Once Upon A Time

posted by Gina

My parents are currently wondering why, with fairy-tale-based entertainment being so in vogue (ABC’s “Once Upon a Time”, the Fables graphic novel series, the Hoodwinked movies), I am not actually making some money off my Children’s Literature/Fairy Tale undergrad degree (such a thing exists, yes, and I have one).  “Why aren’t they calling you as a consultant?” my dad wonders aloud.  As do I.

So until a major TV network tracks down my number to ask me to confirm the details of various Cinderella incarnations, let me share with you some favorite fairy tale retellings, spin offs, and modern collections, for the young one in your life who finds the genre as fabulous as I do.

First, the picture books:

Chances are you’re familiar with Jon Scieska’s marvelous The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and The Frog Prince Continued, but if you’re not, let me recommend these here.  Both make excellent writing prompts: one inspires a retelling of any favorite tale from the ‘villain’s’ point of view, one a reflection on what might really happen past that happily ever after.  (In addition, John Scieszka and Lane Smith collaborated on the very wonderful The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Talesalso worth a gander.)

And onto the Chapter Books:

The Great Good Thing, by Roderick Townley tells both a fairy tale and the story of what book characters do when no one is reading them.  There is nothing not lovely about this book.

For updated retellings, giving us additional insight into plot and character, consider Just Ella, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale, or Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine (and let us never speak of the film version, please).

Speaking of Gail Carson Levine, there aren’t many better fairy-tale-ers out there.  A marvelous storyteller, Ella Enchanted is but one of her many wonderful books.  Fairest, a Snow White retelling, takes place in the same world as Ella Enchanted, and The Two Princesses of Bamarre and A Tale of Two Castles are both strong stories with fun, underdog heroines.

And speaking of magnificent storytellers – if you don’t yet know the magic that is Joan Aiken, run for your library.  Her collections of original fairy tales are unexpected, lovely, and magical.  The Last Slice of Rainbow and Not What You Expected (both out of print, but around on used book sites and in libraries) are two of my favorites.

And finally, for yourself or your older kiddo, ponder the powerful Briar Rose, by Jane Yolen, a retelling of  Sleeping Beauty intertwined with one woman’s experience in a concentration camp.  And let this lead you to other works by Jane Yolen, which run the gamut from picture books to fairy tales to King Arthur.  Any fairy tale lover not yet acquainted with Ms. Yolen has a fantastic journey before them.

Any other favorite fairy tale inspired children’s or young adult literature?  Let us know!

Beret says:  It figures that a visual artist would remember fairy tales for the pictures, and not the story.

An illustration from Trina Schart Hyman's Snow White.
An illustration from Trina Schart Hyman’s Snow White.

My favorite of all time is Snow White, translated from the Brothers Grimm by Paul Heins and, more importantly, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. She also did a jaw-droppingly lovely rendition of The Sleeping Beauty. Here is a little gallery of her illustrations to give you a sense of her style. To me, everyone else’s illustrations pale in comparison.

Author: Gina L. Grandi

Moderately well-read. Fairly socially awkward. According to Greg, 'a sentimental cynic with artistic sensibilities.' Somewhat nifty.

3 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time”

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