Once Upon a Time, Again: 12 Updated Fairy Tales Every Kid Will Love

by ParentCo. November 10, 2017

Rapunzel character

The magic of fairy tales spans across cultures and throughout thousands of years of human history. Their familiar characters and plot lines are common knowledge for most people. Today’s authors and screenwriters continue to breathe new life into them. From silly to progressive and enchanting to creepy, here are 12 variations on classic fairy tales worthy of space on your family’s bookshelf: 

“Rapunzel (Once Upon a World)”

by Chloe Perkins

The “Once Upon a World” board books feature simple versions of familiar fairy tales. It’s the multicultural illustrations, however, that make it a treat. This Rapunzel lives in India, has thick, dark hair, and wears a sari and a Bindi. When the prince frees her from her tower, they enjoy life together in a colorful kingdom filled with flora and fauna.

“The Mermaid”

by Jan Brett

This is the third time Jan Brett has re-imagined the story of Goldilocks. The first was a traditional version and the second, an Arctic-themed version called “The Three Snow Bears”. Her newest book is just as creative and beautiful as the others. The underwater story is set off the Japanese coast and stars an octopus family who returns home to a surprise visitor, a mermaid named Kiniro.

Little Red Gliding Hood

by Tara Lazar

It’s not a forest path that leads to Grandma’s in this riff on “Little Red Riding Hood,” but a frozen river. All the Enchanted Forest residents (who include many familiar characters) get around by ice-skating, but Little Red’s skates are too worn out for her to glide safely. She sets her sights on winning a new pair in a skating competition, but must find a suitable partner. A run-in with the Big Bad Wolf provides an unexpected opportunity – and a chance for the community to learn a little about acceptance.

“The Three Billy Goats Gruff”

by Jerry Pinkney

Caldecott medalist Jerry Pinkney adds his own flair to this simple tale. His version has the standard trip-trapping goats and territorial troll, but he’s reworked the ending to be one where the parties manage to coexist – a perfect message for current times.

“Cinderella: 4 Beloved Tales (Multicultural Fairy Tales)”

by Cari Meister

This collection of four “Cinderella” versions from Canada, China, Egypt, and France prove that the magic of the classic story doesn’t come from Disney. The illustrations are unique, and the stories are brief enough to read a couple at bedtime, naturally inviting children to compare and contrast.

“The Three Ninja Pigs”

by Corey Rosen Schwartz

The three pigs head to ninja school to learn to deal with local bully, the Big Bad Wolf. The first two pigs are too impatient to complete their aikido and jujitsu training, but the ever-determined third pig works her way up to a black belt in karate. Her back-flipping, brick-splitting skills are enough to scare the wolf away permanently so the three porcine siblings can focus their energy on opening their own dojo.

“The Giant and the Beanstalk”

by Diane Stanley

This story tells of the quest of a misunderstood giant, Otto, to retrieve his beloved hen, stolen by Jack for her golden eggs. Once he climbs down the beanstalk, Otto encounters numerous other Jacks from classic nursery rhymes before finally finding the right one. They manage to come to a compromise without any of the usual fee, fi, fo, fum.

“Rumplestiltskin’s Daughter”

by Diane Stanley

This story begins with an alternate ending to the traditional tale: Instead of marrying the greedy king, the miller’s daughter marries Rumplestiltskin himself, and they live happily ever after with their own daughter. The daughter grows up to be smart and community-minded, and when another greedy monarch needs guidance, she becomes his advisor. Her advice helps the kingdom flourish and shows that happily-ever-after can mean more than just a royal wedding.

“Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin”

by Liesel Shurtliff

In her novel for middle-grade readers, Shurtliff weaves a tale of how a magical young man ended up in the king’s tower, spinning straw into gold for the desperate miller’s daughter. Rump – whose mother took her final breath before uttering the remaining syllables of his name – is a typical adolescent boy who struggles with decision-making. To be fair, though, he must contend with some unusual circumstances. This story about the quest for one’s true identity will appeal to all genders.

“A Tale Dark and Grimm”

by Adam Gidwitz

Adam Gidwitz directs his matter-of-fact narration at those skeptical of the “awesomeness” of fairy tales. His collection of stories about what happens when Hansel and Gretel wander into other, lesser-known fairy tales is, as Gidwitz promises in the introduction, bloody. The violence is tempered by witty comments and warnings, though, drawing in a range of upper elementary and middle school readers. This book is the first in a trilogy.

“The Fairy Tale Detectives (The Sisters Grimm #1)”

by Michael Buckley

What if fairy tale characters were real? They are in the world of Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, descendants of the famous brothers. When the girls are sent to live with their grandmother, they’re hurled into an alternate reality in which they must carry on the family tradition of investigating magical crimes. There are nine books in this popular chapter book series, the first four of which were recently re-released in new 10th anniversary editions.

“Snow White: A Graphic Novel”

by Matt Phelen

New release lists have been inundated with graphic novel adaptations of classic tales in recent years. This shadowy version of “Snow White” is set in 1920s and Depression-era Manhattan. Samantha’s life begins to unravel after the mysterious death of her Wall Street tycoon father. Along the way, she meets a street gang, the Seven, who replace the usual pudgy dwarves. In addition to a pulse-raising storyline, expect opportunities for middle school readers to explore themes like class, loyalty, and betrayal.


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