– Look and Tell Fairy Tales by Rosie Greening (Author) and Stuart Lynch (Illustrator), Make Believe Ideas
– Honk, Honk! Hold Tight! By Jessica Souhami, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
– Red Riding Hood Superhero by Otis Frampton, Rain Tree
Fairy tales seem to be a staple of childhood reading and yet, every time someone cares to go back to the original sources or cares to look at them closely, they are deemed completely inappropriate: stepmothers assassinating their stepdaughters! Stepsisters enslaving young ladies! Parents abandoning their children deep in the forest! Witches! Ogres! Wolves and bears, oh my!
Children are very good at self-censoring: if they feel a story is too much for them, they will either ask you to stop reading it or they will ignore the more gruesome aspects. Fear, as well as a certain awareness of the evils of this world are necessary ingredients to anyone’s development but if you fear they are still not quite right for your young reader, try this month’s selection of ‘tales with a twist’. The various ‘twists’ allow the tales to present their scary components with enough distance that the young reader/listener will not be completely spooked. Seek out, especially, stories that are well known to your audience but that come with a twist, either in the setting or in the format (comics, poetry, silhouettes…). Another great source to tap into is of course the wealth of tales from around the world.
For the littles ones, a great first introduction to the more famous tales is Look and Tell Fairy Tales by Rosie Greening and Stuart Lynch, which combines storytelling, vocabulary-building and I-spy games all into one sturdy board book. Maisy Mouse’s creator Lucy Cousin also has a wonderful collection called Yummy, featuring tales that involve eating (think wolf eats pig, but also the giant turnip).
Slightly older readers (2-4) will enjoy recognising old literary friends in Alex T. Smith’s Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion (a funny retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in the African Savannah) or Mo Willems’s Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs. For some temporal distance Jessica Souhami’s Honk, Honk! Hold Tight! is a hoot, inspired by 17th-century tales from Italy, with a subtle modern twist.
Newly confident readers will enjoy discovering new fairy tales in chapter book format: short, pacey and still full of gorgeous illustrations such as to be found in Xanthe Gresham Knight’s and Charlotte Gastaut’s Thumbelina published by Barefoot Books. And if they feel they need a bit more action, give them the graphic novel adaptations of well-known tales from the Far Out Tales series published by Raintree such as Red Riding Hood Superhero by Otis Frampton; these have the added bonus of showcasing girls in very awesome roles.
0-2: Look and Tell Fairy Tales by Rosie Greening (Author) and Stuart Lynch (Illustrator), Make Believe Ideas
Eight classic are included in this solid boardbook, from Goldilocks to Rapunzel and the Ugly Duckling. Each story begins with a page of illustrated key words (‘woods’, ‘three bears’, ‘porridge’) that introduce readers to the main elements of the tale. In the text itself, each key word is then replaced by its image, encouraging the youngest of children to ‘read’ themselves. Brilliant for discovering new stories in an active way, building vocabulary and encouraging attention.
2-4: Honk, Honk! by Jessica Souhami, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Jessica Souhami’s Honk, Honk! Hold Tight! was inspired by a series of classic tales and traditional motifs from around the world. It involves a princess who never laughs, a king who promises to share his kingdom with whoever can at least make his daughter smile, a poor lad, a mysterious old woman and a golden goose. Souhami’s bright and uncluttered illustrations truly bring the reader in, and with plenty of repetition and sound effects, this will get you lots of audience participation as well as giggles.
5-8: Red Riding Hood Superhero by Otis Frampton, Rain Tree
Here, Grandma is President of the United States, the Big Bad Wolf an evil scientist creator of the giant Wolf-Bot, and Little Red Riding Hood? Well, she’s a superhero of course! Complete with magic cape, flying ability and other superpowers, she must save her granny (and the world) in this mad cap romp. The graphic novel format works really well, as it allows to pile on the action and pare down the dialogue to its strict minimum (but with plenty of puns and humour). Perfect for emergent readers.
Written by Juliette Saumande, children’s book writer, Book Doctor and Reviews Editor for Inis magazine.