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Expanding Traditional Fairy Tales: Picture Books and Novels that Tell the Story

by Miriam Downey 23. January 2012 15:32

The library section of FWU contains many Internet links to the traditional fairy tales of Anderson, Perrault, and the Grimm brothers. However, when you read these stories in their original translations, you will find that the stories are a bit ... well, grim! They are cautionary tales, primarily, and there is a lot of bad stuff that happens, like grandmothers getting eaten, children left out in the woods to fend for themselves, and houses getting blown apart.

Let me recommend the retelling of the stories as presented by Andrew Lang in his fairy tale books. There are twelve books in all, and they can all be found at Project Gutenberg. Both of the stories talked about below can be found in the Blue Fairy Book.

Fairy tales are a large part of the Western European heritage, but in the last century, they have been cleaned up and redone by Disney and others. They are great stories, basically, and children love them, gore and all. Many of FWU's language arts flashcards use these stories and have children expand upon them with their original writing.

Most fairy tales have modern versions, "fractured" versions (funny versions) that have wonderful illustrations and text. Most of them can be used by young children and teenagers alike. The old text can be used and new illustrations added, or some of the great illustrations can be used and new text added. Here are some books to look for when planning extension activities utilizing fairy tales. I have chosen two fairy tales for this blog posting. I will add more to this list at another time. I have also included the names of some movies which expand on the stories in a cinematic way.

Cinderella. There are many versions of the Cinderella story. Here are but a few:

Cinderella by Perrault illustrated by Marcia Brown (1954). This is a beautifully illustrated version of the traditional story. It won a Caldecott prize for the illustrations.

Cinderellis and the Glass Hill (2000). A novel written for middle-grade children features a lonely young farm boy who wins the hand of the princess. A good read aloud.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997) is written for 12-14 year olds and is a novelized version of the Cinderella story. A movie was made of this book in 2004.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister: A Novel by Gregory Maguire (2001). An adult novel appropriate for older high school students. Written by the author of Wicked.

Cinderella stories from other cultures for comparison:

Yeh Shen: A Cinderella Story from China illustrated by Ed Young (1996).

The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin (1998) Native American

Mufero's Beautiful Daughter by John Steptoe (1987) African

Rogers and Hammerstein wrote a delightful musical theater version of the story. It was on television three times and all three are available in DVD format. I would recommend the original 1957 version with Julie Andrews as Cinderella, but there is a multi-cultural version from 2003. Of course, there is the classic Disney version of the Cinderella story as well.

Little Red Riding Hood: Another story with many versions.

Little Red Riding Hood illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (1987) was a Caldecott Honor Book and is a retelling of the Grimm brothers classic version.

Little Red Riding Hood illustrated by James Marshal (1993) is done in a cartoon style which may be more palatable for younger children. It is a retelling of the Perrault version.

Carmine: A Little More Red by Melissa Sweet (2008) is a fractured retelling of the story and is also a very inventive alphabet book. Great for a read aloud.

Check out how George McClements retells the story in his book Jake Gander, Storyville Detective: The Case of the Greedy Granny (2002). Early Readers.

Wolf by Gillian Cross (1991) is a novel for middle readers and older.

Here are two cross-cultural versions for comparison:

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China by Ed Young (1990) is a powerful retelling of the Grimm tale and received a Caldecott award.

Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa by Niki Daly (1998). A version set in Ghana.

The stories of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and others are brilliantly retold in the musical Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim. The 1991 version of the musical is available on DVD, and there is a beautiful book of the entire story published in 2002 by Hudson Talbot.

You will be able to find all of these books at your local library and bookstore. Many of them are also available on Kindle or Nook as well.

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