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New Twists on Old Tales

January 16, 2024

Fractured Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are a beloved tradition that can be traced all the way back to Ancient Greece, where Aesop passed down his classic fables by way of oral storytelling. These types of fantasy stories have long been popular among children, and are a useful tool for early literacy! Children love to hear the same story over and over again. Repetition is actually very beneficial for kids when they are learning how to read, but sometimes it's fun to change things up! In the past several years, many children's book authors have been coming up with new twists on these old favorites. I fondly remember some classic new twists: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig and The Paper Bag Princess from when I was a kid! Read on to discover some of my personal favorite new takes or "fractured" fairy tales! 

Reading Beauty by Deborah Underwood

I adored this new cyberpunk take on Sleeping Beauty! When Princess Lex was an infant, her parents had a party to celebrate and invited everyone in the kingdom. There was one fairy, however, who seemed not to have received her invitation. The jealous fairy placed a curse on the baby that doomed her to a deep slumber-inducing paper cut at the age of fifteen. Being raised in a family of readers, Lex devours as much literature as she can handle, even training her dog, Prince, to fetch her more books as she finishes her current reads. But on her fifteenth birthday, her parents, in fear of losing their daughter, remove all the books from their house. Lex is devastated, and decides to take matters into her own hands. She pays a visit to the bitter fairy, who attempts to trick her with a poisoned book. However, Prince sniffs out the trouble, and Lex is able to outsmart the fairy, and informing her that she had been invited to that celebration all along! Lex teaches the fairy how to read, and the fairy ends up becoming a librarian! Peace is restored in the kingdom, and Lex is excited to keep on reading! If you like this story, Underwood has written a whole series of futuristic fairy tales including Interstellar Cinderella and Jo Bright and the Seven Bots.

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat

This hilarious picture book chronicles the aftermath of Humpty Dumpty's big fall. After one of the King's men is finally able to repair his broken shell, Humpty decides to live a simpler life. He always used to climb up the ladder and sit on the wall, because of his passion for birdwatching. While he can still observe birds from down below, he still longs to be posted up in his old spot. One day, he decides to climb up that ladder, just for old time's sake. His shell begins to break again, but what happens next will blow you away! I don't want to spoil the story, so I'll let you find out for yourself. This book left me smiling!

Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes

This sweet story breathes so much more realness into the classic Hans Christian Andersen "Princess and the Pea" tale. A Charleston family boasts Ma Sally, who is by far the best cook in town, and her handsome son John, who is admired by all the ladies. When John announces to Ma Sally over dinner that he wishes to get married, she is fraught. "I ain't sure about these local gals, John. I don't think they'd feed you right," she says. She decides to host a "dinner" for all the eligible bachelorettes. To their dismay, it is more of a cooking contest than a dinner! Ma Sally has each of them cook their best black eyed peas and tastes each one. NONE of them are up to her standards! She dismisses them all, when suddenly, a mysterious new woman, named Princess, walks through her door, ready to cook! Princess' peas knock Ma Sally and John right out, and they are so impressed that there is no question about who John will marry. However, Princess is not so easy to win over! She agrees to meet John at the juke joint for a dance, and makes sure he is the one washing the dishes after the feast of peas. I absolutely loved how this book gave a voice to Princess. Rather than being the complicit, fragile girl of the old fairy tale, Princess is a recent college-grad who has plans of her own! 

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

This fantastic children's book is a twist on the old tale, replacing the three bears with dinosaurs. I can say with confidence that this is already a HUGE draw for children. Most kids love dinosaurs! The words and illustrations in this one really made me laugh out loud. The dinosaur couple and a young visiting dinosaur from Norway seem to be scheming as they prepare for a nondescript outing to Someplace Else. Little Goldilocks barges into their empty house and immediately begins downing the freshly-made chocolate pudding in the kitchen. Instead of finding the bowl with the pudding that is just right, she eats all three bowls and makes her way into the bedroom for a nap. Just then, however, she hears the residents of the house arrive back home. After hearing their excitement for a "DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE-FILLED-LITTLE-GIRL BONBON", she realizes what type of creature she's dealing with and makes a quick escape! Readers of all ages will delight in this goofy version of an old favorite.

Cinderella--with Dogs!  by Linda Bailey

When poor Cinderella wishes for a fairy godmother to help her have a night out, she's shocked when her Fairy Dog-mother appears! She is in luck, however, because she is a dog person. After chasing squirrels outside together, her Dog-mother dresses her up in a dirty old dog-blanket and dog booties, and gives her a poodle hair-do. Feeling cozy in fleece, Cinderella makes her way to the royal ball, running and howling along with her Dog-mother. A sight to see, Cinderella immediately captures the heart of the Prince and his family, who all love dogs! After giving kisses to the royal family's dozens of dogs, the Prince and Cinderella do some dancing (with all the dogs). Cinderella has to rush back home before midnight, but the Prince keeps one of her slippers. The royal dogs track down Cinderella, and the Prince, of course, asks for her hand in marriage. Cinderella replies, "Well, thanks...but I hardly know you! Why don't we have some fun together instead? Have you ever chased squirrels?". They then spend the rest of the day doing just that! 

Caroline Cronin


Caroline is a Bilingual Literacy Assistant for Bringing Books to Life! She is passionate about accessibility and language justice and loves to share stories and art with friends of all ages. In her free time she enjoys singing, cooking, teaching and practicing yoga, and roller skating.