My younger daughter’s current favorite book is the Usborne Illustrated Stories of Princes and Princesses. We are big fans of the Illuustrated Stories series in general because of their gorgeous illustrations and ability to take well known stories and bring them to younger audiences at an age appropriate level (Shakespeare for an 8 year old!). What sets this particular book apart is the fact that it brings forth many lesser known fairy tales from a variety of cultures and it is a book focusing on princesses, but without that common thread of princess needs saving from prince.
E found this book in our catalog and started begging for it, so of course I bought it, since I’m a sucker for that desire. We were quickly surprised by the content of the stories. Many are well known tales like Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, Sleeping Beauty, and the Frog Prince. But then there are stories that have never made their way into my fairy tale loving family – The Princess and the Glass Hill, Princess Nobody, and the Seven Ravens, for example. Each story is beautifully told with illustrations and an easy to read font. Continue reading →
Fractured fairy tales are so much fun. They take an old story that you know quite well and change the characters, setting, points of view, or plot. Sometimes a story needs a little bit of modernizing and sometimes you are just getting a completely different spin on the story. One of the newest in this genre is Twelve Terribly Active Princesses Who Were Not Exactly Dancing, by Michael Ann Dobbs.
This story is a retake of the classic Twelve Dancing Princesses. In the classic Grimm’s Brothers fairy tale, Twelve princesses, each more beautiful than the last, sleep in twelve beds in the same room. Every night, their doors are securely locked. But in the morning, their dancing shoes are found to be worn through as if they had been dancing all night. The king, perplexed, promises his kingdom and each daughter to any man who can discover the princesses’ midnight secret within three days and three nights, but those who fail within the set time limit will be put to death. An old soldier heeds the king’s call and discovers that the princesses are secretly going into another realm where they dance the night away with twelve princes. He shares his findings with the king, is given the hand of one in marriage, and all of the princesses are put under a curse for as many nights as they had danced with the princes.
In his new book, Michael Ann Dobbs imagines the twelve princesses going to a magical world to play baseball instead of dancing with princes. In this story, the king gets frustrated when his 12 daughters fall asleep all over the castle – at breakfast, at their lessons, even while practicing their musical instruments. He also is annoyed that every morning their beautiful satin slippers are covered in mud and worn to shreds and that their bloomers have tears in the knees. But when one falls asleep in her soup at a state dinner he has had enough. He starts by trying to move them to less lush living quarters, but that doesn’t seem to make a difference. He decides to take more drastic measures.
At the same time a soldier, who wasn’t very good at soldiering, is looking for work. He hears of the decree from the king and, with help from an old lady he meets, decides to try to solve the mystery. He discovers that the princesses are going through a magic mirror to play baseball, a sport he has never seen before and doesn’t understand. After a brief explanation of the game and a few delicious hot dogs, he sits back and enjoys the show. When the princesses win their game, he also sees the sheer happiness on their faces.
The soldier wants to tell the king what he has discovered, but he also doesn’t want to take baseball away from the princesses – a very interesting twist on the original. He figures out a way to make everyone happy and avoids having his head cut off for not solving the mystery. He also chooses not to marry one of the princesses, allowing them to be saved from a rather ridiculous concept.
The story was a fun read and my 6 year old really enjoyed it. As the reader, there were some parts that I found incredibly repetitive, such as listing all twelve princesses names over and over as well as some of the parts when the king keeps moving the princesses from room to room thinking it will get them to sleep more. I really liked the fact that the princesses weren’t sneaking out to dance with princes, but rather had found a sport that they loved to play as a team. It was also nice to have the soldier work hard to find the princesses, and himself, a happy ending. He realized how much pleasure the girls got out of playing baseball and he knew that it shouldn’t be taken away from them. An additional fun twist was the little old lady who helped the soldier turned out to be the girls’ grandmother and quite the little manipulator herself.
The book reads like an extra long picture book which makes it especially nice for the older child who still likes to listen to stories, but wants more plot. For the middle grader reader who is looking for an interesting take on this classic tale, I would recommend The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell.
*Note – I received a digital copy from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I love taking a look at different versions of well known fairy tales. While the originals are a force to be reckoned with, there is such a wealth of creativity when authors dream up alternate versions of stories that we know by heart. Recently, we decided to take a look at a wide variety of Goldilocks options.
James Marshall’s version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a classic retelling that has been slightly modernized with Marshall’s whimsical illustrations. Goldilocks is a naughty little girl who often ignores her mother’s rules. At the bears’ house, baby bear’s porridge is too hot to eat, so the family goes out for a bike ride and Goldi enters and does her usual damage.
Jan Brett takes the classic story and moves it to Alaska. In Three Snow Bears, Goldilocks is a little Inuit girl who wanders into the bears’ igloo when they go out to let their breakfast cool. She drinks his soup, finds his fur lined boots super comfortable, and gets cozy under his furry blanket. Like most Goldilocks heroines, she runs away when the bears come home, but these bears don’t seem to mind that she visited and wave good-bye to her as she leaves.
For those looking for a non-traditional, non-blonde version of Goldilocks, Yolanda King has written Curlilocks and the Three Pink Pandas. In this story Curlilocks gets sidetracked by butterflies while picking blueberries and gets lost. She finds the pink pandas’ house and goes in. She eats their oatmeal with ghee, untangles her curls with their brushes, then falls asleep in the youngest panda’s bed. When she runs home, she tells her parents what happened. They take her back to the panda’s house so that she can apologize for breaking Pumpkin’s comb and messing things up. Then both families enjoy a lovely meal together. A nice update to the story, especially with her going back to their house and making things right.
Diane Stanley put a great spin on the traditional Goldilocks story by modernizing it and making it less about a nosy girl and instead about a little girl who was looking for a friend. In Goldie and the Three Bears, Goldie knows what she likes and what she doesn’t, but she can’t seem to find a friend who gets her and likes to do similar things. One day she accidentally gets off the school bus at the wrong stop and looks for help. She goes into the house of the three bears and has her usual misadventures. When baby bear finds Goldie in her bed, she is m-a-d mad. But when the little bear takes a running leap into the bed to pounce on Goldie, the two girls wind up using the bed like a trampoline. Rather than running away, Goldie explains what happened and she and Baby Bear become good friends.
Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton change things up by bringing in a musical aspect in Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears. In this story, the three bears are in a rock band but are in need of a soprano to take their group to the next level. While they go out to hold auditions, Goldi finds their house/studio. Rather than the traditional porridge, chair and bed, Goldi tries out their microphones, headphones and instruments. When the bears return unsuccessful, Goldi hits a perfect high C in fright when they wake her up. Once she gets over her shock, they ask her to join the band and they all live happily ever after.
Goldie goes Western in Sunny Lowell’s Dusty Locks and the Three Bears. In this version, Dusty was a dirty little girl who hadn’t bathed in a month. When she runs away from her mother one day, she finds herself at the home of the three bears and barges in. Comically, we are told that if she had just waited, the bears probably would have offered her some of their beans with Western hospitality, but she couldn’t wait. When the bears do come home, they are shocked and amazed by her smell thinking perhaps that she is a skunk. Unlike most Goldilocks stories, this one shows what happens when she gets home – she is scolded for running away and immediately bathed. If she ever ran into the bears again, they wouldn’t recognize her.
One of my all time favorites is Mo Willems’ Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. In this laugh out loud version, there are three dinosaurs who set up chocolate pudding and then, for no particular reason, they went “Someplace Else and were definitely not hiding in the woods waiting for an unsuspecting kid to come by.” The dinosaurs are trying to make a tasty meal of the nosy child, but she fortunately figures it out and high tales it out of their house before doom befalls her. I actually did a complete review with pictures a few years ago which you can read here.
Marilyn Tolhurst wrote Somebody and the Three Blaires for her son “who used to be outraged at the way Goldilocks treated the baby bear.” As you may recall, Goldilocks destroys everything that belongs to Baby Bear and then runs away screaming. In this book, the Blaires decide to go for a walk and a bear called Somebody comes into their house. She messes up all sorts of stuff because, as a bear, she doesn’t know any better. Baby Blair thinks each thing is rather comical, especially when he finds Somebody in his crib and says, “Issa big teddy bear.” Somebody escapes down the drainpipe and Baby Blaire invites her to come back to play.
A fun twist on the story comes when we hear the story from a very modern Baby Bear’s perspective. In Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!, Nancy Loewen has taken the story that we all know so well and completely turned it on its head. In this story, Sam (aka Baby Bear) can’t stand porridge so his parents make him go for a walk, because if you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat anything. He sneaks back home and finds Goldilocks in his house taking selfies of herself eating porridge and sitting in various chairs – she’s been dared by Red Riding Hood. When Goldi starts jumping on the beds, Sam asks to be let in so they can play together. Sam pretends to chase Goldi out of the house, but while they are running they trade phone numbers. A great addition to the truly fractured fairy tale grouping.
In a similar vein, Beware of the Bear, by Alan McDonald, shows the bears attempting to get back at Goldilocks for the havoc she wrecked on their house. The bears enter what they believe is Goldi’s house and mess it up – they have a cereal food fight, dance on her furniture, use her bathroom supplies, and have a pillow fight. When Goldi enters the house, the bears jump out to tell her that they decided to pay her a visit. The extra twist happens when we learn that this was just another of the many houses she randomly sneaks into and that it belongs to the big bad wolf!
It is really amazing how many different versions of the same story are out there. Plus, we also enjoy what Chris Colfer does mashing all of the fairy tales together in The Land of Stories series. Do you have a favorite version of a fairy tale?
We read a lot of princess stories. I’ve been surrounded by princesses and fairies for years. But we have always done a pretty good job of bringing non-traditional princesses into our mix. I always enjoy reading other people’s lists of books, so I try to create them myself (when time allows). I’ve been putting this grouping together for a few weeks.
The Princess and the Pizza – This fractured fairy tale takes the traditional Princess and the Pea and turns it on it’s head. Here Princess Pauline’s father decides to give up his thrown in order to follow his own dreams, but Pauline misses her princess days. When a local Queen announces that she is searching for a true princess to marry her son, Princess Pauline finds her tiara and heads out.
Pauline passes the “old princess-and-the-pea trick” and is able to wear the glass slipper, but each time a challenge is placed on the group she has some sort of smart response that begins with “for Pete’s sake…” The final test is to cook a feast fit for a king, but before she can even get ingredients, Rapunzel trips her and the seven dwarfs grab nearly everything available. All she is left with is “some flour, yeast, water, three overripe tomatoes, and a hunk of stale cheese.” Then she finds that she has to cook in her room without pots and pans. Of course, in true story form, in a last desperate attempt she manages to make pizza and wins. What makes this even better is that she decides that she doesn’t want to marry the prince after all and would rather make a fortune on pizza.
The Princess and the Pony – This story focuses on a little girl in a warrior kingdom. All she wants is a strong warrior horse, instead of the cozy sweaters her parents keep giving her. When her birthday rolls around, she begs her parents for a warrior horse and instead they give her a squishy pony. To lift her spirits, she enters a battle for warriors. Her pony is not exactly up to the battle, but on the day of the event she tells him to just do his best.
When the battle begins, it is like a crazed skirmish and the reader can’t imagine this little princess going up against all of the big warriors. Princess Pinecone gears up to throw her first spit ball and the fierce warrior that is running towards her comes to a stop to admire her pony. Then all of the other gruff warriors do the same. “This is not how a battle usually goes,” she said. “You’re right,” said Otto, “but we warriors don’t often get to show our cuddly sides.”
Princess Pinecone, and a slew of her cozy sweaters, helps the warriors do just that. This flips the big tough warrior concept on its head when Princess Pinecone wins “most valuable warrior of the day.”
Princesses are Not Quitters – In this unusual tale, three princesses suddenly decided that their days were too dull and that servants seemed to have all of the fun – “out in the fresh air, doing interesting things.” So they decided to swap places for the day.
Soon their backs, hands, and feet were sore, but they didn’t want anyone to say that princesses were quitters, so they kept on working. They missed lunch and dinner because they couldn’t get their chores done fast enough, but they stuck with it and finished everything on their lists.
The next day the princesses slept until noon and limped down to breakfast where they realized that they had had a hand in the food that they were eating. They also had learned just how hard their staff worked. So that day the princesses made a royal proclamation to make the lives of their servants easier. Now if you visit their kingdom, chances are that the princesses are still helping out.
This is an important story about realizing the work that goes on behind the scenes, the importance of helping out, the importance of rest and most of all, perseverance.
Princess Pigsty – Isabella is the youngest of three princesses. The girls have everything they could ever wish for and servants to do their bidding. But Isabella was sick of being a princess. “It’s boring, boring, boring!” She doesn’t want to sit around and look pretty. She wants to have fun – wear pants, climb trees, even pick her nose if she so chooses.
Her father banishes her to the kitchens as punishment. He figures that doing dishes and peeling onions will make her come to her senses. After three days her father sends for her, but she was having a blast. When she still wouldn’t fetch her crown from the fishpond she had thrown it in, he sent her to the pigsty. There she helped feed and clean them, but also played with them. She still refused to get her crown. Her father finally realized that his little girl was finally happy and that she should be allowed to do what she wanted to do.
This is a wonderful story of being true to yourself and also that not all little girls want to be traditionally “girly.” Isabella had an inquisitive mind and learned things by getting her hands dirty and actually working. She had a better knowledge of where her food came from and how the world worked then even her father, the king, did. A great way to encourage young girls to be what they want to be.
The Princess and the Giant – I’m not sure where I first heard about this story, but I am so glad that I did. From the very first page, it challenges traditional gender roles by saying “Her father made the porridge, and her mother chopped the wood, while Princess Sophie rode her bike, as every princess should.”
Sophie and her family were plagued by a giant who stomped around every night and made it impossible for anyone in the kingdom to get any sleep. No one seemed to be able to do anything about it, so Sophie took matters into her own hands. She climbed up to the giant and tried giving him a midnight snack. When that failed she tried loaning him some stuffed animals. She kept trying, but nothing seemed to work. The queen finally sent in the army, but she ran up ahead of them to give it one last valiant try and it worked.
I loved reading about Sophie’s pluck and determination. There was no fear of the giant, who wasn’t mean, just cranky. From a parent’s perspective, there is also the issue of trying to put your kids to bed and finally finding the one thing that works. A great story with a smart little princess.
Interstellar Cinderella – Given my penchant for finding all of the various versions of a specific fairy tale and the fact that we have read a TON of Cinderella stories, I couldn’t help myself when I heard that this book was coming out.
Interstellar Cinderella is about a little girl who dreamed of fixing fancy rockets. When the Prince holds a Royal Space Parade and invites her family she is very excited, but her step-mother tricks her and strands her at their home. Her fairy godrobot brings her a special set of tools and she manages to make the parade. When the prince’s spaceship starts to burn, Interstellar Cinderella knows just how to fix it and together they go to the Gravity-Free Ball. As with all Cinderella stories, she has to run out at midnight, but she leaves her socket wrench behind. The prince searches high and low for the girl who knew so much about fixing rockets and manages to finally find Cinderella. When he asks her to be his bride, she thinks about it, but says “I’m far too young for marriage, but I’ll be your chief mechanic!”
Dreams can come true for this bright little Cinderella. She lives a happy existence fixing ships and hanging out with her friend the prince. A great lesson to follow your own dreams and be whatever you want to be. It is also nice to see Cinderella not marry the prince in the end. A true 21st century take on a classic story.
We love finding books that are different from the norm. What non-traditional princess stories have you read?
A few years ago I started hearing about the book The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. The book sounded perfect for me – fairy tales, adventure, and strong young characters. I was quickly sucked into the story and when J heard me listening to the audiobook version of book 2, she heard the names of some princesses that she recognized and got curious. Since then, she has been sucked into the stories herself and has read and listened to them all. We also just received our copy of the 4th book in the series which came out this week, but she is rereading the first three before jumping into book 4.
Kids have a tendency to read books more than once and watch movies over and over. There is something comforting in repetition. I asked J about this once and here is what she said: “A good story never gets old, but the first time you read it is always the best. Why? Because when you read it for the first time it is so new. So many interesting facts pop up that you’ve never heard of before. Books should be interesting. BUT…a good story never gets old. I go back to some because they are so good.”
For us, The Land of Stories series is one of those series that we can read over and over again. Harry Potter is definitely another. For the Land of Stories it has to do with taking something that we are so familiar with (fairy tales) and looking at them in a different light, as if the fairy tale world was simply another dimension that keeps going on even after the stories that we know are over. I will admit that the writing isn’t perfect, but the stories are fun and it is entertaining to have adventures with characters you think you knew re-imagined. J and I think that the first two books have been the most compelling because the characters were on a quest, but book 3 being a bit slower hasn’t stopped us from being super excited about book 4.
Book 1 The Wishing Spell is a quest through the world of fairy tales. Twins Alex and Connor Bailey had lost their father about a year before the story starts. On their 12th birthday their grandmother gives them a treasured fairy-tale book. Soon they discover that the book is not your average book as it brings them into the realm of fairy tales. Alex and Conner soon discover that the stories they know so well haven’t ended in this magical land—Goldilocks is now a wanted fugitive, Red Riding Hood has her own kingdom, and Queen Cinderella is about to become a mother! To get home they have to complete the wishing spell which requires them to solve riddles to find objects in order to make a spell that will allow them to leave the Land of Stories. They meet favorite characters and have quite the adventure.
In the following books, they continue to have adventures in and out of the fairy tale world, but I don’t want to give away any of the fun details. Book four will apparently lead us through Oz, Neverland, Camelot, Wonderland and Sherwood Forrest.
While these are not the most wonderfully written books, they are wonderfully enchanting and they have definitely captured our attention. J and I were talking about these books in the car the other morning and she said “the reason you love the Land of Stories books is because Chris Colfer comes up with reasons why everything in fairy tales that we know happens.” They are just possible explanations, but they start your mind thinking that there are more to these stories and characters then what we have been shown by Disney.
The books have a lexile level at around 720 and run over 400 pages a piece.
You didn’t think I could stop with Little Red Riding Hood, did you? When I was finding those books in the library, various Cinderella tales attracted my attention as well. In fact, I almost find Cinderella more amazing because it truly is a multicultural phenomenon. Every country seems to have its own take on the story and it is an amazing way to see how similar we all are throughout our differences.
Walt Disney’s Cinderella
I know it seems crazy to start with this, but those of us with children know this story the best. My 3 year old listened to some of the other Cinderella stories below and would make comments about how she liked the Cinderella with the yellow hair better. In this version, Cinderella is friends with the animals, the mice talk, and the fairy godmother makes everything possible for our heroine. It is a prettified version of the Brothers Grimm version, but loved by children around the world.
Barbara McClintock’s version of Cinderella is based on the French telling of the story, complete with stately French dresses. The illustrations in this version are what make it stunning and it most closely mirrors the story that most of us think of when we envision Cinderella. In this tale, as in the original, Cinderella is a very kind soul even when confronted with the cruelty of her step-sisters. She offers them oranges at the ball and yearns for their friendship. In the end, she forgives them their cruelty and finds husbands for both of her sisters.
This is an incredibly fun take on the Cinderella story. The Bigfoot prince is a nature lover looking for a bride. All of the female bigfoots want to win his love, but it is Rrrrella, with her big feet, ability to knock him off a log, and hatred of wearing flowers that wins his love. A completely unexpected twist on the old classic.
Adelita – A Mexian Cinderella Story
Tomie dePaola’s imaginative retelling is absolutely beautiful. No princesses, no fairies, no magic other than love. In this tale, Adelita’s mother dies early on, but her nanny Esperenza helps raise her. Her father remarries a cold woman who of course gets worse after Adelita’s father dies. Adelita spends her time in the kitchen to be near Esperenza and bask in her love, until Doña Micaela sends Esperenza away. When the family is invited to a party and Adelita is left home, Esperenza swoops in like the fairy godmother. When Adelita goes to the party, she asks to be called Cinderella. The young man of course falls in love with her and the book ends with a happy ending. The magic to me was how real the story felt. The splashes of Spanish and the sheer simplicity in the story are charming. My 6 year old also loved it, even though my 3 year old still prefers the Disney version.
The Orphan – A Cinderella story from Greece
This is not the Greek version, per se. The author’s note says that it is inspired by 2 Greek versions. In this tale, they are paying homage to the original notion of Cinderella going to a second ball and losing her glass slipper there, however, instead of a ball, everyone tries to gain the prince’s favor at a church service. The authors also note that they had their Cinderella “step out of the traditional role in which she waits patiently for her prince.” Rather than wait in the cinders, she heeds the words of her dead mother and gets herself to the church to meet the prince. An interesting take on the classic tale and a nice look at Greek culture.
Joyce Carol Thomas creates a completely different take on the classic tale in this version. Here, Cinderella is separated from her mother, Queen Mother Rhythm, after a hurricane and is taken in by the mean Crooked Foster Mother who wants a kitchen hand. Years later, the Great Gospel Choir is looking for a new lead singer. Cinderella has her mother’s voice, but of course is not allowed to audition. She is drawn to the gospel convention anyway and wows everyone, then disappears. In the end, she is found and reunited with her mother. A beautiful story that portrays the importance of gospel and music in the African American community.
Ella’s Big Chance
Shirley Hughes transforms the Cinderella story with the glamour of the jazz age. Ella Cinders is a top-notch dress maker in her father’s shop. Her father remarries a woman who changes everything at the shop making Ella’s life much harder. The only source of happiness in her life is her friendship with Buttons, the loyal delivery boy at the shop, who would sing songs and dance with Ella to remind them of happier times. Ella manages to go to a special party where she meets the Duke and he falls in love with her. The awesome twist is that Ella realizes that she doesn’t love the fancy Duke, but rather, her heart belongs to Buttons, her long-time friend and confidant. There is something completely charming about the fact that Ella doesn’t feel the need to run away with the prince/duke. Life isn’t about riches but instead about finding true happiness.
Yeh-Shen – A Cinderella story from China
This Chinese version of Cinderella pre-dates the European version we are so familiar with by about 1000 years. In this story, Yeh-Shen’s father had two wives who each bore a daughter, but Yeh-Shen’s mother dies when she is very young. The only friend that Yeh-Shen has is a fish that she caught and raised. Her step-mother kills the fish and cooks it for dinner. A spirit tells Yeh-Shen that there is power in the bones of the fish and it helps to keep her alive. When the spring festival comes, where Chinese go in hopes to find a husband or wife, Yeh-Shen is not allowed to go, but she asks the bones to help her borrow clothes fit to wear to the feast. She is given a beautiful dress and woven shoes and told not to lose the shoes. As she is leaving the party, since her sister found her familiar looking, she accidentally loses a slipper. The King gets hold of her second shoe and looks for its owner. Yeh-Shen gets the shoe back late at night when no one can see her and the King is entranced by her beauty. When she put both shoes on, she was once again transformed into the outfit she wore to the party. The King falls in love and they are married. It is very interesting to read a story so similar to our traditional Cinderella story.
Kongi and Potgi – A Cinderella story from Korea
Oki Han tells the story of Cinderella as her father told her as a child in Seoul, Korea. In this story, Kongi and Potgi are step-sisters. Kongi is treated poorly and made to do harder work while Potgi gets the soft bed and simpler tasks. Even though Kongi has to do more work, she never has a bad word to say about her step-mother or sister and when it seems a task is insurmountable, the animals always seem to lend her a hand. When a party was to be held for the prince to find a bride, Kongi’s step-mother tried to give her a task that could never be done in time. Thanks to birds who came to help and angels who gave her beautiful clothes, Kongi was able to go. The story ends with Kongi becoming Queen and even her step-mother and step-sister changing their ways and helping others. Both J and I really enjoyed this story. She liked the notion of it being similar to the original story but Kongi only having one sister. I like the fact that it is Kongi’s kindness that brings out the kindness in the animals. This is also one of the rare stories that doesn’t have both of Cinderella’s parents die. The illustrations and depictions of the Korean way of life are also wonderful.
Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal – A Worldwide Cinderella
This book is amazing and the inside front cover puts it perfectly – “Once upon a time in Mexico…in Iran…in Ireland…in Zimbabwe…There lived a girl who worked all day in the rice fields…cooked in the royal kitchen…tended the cattle…then spent the night by the hearth, sleeping among the cinders. Her story has spanned centuries and continents, changing to match its surrounds.” This book manages to tell the Cinderella story from a variety of perspectives, each page showing what country the story is from, some pages going back and forth between different countries to show how the same story changes slightly from place to place – “And on the girl’s feet appeared a pair of glass slippers (France)…diamond anklets (India)…sandals of gold (Iraq).” This is a must read for all lovers of the Cinderella story.
Both of my girls are obsessed with Frozen. We saw the movie over Thanksgiving weekend and it has been three weeks of non-stop Frozen in this house since then. I know this doesn’t seem like something to discuss on a blog about books, but go with me on this.
The story, if you somehow missed it, is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen. The official synopsis says “When a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, Anna, a fearless optimist, teams up with extreme mountain man Kristoff and his sidekick reindeer Sven on an epic journey to find Anna’s sister Elsa, the Snow Queen, and put an end to her icy spell. Encountering mystical trolls, a funny snowman named Olaf, Everest-like extremes and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.”
By now, everyone is talking about the movie, so I shouldn’t be giving anything away when I say that it is a change for Disney to have made a movie that focuses on the power of the love of two sisters. So as a mom of two girls, I love to see my girls so infatuated with this movie and sharing the experience with each other. We have the full CD and it gets played over and over and over again – actually, they each have a copy burned and it is what is listened to every night at bedtime. This past weekend found the two of them “rehearsing” the story and then acting it out with costumes and everything. In the same way that the sisters Anna and Elsa are kept apart from each other at the beginning of the movie, Frozen has in some ways brought my girls even closer together.
It doesn’t surprise me that my book obsessed girls are also obsessed with the books that go along with Frozen. E got a copy of the story with CD for Hanukkah and it is a great option, especially for little ones who enjoy listening to their stories on CD, which is her current favorite thing. We have also purchased the large Golden Book, which is miles better than the small Golden book and completely worth the $9. It tells the whole story rather than a very condensed version.
While those are the only books we currently own, we have spent enough time in the local bookstores reading all of the other books that I feel pretty comfortable highlighting a few of those as well. There is a book that is “2 books in 1” – each book goes until the center staple and it comes with stickers. The stories are incredibly shortened and told from the point of view of each girl, but it completely captivates E and I am asked to read it whenever she can get her hands on it.
There are a ton of step into reading books and a junior novelization to encourage readers to pick up a book on a familiar topic. We don’t need to buy any of those since J isn’t a reluctant reader, but they are a great thing to have and marvelous for emerging readers. We might find ourselves purchasing the Essential Guide put out by DK as we have enjoyed other versions of those in the past.
Finally, what is interesting about a story like this is that it can also encourage kids to read the original Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale which inspired not only Frozen, but The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the more recent story Breadcrumbs, and countless others. We have a book of Hans Christian Anderson stories as they were originally written, but this particular story is the longest that he wrote and very hard to follow in the original version. We came home from the movie and immediately looked at it, but there was no way for my 6 year old to grasp it.
That doesn’t mean that reading the original is out of the question. In looking around, there seems to be a beautiful version by Barefoot Books that comes with a CD or as a paperback confident reader.
It is wonderful when a modern take on a story can help encourage a child to go back to the original and the fairy tales that have served as inspiration for so many years are always worth revisiting.
We all know the story of Little Red Riding Hood. A little girl is sent to deliver food to her sick grandma with the stern warning to stay on her path and not talk to strangers. On her way she meets a wolf who rushes to grandma’s house, eats her, then tricks and eats Little Red. In the end, the huntsman comes and miraculously saves them by cutting open the wolf.
But the amazing thing about classic fairy tales is that they have been told and retold by countless generations. J is currently in a production of Red Riding Hood and the kids are getting to help write their own version. That plus the fact that I was at the library the other day and randomly found the book Little Red Hot meant that this post was born – a fun look at adaptions at Little Red Riding Hood.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that current tellings of the story often shy away from the violence of the wolf eating grandma or Little Red. Fairy tales were told to teach lessons to children and at times intended to scare them away from bad behaviors. In our world of highly protective parenting, we don’t seem to want to show them the scary consequences that can occur when they go and talk to strangers, which is the main point of Little Red. As awful as it might seem, kids still need to learn to stay away from the Big Bad Wolf.
Little Red Riding Hood – Adapted from the Brothers Grimm by Gennady Spirin
Of all of the versions that I could get my hands on, this one stays truest to the original Grimm version, down to her red cap rather than cloak. Little Red’s mother sends her off with the reminder to “mind your manners and do not leave the path for any reason.” The wolf is larger than life, fancily dressed. and he fiercely attacks Little Red’s grandmother. Upon hearing the wolf’s loud snores after his grand meal, the hunters manage to save Little Red and her grandmother and Little Red learns to never speak to strangers and always listen to her mother.
Little Red Riding Hood – The Brother’s Grimm, Illustrated by Bernadette Watts
This is the version the Brother’s Grimm wrote down that most of us know, complete with the red cap and the wolf being stuffed with stones at the end. The only reason that this one doesn’t resonate as much with me quite as much as the Gennady Spirin version is that the illustrations are too beautiful. The wolf is just a large dog and you never see him gobble anyone up. It is a lovely version, but less exciting and visually gripping for a young child.
Red Riding Hood – James Marshall
The James Marshall version is a well loved version that stays true to the original while being zany enough to capture a child’s attention. Marshall’s illustrations are a more modern, fun take on Little Red. The wolf in this tale was not vicious, instead he tricks her by being charming and well-mannered and, once he realizes that he can eat both of them, he offers to escort her to grandma’s. While she stops to pick flowers, he runs ahead and gobbles up granny. Another neighbor hears his post-feast snoring and comes to save the day. Red ends the story telling that she will never speak to strangers, “charming manners or not.”
The Wolf’s Story – Toby Forward
Since we all think we know what really happened that day in the woods, Toby Forward offers up the wolf’s side of the story. According to this story, the wolf was a health nut who did odd jobs for granny. Red had met him many times, but never really liked him. When granny accidentally knocks her head in the closet, the wolf panicked and tried to pretend he was granny. He didn’t want to eat Little Red, but she tried to pop a sticky toffee in his mouth and he was jumping away from her. At that moment the huntsman came in and wolfy ran away. He’s looking for a new job now, so if you know anyone…It’s a cute looking at the fact that there is always another side of the story.
Little Red Hot – Eric Kimmel
Eric Kimmel takes us to Texas to meet Little Red Hot, a girl who loves to eat hot peppers…on everything. When granny gets ill, her mom asks her to stop by and Little Red Hot decides to make her a hot pepper pie to knock the cold germs out. On her way to granny’s, all of the cowboys warn her that Señor Lobo, the Big Bad Wolf, is out prowling. Señor Lobo tries to trick her that he is just a coyote who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Of course, he runs to grandma’s but she jumps out the window and runs away. The wolf pretends to be grandma and engages in the traditional “what big eyes” conversation with Little Red. However, when it gets to teeth, Little Red knows what they are for – “They’re for eatin’ this hot pepper pie” which she shoves into his mouth. Her hot pepper pie blows Señor Lobo through the roof and he’ll never be hurting her again. It doesn’t really teach the “don’t talk to strangers” lesson, but it is a very fun retelling of a classic tale.
Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood – Mike Artell
Rather than visiting Texas, Mike Artell takes us to Cajun country in this rendition which features a brave little duck dressed in red who had to bring some gumbo to her ailing grand-mére. What makes this story go over the top is that it is told in hilarious rhyme with Cajun flair – this is one that must be read aloud. Instead of a wolf, Petite Rouge is stopped by Claude the Crocodile who would like Petite Rouge to share some of her tasty goods with him. He can’t sneak up on Granny due to his size, so she runs next door. But Petite Rouge knows something is up with Claude’s green bumpy skin and her trusty cat TeJean soaks the boudin (sausage) that Claude wants with hot sauce. Grand-mére, Petite Rouge and TeJean all laugh themselves silly at ol’ Claude who thinks that he ate Petite Rouge and now thinks people are too hot for him. Definitely misses out on the “don’t talk to strangers” message, but stands firmly in the stick up for yourself and think on your feet boat.
Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa – Niki Daly
This was a very different retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood Story that I’m not a huge fan of, but J really enjoys it and I do enjoy letting her see a culture that we don’t get in a lot of our books. The story is transported to West Africa where little Salma is sent to the market by her grandmother. She is told to go straight there and back without talking to strangers. After picking up all of her goods, Salma decides to take a short-cut home through the wild side of town. She sings her favorite song along the way and Mr. Dog, a very strange looking creature, offers to help her carry her basket. He slowly tricks her into giving him all of her clothing and told her that he wouldn’t give them back until she taught him her favorite song, so he could use it to trick her grandma. Salma starts to get frightened by him and he turns on her. She runs away and finds her grandfather dressed in his Anansi costume, telling stories. Grandfather doesn’t think the story has such a happy ending, so off they go to save Grandma. Grandma must be partially blind as she doesn’t seem to notice that Mr. Dog is not Salma until he takes a bath and she notices that he has a tail. Granny hides from the mean Mr. Dog in her cooking pot (?!?) and gets frightened away when Salma and Grandpa come to the door in their masks. “The next day, Granny sent Salma to market to buy new clothes. Salma went straight there and back. And she never talked to strangers again.”
Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China – Ed Young
A friend whose daughter is also in our production of Little Red Riding Hood loaned us this version of the tale. In the Chinese take on the story, rather than the mom sending the little girl off to granny’s house, mom goes to visit grandma on her birthday leaving her three daughters at home. After mother has gone, the wolf comes to their door pretending to be their Po Po. The children realize that something is off and find a way to trick the wolf and keep themselves safe. This is a much darker story with dark illustrations. It is a very interesting take on the story and shows a cleverness in the girls, but is more appropriate for older children.