Fairy tale books — and the ever-popular fractured fairy tale — make for outstanding read-aloud experiences with your kids. They have so many remarkable benefits too. Check out some of our favorites below!
Fairy tale books and fractured fairy tales are better than ever!
You’ve read them a hundred times. Maybe more. Little Red Riding Hood. Goldilocks. The Three Little Pigs.
I mean, in this day and age, do we really want to teach our daughters that they need a prince to rescue them? Many fairy tale books seem to relay messages we aren’t always eager to share with our children. So why read them? Do fairy tales still have a place in our modern lives?
The answer is yes, without a doubt.
Fairy tale books have wide-ranging benefits for children.
Traditional fairy tales teach our children about the world, emotions, and even how to safely navigate problems and challenges. Child psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe puts it perfectly:
“Fairy tales are important not because they show children how life is, but because they give form to deep fears and dreams about life through fantasy,” Goddard Blythe says.
Goddard Blythe believes that fairy tales are very clearly not the real world, and thus offer kids a safe haven in which to explore big emotions and challenging situations. Why? Because children recognize that fairy tale worlds are unlike their own. Even though fairy tale worlds and characters may be unfamiliar, the emotions faced by fairy tale characters are often true to life.
When princes and princesses, witches, and anthropomorphic animals experience fear, sadness, excitement, or courage, children gain valuable life lessons in learning not just how to give voice to these feelings, but how to respond to them, too.
Further, fairy tale books that explore good versus evil help provide certainty to children who may feel some anxiety.
Even when a “good” character experiences setbacks or hardships, kids take heart in the fact that a character is nonetheless on the right path because of his or her honesty or strong moral compass. This understanding is precious to children, primarily as it teaches that evil and harmful conduct has consequences.
Fairy tale books teach kids the elements of story.
Fairy tale books are perfect tools to teach kids the elements of story!
From rich settings to even richer characterization, from clear beginnings, middles, and ends to understanding the essential distinctions between fiction and non-fiction, fairy tales provide abundant material to teach kids critical skills. Understanding how a story “works” is vital for reading comprehension.
RELATED: We’ve got more than 100 children’s book lists for you on Happily Ever Elephants, so make sure to check ’em out!
But what about those evil wicked witches? I don’t want to scare my kids!
Let’s be honest. Some of these fairy tales are downright frightening! But you know what? This isn’t actually a bad thing.
Trying to pretend there’s no evil in the world doesn’t always protect our kids. It can be better to introduce this notion through made-up stories like fairy tale books which provide children with a safe haven in which to explore and begin to understand that the world is not always easy or fair. Fairy tales reflect this fact in a way that little ones will comprehend. And when “good” characters prevail at the end of fairy tale books, the importance of kindness, integrity, and morality is significantly rewarded. That is a beautiful thing for young children to see.
Simply put: fairy tale books teach kids to deal with basic human conflicts, emotions and challenges safely and healthily.
Don’t forget fractured fairy tales!
And let’s not forget about fractured fairy tales, because once your children know the classic fairy tale books, these spinoffs are oh-so-much fun!
Fractured fairy tales take classic fairy tale books and turn them on their heads! They are modifications of the original stories, swapping out particular components like characters or settings for new elements that are totally different, and sometimes totally bizarre. The stories are still recognizable, but with fun — and often absurd! — twists.
Whether you experiment with point of view (ie., telling the story of Little Red Riding Hood through the wolf’s eyes,) place the story in a modern or unique setting (ie., telling stories such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in a galaxy far, far away), swap out characters (subbing in dinosaurs for bears in Goldilocks), or, my personal favorite turn damsels in distress into powerful female heroes, these stories are often laugh out loud funny and allow children to put their own unique spin on their favorite fairy tale book.
So what are you waiting for?? Both fairy tale books and fractured fairy tales are so beneficial to read to young children, and we’ve got a whole list of them for you here. Grab some of these books, and start reading!
Frequently Asked Questions
Fractured fairy tales take classic fairy tale books and modify the original stories in clever and unique ways. Authors swap out particular components of the classic tales, like characters or settings, for new elements that are totally different. The stories are still recognizable, but with fun — and often absurd! — twists.
Believe it or not, traditional fairy tale books teach kids about the world, their emotions, and even how to safely navigate problems and challenges. Because fairy tales are not “real”, they provide children with a safe haven in which to explore real emotions and challenging situations. Fairy tale books are also terrific tools to teach kids the elements of a story, from setting to characterization to structure.
I have fallen head over heels in love with Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings, by Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat (featured below). Like the choose your own adventure books I read growing up, Endlessly Ever After takes classic fairy tale books and allows the reader to pick their own perfect ending to these stories. Snyder and Santat offer readers a chance to change their favorite fairy tales with creative plot twists, new characters, and most importantly, autonomy! This is a must-have story for all children and classrooms.
RELATED: We’ve got a fabulous list of kindergarten read-alouds for you on Happily Ever Elephants, so be sure to check them out!
Our very favorite fractured fairy tale!
This fractured fairy tale deserves its own section because it’s everything a good book should be. Why? It takes classic fairy tale books and lets the reader pick his own perfect ending. When Little Red (aka “Rosie”) wakes up in the morning and heads out to Grandma’s, which coat will she grab? When she travels down the path in fur, she notices a house she’s have never seen before — and it’s not grandma’s. Should she knock on the door? Snyder and Santat offer readers a chance to change their favorite fairy tales again and again, with creative plot twists, new characters, and most importantly, autonomy! We love how this book offers readers the power of choice, an essential concept for young readers. Even better? It’s a great tool to illustrate how stories are actually told and progress from the beginning, middle to end. This one is not to be missed, friends!
Classic fairy tale books
Little Red Riding Hood journeys through the woods to bring her grandmother a basket of goodies. On the way, she encounters a wolf, and she tells the wolf she is headed to her grandma’s home. The wolf beats the child to her destination, quickly changes into grandma’s clothes, and encounters Little Red upon her arrival. You know the rest!
Sometimes, following our noses to the scent of something delicious can get us into a wee bit of trouble! Goldilocks can’t resist a yummy smell, and she lets her curiosity get the best of her when that smell leads her to a little cottage. Does she walk away? Nope — instead she lets herself in. And that’s when the trouble begins.
This is the story of a prince searching for his princess and all of the women he encounters as he tries to find a suitable wife. Something is just wrong with all these women, though, and it’s hard to determine if they are even true princesses! When a young woman arrives at the palace one night, the queen has a trick up her sleeve to determine if this woman is the one her prince has been waiting for. For a magical retelling of The Princess and the Pea set in Africa, we also love The Princess and the Pea by Rachel Isadora. While not necessarily the “classic,” tale, it’s stunning!
Beautifully illustrated fairy tale books
This is the journey of one little duckling who is the homeliest bird in the barnyard. He’s repeatedly picked on by the other animals, and one day he’s had enough and runs away. While on his journey, the ugly duckling finds his own sense of self and strength, and eventually, he blooms into a graceful, magnificent swan.
Cinderella is more beautiful than her evil step-sisters, but she is forced into a life of nothing but housework by her evil stepmother. Oh, how she longs to go to the Prince’s ball! Her step-sisters taunt her and tell her she would simply be laughed at in her rags. With the arrival of her fairy godmother, however — one who can turn pumpkins into golden coaches and rags into riches — Cinderella’s dreams may come true after all!
If you love pop-ups and you love Beauty and the Beast, don’t walk; run to the bookstore (or just click on the link here!) for this stunning and intricate version of the tale we all know and love. With gorgeous pop-ups of the beast, a foreboding castle, and a beautiful rose garden, you will fall in love with this exquisite version of the classic fairy tale.
This beautiful retelling of Rapunzel leaves readers both breathless and enthralled. Why? Because when you pick up this beautiful book, you are in the hands of a master storyteller who captivates you from the very first page. Your kids will gasp when Rapunzel is taken away, delight in her gorgeous mane of hair, and rejoice when she is reunited with her prince. What more could you ask for in a fairy tale book?
“Who dares to nibble at my delicious house?” When a woodcutter and his naughty wife abandon Hansel and Gretel in the forest, the children are scared and hopeless. Until that is, they come across a house made of sweets! But, uh oh, the house owner isn’t nearly as kind as she appears. Can Gretel save herself and her brother from the hungry witch? Kids delight in the spooks this fairy tale book provides!
Fractured fairy tales based on Goldilocks and the Three Bears
This fractured fairy tale is hilarious, and if your kids know the original story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, they will absolutely love this brilliant retelling about Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and another dinosaur who just so happened to be visiting from Norway. LOL!! One day, the three dinosaurs decided to tidy up their house and make chocolate pudding. They were definitely, most definitely not, trying to set a trap for one unsuspecting little girl. Or were they?
What happens when Goldilocks meets Little Red Riding Hood? Giggles galore as a result of this fantastic mashup, of course! In this fun fractured fairytale, the three bears answer a knock on their door only to discover a stranger — from a different fairy tale! Does Little Red fit into the three bears’ house? Is the big bad wolf as big and bad as we think he is? I love how this mashup of familiar tales encourages us to think big, be creative, and discover how beloved characters from classic fairy tale books will handle themselves in different situations. This one is such fun!
It’s Chinese New Year! And Goldy’s mother wants her to take a plate of turnip cakes to their neighbors, the Chans. But when Goldy arrives, the door is open and no one is home. Goldy, undeterred, walks on in and finds three bowls of congee — and then helps herself to a bite! She then decides she needs a rest but comes upon one disaster after another. Will Goldy find a way to have a lucky start to the new year?
Goldilocks and Baby Bear — reunited? This take on the traditional Goldilocks tale is adorable, describing what happens when Baby Bear finds himself in Goldilocks’ apartment years after their initial “incident.” Only, Goldilocks is no longer a little girl. She’s a mom, with a child of her own! What will happen when Baby Bear is found sleeping in Goldilocks’ daughter’s bed? Will the two old “friends” remember each other from their younger days? This is such a funny fractured fairy tale that my students always love!
Fractured fairy tales based on Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red is one tough cookie, in this fierce fractured fairy tale featuring one strong little girl. In this story, Little Red shows no fear and is not easily deceived by the wolf. To the contrary, she takes matters into her own hands, saving herself and her grandmother from the world. Who needs the old woodcutter anyway?!?
Move over, Little Red! Here comes a little boy, Federico, in his red hoodie, traveling on his bike on his way to see Abuelo. But, oh no! El lobo is awfully sneaky! Luckily, Federico has a spicy surprise in his bike basket to keep this troublesome wolf at bay. With vibrant art, an incredible infusion of Spanish words, and a clever storyline, you will love this new fractured fairy tale!
Little Red needs a new pair of ice skates! To get new skates, though, she must win a “pairs competition.” But the dish is already paired with the spoon and Hansel is already paired with Gretel, and no one is left but the Big Bad Wolf. Those eyes, and those teeth?? Well, they may be exactly what Little Red needs to spin into first place!
It’s hard to write a story, and in this clever fractured fairy tale, one red pencil is working her way through the perils associated with doing just that. Armed with a basket of nouns and wandering the story path, Little Red tries hard to find a story that will allow her to be courageous and bold. With clever wordplay, fabulous illustrations, and many creative puns, this fractured fairy tale will have budding authors eagerly searching for their own stories and playing with words as they brainstorm.
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Uh oh. Little Red’s auntie has broken out in spots, and she needs medicine, stat! Set in Africa, Little Red sets off on her journey to Auntie’s home, and along the way she encounters a lion. But Little Red is no fool — she knows just what lion wants— and she may be the only one who can tame his ways and change his naughty behavior. This is a delightful, diverse fractured fairy tale!
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Fractured fairy tales based on The Three Little Pigs
There is no way these tricky pigs will let some wolf blow their houses down. So how can they prepare for his arrival? They take aikido, jujitsu, and karate lessons, of course! We love this inventive tale — and most of all, we love that it is the sister pig’s fancy footwork that saves the day. Corey Rosen Schwartz is a master of the fractured fairy tale, and we also absolutely adore Ninja Red Riding Hood by this same awesome team!
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It starts off familiar enough, with three little pigs gathering different materials to build themselves homes. But then the wolf comes along, and all of his huffing and puffing blows the first pig right out of the story! Uh oh. This classic fairy tale book gets quite an imaginative spin as the characters go on one fantastical adventure. Illustrations to delight and a mesmerizing visual narrative make this fractured fairy tale so much fun!
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Your little readers will finally hear the other side of the famous fairy tale book about the three little pigs. The big bad wolf is ready to talk, and his story differs significantly from the narrative you think you know. After all, he was just minding his own business, baking a cake for his granny. When he realized he was out of an essential ingredient, he went house to house looking for sugar. He couldn’t help his awful cold that kept forcing him to sneeze, could he? This one is hilarious, and a great fractured fairy tale to teach kids about perspective!
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Other fractured fairy tales we love
Ever wonder what would happen if the Cinderella story occurred somewhere far off in the galaxy? Wonder no more! Whoever said girls didn’t have a knack for repairs and engineering certainly never met Interstellar Cinderella because this gal can do it all. And when the royal spaceship has engine troubles, she is the only one who can come to the prince’s rescue. The prince falls in love, of course. But does Cinderella want to be his wife? Nah. She’d much rather be the royal mechanic, thank you very much!
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What happens when Hansel and Gretel won’t listen to the storyteller? After all, they have faith that their parents won’t abandon them, they think leaving a trail of bread crumbs is a silly idea (who keeps bread crumbs, after all?!) and they believe there’s no possible way someone evil can live in a house made of sweets. I’ll tell you what happens. Things get all sorts of ridiculous, especially when characters from other fairy tale books arrive. Don’t they know they are in the wrong story? We love everything Josh Funk does, and his other fractured fairy tale, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, is so much fun as well.
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For STEM lovers and fans of fractured fairy tales, readers will adore this follow-up to Interstellar Cinderella and Reading Beauty! With smarts and circuit boards, young Jo (a feminist, inventor, and engineer!) must not only defeat the queen, but she has to befriend a dragon and create her own happy ending. Can she tinker her way to happily ever after?
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RELATED: Looking for books for new readers? Check out these early reader books!