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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fractured Fairy Tales and Fables

At least once a year, I like to pull out the fractured fairy tales and fables. Grade-schoolers of all ages enjoy these, as do I!

The Gingerbread Man
The Gingerbread Man is beloved by everyone. The Gingerbread Man Loose at School by Laura Murphy is a recent hit with kindergarten through second grade. One of my favorite Gingerbread tales though is The Yuckiest, Stinkiest Best Valentine Ever by Brenda Ferber. It is illustrated by Ted Arnold of Fly Guy fame and will have all ages cracking up. It’s especially fun around Valentine’s Day, but would be a fun, silly read any time.

There are a lot of send-ups of Goldilocks, and I’m delighted that Mo Willems took this on in Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. The humor is largely in the drawings. You also won’t want to miss Margie Palatini’s Goldie and the Three Hares.


The Little Red Hen
Rebecca and Ed Emberley’s eminently simple, traditional re-telling of The Little Red Hen in bold colors will instantly appeal to preschoolers while grade-schoolers will enjoy Philomen Sturges’s The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza). If you want to introduce a child to cooking, try Janet Stevens’s Cook-a-doodle-do. A big, brown rooster, who is the great grandson of the little red hen, is tired of chicken scratch and wants to try his hand at baking. There are the three requisite “not I” responses, followed by three eager (though inept) volunteers. Lots of hilarity and fun wordplay ensues. There are sidebars with cooking explanations that will allow you to discuss the technical aspects of cooking or at least concoct your own strawberry shortcake. 
Jack and the Beanstalk
One version of Jack and the Beanstalk that caught my eye when it came out was Jack and the Baked Beanstalk by Colin Stimpson. Jack and his mother are left high and dry when a highway bypass is constructed right over their cafe. The Depression era illustrations give this book a unique point of view. The giant looks like a bored Wall Street Banker. Diane Stanley takes this tale in an entirely different direction in The Giant and the Beanstalk. In this version, the focus is on the Giant who encounters various Jacks from other nursery rhymes as he strives to find the Jack holding his hen. 

The Three Little Pigs
There are a number of folktales that have taken on a delightful Southwestern or Hispanic twist as seen in The Three Little Tamales by Eric Kimmel, aka the three little pigs, or Kimmel’s Cactus Soup which is a play on Stone Soup. Half the fun of reading Susan Lowell’s Little Red Cowboy Hat is the dialect. For an African version of the Three Little Pigs, read Jan Brett’s The Three Little Dassies. It brings to life a desert landscape with an eagle, their natural predator, trying to destroy each dassie’s home. 

The goofy rhyming text in Falling for Rapunzel by Leah Wilcox features a maiden who is hard of hearing and keeps throwing everything over the castle wall to her suitor except her long braid. Kids will die laughing. And right now the graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge is all the rage.
Don’t overlook the fractured fables. John Rocco’s Wolf! Wolf! is set in Asia and relates the Boy Who Cried Wolf story from the perspective of a sage, old wolf. In Ed and Rebecca Emberley’s rendition of The Ant and the Grasshopper, the vibrant, funky insects practically dance right off the page. The grasshopper strikes up a New Orleans-styled marching band that follows the ant right back to his hill. His burden made light, the ant opens up his tunnel to shade and shelter the musicians who let the “good times roll.” The Caldecott honor book, Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young is a charming reworking of The Blind Man and the Elephant. The black and white images are very effective in portraying this ancient Persian tale.

For longer riffs on fairy tale themes that are popular, you might want to try Wendy Mass, E. D. Baker, Vivian Vande Velde, Michael Buckley, Gail Levine or Gregory Maguire.
--Maggie Wrobel, Centreville Regional Library


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