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When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin




Thursday, February 25, 2016

Celebrate National Tell A Fairy Tale Day 2016

For more than a month author Corey Rosen Schwartz has been sending out tweets recommending books, lesson links and activities to get everyone excited about fairy tales.  If you visit her Twitter feed or follow the hashtag #tellafairytaleday you will discover wonderful resources.  As a huge fan of fairy tales myself (My personal bookshelves are filled with fairy tales and their variants), I decided to dedicate this post to all the fairy tale titles I've highlighted here since the beginning of Librarian's Quest. Most of them are picture books but some are middle grade titles.



Cloaked (Harper Teen, February 8, 2011) written by Alex Flinn

Alex Flinn has done it again.  In fact I did a brief booktalk about Cloaked (Harper Teen, February 8, 2011) to a class of eighth grade students prior to completing my review.  Later when I went to grab it to continue writing it had already been checked out.



As she did in Beastly she brings her original contemporary twist to the fairy tale genre.  But this time rather than focusing on one tale she incorporates bits and pieces from The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Frog Prince, The Six Swans, The Golden Bird, The Valiant Tailor, The Salad and The Fisherman and his Wife.  At times she will use quotes from these stories to begin a chapter.






The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School (G. P. Putman's Sons Books for Young Readers, July 7, 2011) written by Laura Murray with illustrations by Mike Lowery

Laura Murray, teacher turned author, has cooked up a completely clever confection for teachers and students alike, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School (G. P. Putman's Sons Books for Young Readers, July 7, 2011, as her first children's title. Taken from her experiences in the classroom Murray mixes her fanciful flavors giving readers a new twisty treat on the traditional tale.

Using jaunty, rhyming phrases with a beat,


I began in a bowl.
I was not yet myself-
just a list of ingredients pulled from a shelf.
chosen by children who measured and mixed

my smooth, spicy batter while sneaking quick licks...

a classroom of students form their gingerbread man and bake him up just right. Left on a pan to cool, recess time next is the rule, but the animated sweet wants to be with the students too.

Laura Murray built on the success of the first title with companion titles, The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck and The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas.




Wolf Won't Bite! (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, March 20, 2012) written and illustrated by Emily Gravett

As far as I can tell the three little pigs and the wolf have been entwined together since 1849 when they were printed on the pages of Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales by James Orchard Halliwell.  He is later given credit by Joseph Jacobs when his version appears in the English Fairy Tales of 1898.  It is this variant with which most readers are familiar.

Each author/illustrator brings their own particular slant to the tale choosing to either remain faithful to the original plot or by creating an entirely different scenario for readers.  Author/illustrator Emily Gravett in Wolf Won't Bite! (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, March 20, 2012) stages a production unlike any other.  Her troupe of trotters has managed to soothe the savage beast, a listless lupine.


The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Walden Pond Press, May 1, 2012) written by Christopher Healy

Fairy tales have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  After several summers of attending storytelling workshops and classes as part of the National Storytelling Association (now the National Storytelling Network) in Jonesborough, Tennessee, I became fascinated with the variants connected to the cultures from which they came.  And I am not alone.  If I had a dime for every request for a princess story I've had over the duration of my career, I could completely restock the shelves in the library media center.

But even after collecting numerous variations on some of my favorites, nothing could have prepared me for Christopher Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Walden Pond Press, May 1, 2012).  His take on the princes from Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, none of whom are actually named Prince Charming, is offbeat and downright hilarious.  Princes's personalities, fully disclosed, stray considerably from what readers know to be true from the original stories.





Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (Balzar + Bray, September 4, 2012) written and illustrated by Mo Willems

As a collector of stories and the books that house them, over the years it has been interesting to see how one author may interpret a fairy tale or an illustrator may give readers visuals to go with the classic, well-known words.  Of course, different cultures will bring their own individual slant to a story, immersing the reader in a particular language, style of dressing, housing, food and occupations.  Then too, there are those authors and illustrators who fracture the familiar and that's where the fun really begins.

To name a few there are The True Story of The 3 Little Pigs! by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka with illustrations by Lane Smith, The Three Pigs written and illustrated by David Wiesner, Little Red Riding Hood--A Newfangled Prairie Tale written and illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst, Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale with illustrations by Howard Fine and Cinder Edna by Ellen Jackson with illustrations by Kevin O'Malley.  Author/illustrator Mo Willems takes readers down a twisted road with his retelling of Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (Balzer + Bray, September 4, 2012).  It would appear these three particular dinosaurs have read the original version.



The Three Ninja Pigs (G. P. Putnam's Sons, September 27, 2012) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz with illustrations by Dan Santat

Yes, I'm talking about the wolf.  Oh, he's shifted shape from time to time; a coyotea shark, a big-bottomed boar, a wrecking ball, an eagle, a tyrannosaurus and in a real switcheroo, a pig.  To be sure, he's struck terror in many a critter's (truck's) heart.

This time, though, from the get-go, he's met his match.  He's huffed and puffed one too many times.  The Three Ninja Pigs (G. P. Putnam's Sons, September 27, 2012) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz with illustrations by Dan Santat gives this fairy tale a fun, feisty flip.


Goldilocks and Just One Bear (Noisy Crow, an imprint of Candlewick Press, August 14, 2012) written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson

Some of the most beloved stories, those most remembered into adult years, begin with, Once upon a time... and close with happily ever after.  In fact, in my experience, those seven words have an almost universal effect on listeners; people know something out of the ordinary is going to happen in-between.  When Once upon a time is read or said, anticipation grows, listeners lean in or move closer.  At the sound of happily ever after, there is always a collective silent or audible sigh.

Have you ever wondered, though, what happens after happily ever after.  Do The Three Pigs start a construction company specializing in earthship homes?  Does Little Red Riding Hood become an activist for the protection of wolves?  Do Hansel and Gretel open a health food store? Or as in Goldilocks and Just One Bear (Nosy Crow, an imprint of Candlewick Press, August 14, 2012) written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson does what you least expect happen?



Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems (Dial Books for Young Readers, February 7, 2013) written by Marilyn Singer with illustrations by Josee Masse

In the land of fairy tales expect the unexpected.  In the world of poetry anticipate the unanticipated.  When fairy tales and poetry meet anticipate the unexpected; relish the shifts in perspective, giving voice to those previously silent.

In 2010 author Marilyn Singer introduced a new poetic form, the reverso.  In her title Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse (Dutton Children's Books) for the first time we read two poems side by side (the reverso); same words in each but on the left we read from top to bottom, on the right using the same order from bottom to top.  The only alterations were in punctuation and capitalization.  She put a whole refreshing spin on fairy tales we thought we knew.

Last month a companion title, Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems (Dial Books for Young Readers, February 7, 2013), illustrated again by Josee Masse was released.  Twelve folktales accompanied by an introduction and conclusion are altered with Marilyn Singer's special brand of vision.  She leads and we follow...follow.



Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Alfred A. Knopf, April 9, 2013) written by Liesl Shurtliff

Stepping into the land of fairy is like closing your eyes and taking a leap of faith.  Traditional, original, tales have a mixture of grimness and happily ever after.  Those stories altered or fractured tend to lean toward the humorous.  Whatever turn they take, in my experience, it's been a journey worth taking.


It's when readers are given a more detailed and elaborate view of characters, a shift in focus, the magic found in those stories heightens.  Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (Alfred A. Knopf, April 9, 2013) imaginatively written by debut author, Liesl Shurtliff, gives readers in the character of Rump, a person to admire, a story to hold in our hearts long after the final page is turned. The Brothers Grimm should have searched harder; finding this story, a story to be remembered.




Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist (WordSong, an imprint of Highlights, March 1, 2013) written by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich with artwork by Matt Mahurin

What compels people to read fairy tales?  What brings us back to them again and again?  What makes us search out new variations?

 In response to a question Albert Einstein stated If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.  If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.  C. S. Lewis thought sometimes fairy stories say best what needs to be said. One of my favorite phrases, attributed to G. K. Chesterton, though is Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.

No matter the age of the reader or listener, fairy tales fulfill a need deep within for the connection provided by storytelling with beginnings in the oral tradition.  They provide potent possibilities for digging deeper into the personalities of the characters, changing point of view, and expanding or altering the narrative itself.  Authors Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich explore these ideas in Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist (WordSong, an imprint of Highlights, March 1, 2013) with artwork by Matt Mahurin.



The Three Triceratops Tuff (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, April 2, 2013) written and illustrated by Stephen Shaskan

Have you ever noticed how some grazing animals will stick their heads through a fence to eat on the other side, believing it to be better even though the food is exactly the same?  While the phrase "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" may not hold true in most instances, out of necessity animals and people have throughout time moved to better their circumstances or as a means of survival.  The struggle associated with this endeavor has found its way into folklore.

Out of the storytelling tradition in Norway comes a fairy tale of three goats, hoping to eat grass on the other side of a bridge.  The problem is the ugly troll beneath the bridge, who would like nothing better than to have them for dinner.  With a twist and a trip to the past author/illustrator Stephen Shaskan offers readers, The Three Triceratops Tuff (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, April 2, 2013).


The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., April 30, 2013) written and illustrated by Mark Teague

When it comes to folktales, wolves have generally been portrayed as the bad guys.  It seems they have a huge hunger for little girls in red capes, grandmothers, baby goats and pigs.  They've made appearances in fables and fairy tales throughout time and in cultural variants from countries around the world.

Even when the tales are fractured, the premise is pretty cut and dried.  In The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., April 30, 2013) written and illustrated by Mark Teague, readers are given a fresh view of the pigs and...the wolf.  Let's head on over to the barnyard.









Little Red Writing (Chronicle Books, September 24, 2013) written by Joan Holub with illustrations by Melissa Sweet

Before I could read, as soon as I could read and to this day, fairy tales are favorites.  Traditional, variants and fractured, I enjoy them all.  My bookshelves are a testament to this preference.

It's such fun to see the spin authors and illustrators put on traditional tales.  Their inventiveness has never seen an entire cast of pencils though.  Little Red Writing (Chronicle Books, September 24, 2013) written by Joan Holub with illustrations by Melissa Sweet leads readers down the perilous path of authorship fraught with danger where bravery and a noun might save the day.





Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., November 5, 2013) written and illustrated by Jan Brett

To see the downtrodden lifted up, for a moment or for happily ever after, is food for the soul.  We cheer for their good fortune.  To see hope realized is a necessity.

A perennial favorite fairy tale, in all its variations, is of the orphan bullied by spoiled sisters and their haughty mother.  Who better to retell the tale than Jan Brett in Cinders: A Chicken Cinderella (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., November 5, 2013)  Let's open the cover stepping into a wintry Russia of the eighteenth century.




Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., February 6, 2014) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton with illustrations by Nate Wragg

Eventually the prize was delegated to the oldie-but-goodie-not-working-worth-a-hoot pile but the recollection of the contest never fails to bring on a smile.  We had been practicing.  We could hardly wait for the night to arrive.  When the familiar tune started, the dance floor was soon packed with competitive couples.  We added extra steps, moving and grooving to the beat.  Before long we were one of a few couples left twistin' the night away.  When we were announced as the winners, we looked at one another and burst out laughing.

Music has a magic to it; a way of lifting your spirits or aligning with your moods, conveying what words sometimes are unable to say.  When you combine it with the spell cast by folklore, you will find yourself reading Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., February 6, 2014) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton with illustrations by Nate Wragg.  Get out your dancing shoes as the fractured fun unfolds.



Ninja Red Riding Hood (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), July 10, 2014) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz with illustrations by Dan Santat

Some villains simply can't take a hint.  Faced with defeat they retreat only to come back for more.  They cave to their cravings; especially if it involves meat.  One could say they never really learn; or do they?

Such is the case with the wily wolf that faced the proficient porkers in The Three Ninja Pigs (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., September 27, 2012).  Giving credit where credit is due, he is crafty enough to realize he needs to sharpen his combative skills along with his teeth.  Author Corey Rosen Schwartz and illustrator Dan Santat have returned in a collaboration of fractured fairy tale frenzy titled Ninja Red Riding Hood (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), July 10, 2014).  Hold on to your gi.  This Red of the Riding Hood will have you shouting whoopee!



Catch That Cookie! (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, August 14, 2014) written by Hallie Durand with pictures by David Small

When learning a story yourself or teaching storytelling to others, the key is not in recalling it word for word but finding the essence of the narrative.  To me this is what knowing it by heart means.  If the bare bones of the tale are timeless, if it has appeal across cultures to people regardless of their age, it will remain as long as there is memory.

When reading any of the earlier versions of The Gingerbread Man (which as far as I can tell is strictly an American adaptation on the runaway food motif from folklore)  he was made by a little old woman and a little old man who had no children of their own.  Since that time authors and illustrators have delighted readers with their individual interpretations and enhancements on the original.  Catch That Cookie! (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, August 14, 2014) written by Hallie Durand with pictures by David Small is an extraordinarily tasty tale mixing all the necessary ingredients for a recipe readers will remember.




Jack (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), September 16, 2014) written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

One character's name appears over and over in world literature.  Most readers and listeners of nursery rhymes, folktales and fairy tales can name him.  He can jump over a flaming candle stick, pull out a plumb with his thumb, eat no fat, build a house, fetch a pail of water, grow a stalk that reaches into the clouds from a magic bean, paint frost or triumph over giants.

In the eastern mountain regions of the United States his stories are so numerous they warranted their own collection.

Jack, of the Jack Tales, embodies some of the common characteristics of culture hero.  He is the third son---the magic number.  He is the honest, straightforward, guileless one who never suspects the tricks and deceptions of others.  He is the western European hero who lacks all sophistication but is exceptionally clever. 
                                   (Storytelling:  Folklore Sourcebook Norma J. Livo
                                     & Sandra A. Rietz, 1991, page 25)

Leaving home to search for wealth, success or a home of his own is a common theme in the Jack tales.  Master storyteller Tomie dePaola in his most recent title, Jack (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), September 16, 2014) spins his own singular version for our youngest readers.




Hansel & Gretel (A TOON GRAPHIC, October 28, 2014) written by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Lorenzo Mattotti

I am a collector of words; not necessarily individual words but words put together in ways meaningful to me.  Collections of quotations hold space on my bookshelves.  In my dining room hangs a chalk board with a favorite saying welcoming guests into my home.

Either spoken or written my most cherished collections of words are stories, especially folklore. These tales were the first I heard and learned to read.  I haunt the 398.2 sections in libraries seeking out new narratives or derivatives on old ones.  One of the most enjoyed units working with students is the presentation and comparison of folktale and fairy tale variants.  It's fascinating to listen to the discussions of their viewpoints and to see them realize how each story is a reflection of the culture from which it comes.

When I learned Neil Gaiman was writing Hansel & Gretel (A TOON GRAPHIC, October 28, 2014) with illustrations by Lorenzo Mattotti, I knew I not only had to read it but needed to own a copy.  First I read it quickly; then again more slowly marking specific sentences which wrapped me in the atmosphere of his telling.  I sought out other versions; locating my copies of Best-loved Folktales Of The World (Doubleday & Company, 1982) selected by Joanna Cole, Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm (Puffin, 2012) introduction by Cornelia Funke and Fairy Tales From The Brothers Grimm: A New English Version (Viking, 2012) by Philip Pullman.  For the third time I read Hansel & Gretel told by Neil Gaiman knowing I was reading pure magic.



Interstellar Cinderella (Chronicle Books, May 5, 2015) written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Meg Hunt 

When you take away the magic, fairy tales can mirror the real world.  A parent can disappear from our lives through death or divorce.  They are often replaced with another less than savory person who may or may not have children of their own.  Each day brings tasks to be met as a new normal is being shaped.

Cultural adaptations supply variances but at the heart of every story is a clever protagonist.  Interstellar Cinderella (Chronicle Books, May 5, 2015) written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Meg Hunt draws our attention to a girl, despite her current circumstances, who maintains her focus.  Her determination and choices provide readers with courage and hope.




Little Red And The Very Hungry Lion (Scholastic) written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith

In my way of thinking you can never have too many fairy tales on your personal or professional book shelves.  At the very least a perusal of your library statistics should indicate you as a frequent visitor and borrower of titles from the folklore section.  On most days you can see me exhibiting my firm support of this particular train of thought in a pendant I wear.


Interpretations, variations and fractured fun on the classics broaden our views on the intent of the original stories and the cultures from which they and others come.  Eleven versions of Little Red Riding Hood appear on my personal shelves; some are more light-hearted than those which adhere to the conclusion of the earliest tales.  On May 7, 2015 Little Red And The Very Hungry Lion (Scholastic) written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith celebrated a book birthday.  To begin the story we journey to the continent of Africa.


Little Red Gliding Hood (Random House, October 27, 2015) written by Tara Lazar with pictures by Troy Cummings

There are still forty-one days until the December solstice but a chill is in the air, trees are nearly bare of leaves and needles, and snow is staying on the mountain tops.  It's a time to gather wood for cozy fires, check furnaces and gas fireplaces, take wool blankets and flannel sheets out of storage, and locate mittens, hats and scarves.  Poles, snow shoes, sleds, snowboards, skis and ice skates move from the back corners of sheds and garages to the front.

We all watch and wait for the snow to fall deeper and deeper.  We all watch and wait for those chilly temperatures to turn our water wonderlands into frozen stages for our skating dances and games.  In the realm of fairy tales and nursery rhymes the residents are as eager as we to shift into another season.  Little Red Gliding Hood (Random House, October 27, 2015) written by Tara Lazar with pictures by Troy Cummings follows a familiar girl among a cast of well-loved characters as she searches for a way to win.


For more fairy tale fun follow this link to a small collection of Little Pig Variants on Popplet.  

Wishing you all a very happy National Tell A Fairy Tale Day!

6 comments:

  1. So much fairytale goodness here! I can't decide...

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    1. Just pick one Bridget and start capturing the joy!

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  2. Thank you so much for these GREAT selections. I have already added several to my K-5 book order. The kids are going to LOVE them!

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    1. You are welcome Karyn. I am so thankful that this post was helpful to you. I love that your students are going to enjoy them. Thank you for visiting my blog.

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