—Hot out of the pan, a tasty-looking gordita (little fried tortilla) races “zip-zoom-zip” out the door and speeds past several hungry desert critters, bragging all the while, until she encounters cunning Búho (owl). A fast-paced, fun-filled read-aloud, spiced with Spanish terms, sizzling rhymes, and a sun-drenched Southwestern landscape. A glossary and recipe are appended.

KIMMEL, Eric A. The Three Little Tamales. illus. by Valeria Docampo. Marshall Cavendish. 2009. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-7614-5519-6.
K-Gr 3—Kimmel replaces the pigs with three just-steamed tamales who run away from a taqueria to save their cornhusk skins, cobble their casitas out of various materials (sagebrush, cornstalks, and cactus), and encounter a huffing and puffing Señor Lobo. Rhythmic bilingual refrains add zest, and lush-hued paintings portray the Southwestern setting and play up the humor.

LOWELL, Susan. Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella. illus. by Jane Manning. HarperCollins/Joanna Cotler Bks. 2000. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-027446-7; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-06-443864-3.
K-Gr 4—Lowell rustles up a sweet-natured bronco-busting cowgirl, a mean-as-a-rattlesnake stepmother, a gold-pistol-twirling fairy godmother, the handsome son of a cattle king, and the right-as-rain revelation that “Magic is plumb worthless without gumption.” This rip-roaring retelling ropes in readers with old West lingo, colorful turns of phrase, and fun-and-fringe-spangled artwork.

METZGER, Steve. Detective Blue. illus. by Tedd Arnold. Scholastic/Orchard. 2011. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-545-17286-8.
PreS-Gr 4—Little Boy Blue has a new gig as a gumshoe, and he’s hot on the case when Miss Muffet mysteriously goes missing. Comic-book-style panels show the trench-coat-clad detective pounding the pavement, grilling nursery-rhyme denizens, and chasing clues. Readers will enjoy cracking the crime while hunting down numerous Mother Goose references presented in the color-drenched cartoons and in the noir-nuanced narrative.

MURRAY, Laura. The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School. illus. by Mike Lowery. Putnam. 2011. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25052-1.
PreS-Gr 2—Freshly baked in a classroom oven, a charismatic cookie pops off the pan and chases after the students who whipped him up and left him behind, dashing through hallways and getting help from staff members along the way. Presenting effervescent rhymes and sprightly cartoons in large-size comic-book panels, this snicker-filled spin-off satisfies kids’ appetite for the silly.

O’MALLEY, Kevin. Animal Crackers Fly the Coop. illus. by author. Walker. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8027-9837-4; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-8027-9838-1.
Gr 2-4—When a chicken who would rather tell jokes than make yolks sets out to follow her dream of becoming a “comedi-hen,” she and three other quip-cracking animal runaways take on some robbers and find a way to put their talents to good use. O’Malley’s slapstick send-up of “The Brementown Musicians” percolates with sidesplitting puns and action-packed artwork.

OSBORNE, Mary Pope. The Brave Little Seamstress. illus. by Giselle Potter. S & S/Anne Schwartz Bks. 2002. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-6898-4486-7.
K-Gr 4—After dispatching seven flies with one fell swoop, a seamstress boldly embroiders “SEVEN WITH ONE BLOW!” on her coat. Misconstruing the phrase, a giant believes that she has slain seven giants, while a king assumes it was seven knights. Both present her with impossible challenges, but this plucky protagonist takes on each task with ingenuity and imagination. Wittily told and handsomely illustrated.

PALATINI, Margie. The Three Silly Billies. illus. by Barry Moser. S & S. 2005. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-6898-5862-8.
PreS-Gr 4—Confronted by a cantankerous toll-collecting troll, three fun-loving but flat-broke billy goats are prevented from driving their jalopy across a bridge—until they brainstorm a plan to pool their pennies with other traveling fairy-tale characters and give the grump his just deserts. Waggish wordplay, winsome watercolors, and droll contemporary details make for a riotous retelling.

PAUL, Ann Whitford. Mañana, Iguana. illus. by Ethan Long. Holiday House. 2004. RTE $17.95. ISBN 978-0-8234-1808-4; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-8234-1980-7.
K-Gr 3—Four amigos plan a welcome-spring fiesta, but when Iguana asks for help, Conejo (rabbit), Tortuga (turtle), and Culebra (snake) spout feeble excuses. On the big day, the hardworking lizard puts her foot down, and the lazy animals learn an upbeat lesson about friendship. A Southwest setting, sprinkled-with-Spanish-terms text, and desert-hued cartoon artwork give this lighthearted “Little Red Hen” takeoff plenty of punch. Audio version available from Live Oak Media.

SCIESZKA, Jon. The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. illus. by Lane Smith. Viking. 1992. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-6708-4487-6.
Gr 2-6—Snidely narrated by Jack (of beanstalk fame), this spoof-filled send-up showcases such crackpot classics as “Chicken Licken,” “Little Red Running Shorts,” and “Cinderumpelstiltskin.” Silly twists and comical comeuppances abound in the title’s droll text and wry dark-toned collages as the characters and their antics spill out of their designated tales and create giggle-inducing mayhem. Audio version available from Audible.

SCIESZKA, Jon. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. illus. by Lane Smith. Viking. 1989. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-6708-2759-6; pap $7.99. ISBN 978-0-1405-4451-0.
K-Gr 4—The much-maligned A. Wolf tells his side of the story, offering a deadpan account that chalks up the pig-felling tragedy to a quest for a cup of sugar and an ill-timed need to sneeze. This is the fractured fairy-tale gold standard, with tongue-in-cheek text and sophisticated artwork both darkly sinister and delightfully droll. DVD and audio versions available from Weston Woods.

SIERRA, Judy. Tell the Truth, B. B. Wolf. illus. by J. Otto Seibold. Knopf. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-375-85620-4; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95620-1.
PreS-Gr 3—Invited to the library to tell the story of how he met the three little pigs, the infamous wolf, now retired, spins a real whopper; however, his fairy-tale-folk audience remains unconvinced and the onetime villain ultimately admits his misdeeds and makes amends. The crackerjack text and stylishly exaggerated cartoons sparkle with humor and heart.

SINGER, Marilyn. Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. illus. by Josée Masse. Dutton. 2010. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-47901-7.
Gr 3-6—Juxtaposing Beauty with the Beast, Snow White with the wicked Queen, or Jack with the Giant, Singer uses “reverso” poems—selections that can be read forward or backward with the same wording but different meanings—to tell two sides of the same story. Inventive and enchanting, the poems are paired with mirror-image jewel-toned paintings that convey the dual perspectives. Audio version available from Live Oak Media.

STANLEY, Diane. Goldie and the Three Bears. illus. by author. HarperCollins. 2003. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-06-113611-5.
PreS-Gr 2—Goldie, a curly-haired modern girl who knows exactly what she likes, can’t find a friend who’s the perfect fit. However, when she gets off at the wrong school bus stop and wanders into a welcoming house, her ensuing adventure results in a companion who’s “just right.” Told with charming artwork, gentle humor, and true-to-the-audience insight.

STIMPSON, Colin, retel. Jack and the Baked Beanstalk. illus. by reteller. Candlewick/Templar. 2012. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-5563-1.
K-Gr 4—Recast during the Depression with Jack and his mother running an almost-broke burger truck, this version features a magic vine that sprouts cans of tasty baked beans, a bored-with-counting-coins giant-size banker more lonesome than fearsome, and a satisfying money-doesn’t-buy-happiness message. Sepia-toned artwork depicts the amiable characters and ebullient action with humor and cinematic flair.

STURGES, Philemon, retel. The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza). illus. by Amy Walrod. Dutton. 1999. Tr 16.99. ISBN 978-0-525-45953-8; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-142-30189-0.
PreS-Gr 3—Colorful cut-paper collages introduce a chic-looking chick who wears platform shoes and lives in an apartment. When she asks her animal neighbors for help shopping and chopping, they’re too busy playing to pitch in. However, the hen never loses her cool, and her hot-out-of-the-oven pizza is served up along with a satisfying twist on the traditional ending.

WIESNER, David. The Three Pigs. illus. by author. Clarion. 2001. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-0-618-00701-1.
K-Gr 6—Blown “right out of the story” (and the picture panel) by the wolf’s huffing and puffing, the first pig gathers his cohorts and embarks on a lively adventure that takes them off the beaten plot path, in and out of various tales (and styles of illustration), and beyond the boundaries of traditional storytelling conventions. Innovative, imagination-stirring, and thoroughly fun.

WILCOX, Leah. Waking Beauty. illus. by Lydia Monks. Putnam. 2008. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-399-24615-9; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0142415382.
K-Gr 4—Prince Charming makes several harebrained attempts to awaken the snoring Beauty (hollering, water to face, shooting her from a cannon) before finally following the fairies’ advice, though rather reluctantly—“One hundred years of morning breath./Wow! That could be the kiss of death!” Rollicking rhymes, frothy artwork, and kid-friendly humor make this parody a crowd-pleaser.

Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.