Reading ever after: Fairy tale fun with little ones
Once upon a time...in a land far away, I read my first fairy tales. I was enamored. The stories were exciting, and only a little bit scary. I’m intrigued now by how classic fairy tales are told, and retold, for readers of different ages. Fairy tales can be delightful – and also frightful. They can be grim, as well as Grimm. If you would like to read some fairy tales with a young child, perhaps even at bedtime – and not be met with sleep loss as a result – there are many good options. When choosing books to share, think about the content of a tale, and also consider pictures, perspective and play.
Pictures: Numerous picture books telling classic fairy tales are available. At Anythink, look for them in the Tales section (along with other folk tales and mythologies). I tend to favor titles with notably lovely artwork. For example, Bernadette Watts’ paintings make her edition of Little Red Riding Hood a particularly pleasurable book to read. Marcia Brown’s delicate drawings and pastel palette in her adaptation of Cinderella have charmed many readers, and this volume won the Caldecott medal in 1955. Sybille Schenker, a master of paper design, created an exceptionally beautiful version of Little Red Riding Hood using fine die-cut patterns and textures.
Perspective: After sharing some standard fairy tales, it can be fun to check out some fractured versions. A fractured fairy tale is a pointedly modified telling of a well-known story. It’s an old tale with a new twist. Often, the fractured version adopts a different perspective or point of view from the original, and aims to make readers laugh. It’s rather funny, for instance, and perhaps less frightening, when the Bad Fairy is allowed to explain what happened when she cursed Beauty in Truly, We Both Loved Beauty Dearly: The Story of Sleeping Beauty, as Told by The Good and Bad Fairies by Trisha Speed Shaskan. Similarly, the Giant is more amusing and less scary, in Trust Me, Jack’s Beanstalk Stinks!: The Story of Jack and the Beanstalk, as Told by the Giant by Eric Braun. The other seven titles in this series (by Capstone) also emphasize humor (in part via the cartoon-like illustrations), while offering to tell “the other side of the story.” These books are entertaining, and they also can lead to some good conversations about how perspective affects any story (or account of events).
Play: Two specific picture books will ensure that you play while reading fairy tales (and remember to read playfully in general). In Esme Raji Codell’s Fairly Fairy Tales, questions about fairy tales are posed mischievously and answered humorously. Reading it, you and your child will be playing the book’s game along with its characters, and you’ll also discover many jokes to enjoy. In Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together by children’s poet laureate Mary Ann Hoberman, eight fairy tales are retold as short, rhymed stories. As the author explains, these verses are designed to be “little plays for two voices that sometimes speak separately, sometimes in unison.” Reading these rhythmic and funny lines aloud is a great way to play and have fun together, while revisiting old stories. In addition, it can boost a new reader’s skills.
It can be a pleasure to tell and retell old stories with a young child. Even a tale with a big bad wolf or an angry giant can be more charming than disquieting. In the end, it’s sharing a love for reading itself that is a true happily ever after.