10 Fairy Tale Retellings to Bewitch Young Readers this Autumn

Once upon a time, in 17th century Paris, a French writer and her contemporaries began spinning fantastical tales in parlour rooms that would feature even more fairies and enchantments—much darker and more gruesome—than the fairy tales we are familiar with today. Madame d’Aulnoy’s contes de fées were never meant to be children’s stories, and these early swatches of literary magic that have all but faded away on the tattered threads of a passionate oral tradition have long since been supplanted by the domesticated wundermärchen of male writers like Charles Perrault, the Grimm brothers, and Hans Christian Andersen. In honor of those spellbinding women’s stories that were even more telling of the restrictive nature of the society in which they lived than the storytelling prowess of Salon Era socialites, this autumn book list showcases fairy tale retellings that surpass the canon to teach young readers that happily ever afters can be achieved within the darkest of times.

By A. Noelle


Jack and the Baked Beanstalk by Colin Stimpson (Ages 3 – 7)

A charming and beautifully illustrated retelling of the classic tale. Jack and his mom run a Depression-era café that has fallen on hard times. So when Jack returns home with only a can of baked beans in exchange for their last few pennies, his mother throws it out the window. Overnight, the beans grow into an enormous baked beanstalk that leads Jack to the castle of a very wealthy giant. Both the giant, with a secret dream of becoming a chef, and Jack, armed with his clever planning, work together to save the café!


Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood (Ages 4– 7)

In this futuristic retelling of the beloved fairy tale, Cinderella is a natural tinker. Dreaming of life as a mechanic who specializes in space repair, she fixes her stepmother’s household appliances with the aid of her robotic mouse sidekick Murgatroyd. When the royal rocket ship runs into some engine trouble at the Prince’s Royal Space Parade, it’s Interstellar Cinderella to the rescue! Ever so grateful, the Prince takes her to the Gravity Free Ball, but she vanishes at midnight. After scouring the galaxy for the skillful maiden, the Prince finds Cinderella and proposes marriage only to discover that she has her own dreams to pursue.


The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett (Ages 4 – 8)

A nod to well-known fairy tales, such as The Frog Princess, Sleeping Beauty, and Thumbelina, with hilarious illustrations to delight young readers. There’s been a terrible mix-up in the royal nursery! Priscilla the princess has accidentally switched places with Pigmella the piglet. The ill-tempered king and queen blame the bad witch, but the kind farmer and his wife honor the good witch for bestowing upon them the daughter they always wanted. While Priscilla grows up very poor but happy on the farm, things don’t go so well for Pigmella. Would kissing a frog do any good for a pig?


Hans My Hedgehog: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm by Kate Coombs (Ages 5 – 8)

A much lighter, less gruesome adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale. Once upon a time a farmer and his wife fervently wished for “a son even if he’s half a hedgehog!” So Hans was born, half-boy and half-hedgehog. Hans grows to become a talented fiddler, riding through the forest astride his rooster and alongside his faithful hogs. Hans meets two lost kings, each bargaining for his guidance out of the woods. The second king keeps his word, and Hans meets a princess who loves him as he is.


The Flint Heart by Katherine & John Paterson (Ages 7 – 10)

A modern retelling of Eden Phillpott’s 1910 fairy tale that the entire family can enjoy together. An ambitious Stone Age man demands a talisman that will harden his heart and give him total control of his tribe. The Flint Heart gives the headstrong leader a lust for power and a cruelty that causes the destruction of the tribe. Thousands of years later, the talisman is unearthed and corrupts a kind-hearted farmer, inflicting chaos on humans, fairies, and animals alike. Can Charles and his sister Unity find a way to rescue everyone from the dark influence of the Flint Heart?


Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee (Ages 8 – 12)

A magical adaptation of The Snow Queen perfect for fantasy and adventure lovers. Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard is a sensible girl with a mind for science. She moves with her older sister and father to a strange, wintry city. When Ophelia discovers the Marvelous Boy imprisoned by the evil Snow Queen in a nearly-empty museum, she finds herself out of her depth yet willing to take risks in order to win his freedom and save the world from the evil enchantress.


The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz (Ages 10+)

The third and final installment in Gidwitz’s trilogy presents witty and dark versions of classic fairy tales, such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. After twins Jorinda and Joringel successfully dispatch their cruel stepfather, they stumble into other well-known fairy tales and some less familiar stories like The Juniper Tree. This series includes A Tale Dark and Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly.


Entwined by Heather Dixon (Ages 12+)

A romantic, dark fantasy based on the original Grimm fairy tale, The Worn-Out Dancing Shoes. Azalea, the oldest of 12 daughters, is heir to the throne in the half-magical world of Eathesbury. When their mother dies after a long illness and the King goes off to war, the sisters discover a secret passageway to an enchanted pavilion. There, under the castle, the princesses dance all night, secretly breaking the rules of mourning under the watch of a mysterious and intriguing Keeper.


The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman (Ages 13 – 17)

Snow White meets Sleeping Beauty in a visually stunning tale about strength, sacrifice, and self-discovery. Three dwarfs warn their queen of a sleeping plague spreading throughout the land, which prompts her to postpone her upcoming nuptials in order to counter the magical curse. Slumbering masses that talk in their sleep lumber after the queen and her dwarfs as the group forges ahead to the castle, where the queen awakens the sleeping princess with a kiss. At the end of her quest, the queen is mindful of the choices in her life.


Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli (Ages 14+)

A clever spin on the Snow White fairy tale. Dolce is tormented by everyone on Torcello for being freakishly large. She finds peace in mirror making and eventually leaves Torcello to discover an entire world full of other “giants.” When she reaches Venice, Dolce is taken in by a nobleman and his daughter Biancaneve. All seems well after Dolce marries her nobleman until she begins to go mad from prolonged exposure to quicksilver vapors from her mirror making. Believing that her mirror tells her she is no longer the fairest of them all, Dolce attempts to kill her stepdaughter while her husband is away.

Keep Reading

5 Fantastic Coloring Books for Kids

Raising Readers: The Importance of Reading to Babies and Toddlers

5 Books to Expand Girls’ Horizons in Science & Engineering

Photo: cotaro70s via photopin cc


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