Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale by Corey Rosen Schwartz, pictures by Deborah Marcero

Published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Summary:  What if Cinderella had a twin?  It would make the work easier, as they could divide the chores.  And each one could handle one of the evil stepsisters.  Even going to the ball wouldn’t be so bad, as long as they were willing to divide the jewelry and share the coach.  But the prince is a different matter.  There’s only one Prince Charming.  He has a great time dancing with both Cinderella and Tinderella until midnight, finds the glass slipper, and winds up at their home.  Forced with a difficult decision, the twins bring back their fairy godmother, who magically creates a twin prince.  Before long, there’s a double wedding, then Cinderella and her prince go on to rule the land, while Tinderella and her prince go on to win all the highest math awards.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Schwartz’s infectious rhymes from her ninja fairy tales are back to entertain readers with an unusual and fun twist on the Cinderella story.

Cons:  While the pictures are cute, I missed the Dan Santat illustrations from the previous tales.

Sleeping Beauty retold by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Erin McGuire

Published by Disney Hyperion

Summary:  A retelling of the classic fairy tale by master storyteller Cynthia Rylant.  This version is geared toward a younger crowd, with simple language, a short amount of text on each page, and Disneyesque illustrations.  The whole story is told by an omniscient narrator, with the only dialog being when the angry fairy puts a spell on the sleeping baby and when the final fairy comes along and makes a counter-spell that will undo the evil one after a century.  Most of the story takes place at the celebration of the princess’s birth, attended by the various fairies.  After all the spells have been cast, the tale moves along quickly to the fateful spinning wheel accident, the 100-year slumber of the kingdom, and the awakening by the prince.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A simple, straightforward introduction to the story of Sleeping Beauty.  The illustrations of fairies and royal family members will appeal to young readers, and the story will be easy for them to understand.  I didn’t realize Cynthia Rylant has also done retellings of Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.

Cons:  An author’s note giving the history of this fairy tale would have been an interesting addition.

Jack and the Beanstalk and the French Fries by Mark Teague

Published by Orchard Books

Summary:  The familiar story of Jack begins as usual when he trades the family cow for some bean seeds that his irate mother tosses out the window.  The huge stalk grows, but then the story veers off into a new and humorous direction.  Jack’s mother is thrilled with the free food the beanstalk provides, and Jack finds himself eating bean soup, bean salad, and other bean dishes three times a day.  When he receives a bean bag and a slice of bean cake on his birthday, he’s ready to take a hatchet to the stalk.  But the old man who sold him the seeds reappears and encourages Jack to check out what’s at the top of the huge plant.  Jack takes his advice and discovers a giant’s wife, who is cooking…you guessed it, beans.  The giant feels the same way as Jack does about beans, and the two return to Jack’s home in search of French fries.  They plant a vegetable garden, which proves to be influenced by the presence of the beanstalk, and grows a plethora of large vegetables.  Everyone–humans and giants alike–is thrilled with the new diet, which of course includes extra-large fries.  40 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Mark Teague has produced another winning takeoff on a fairy tale.  Kids will love the funny story and illustrations, and teachers will enjoy comparing it to other versions of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Cons:  There’s no golden egg-laying goose.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid by Metaphrog

Published by Papercutz

Summary:  The littlest mermaid longs to see the world above her ocean home, but she must wait until she’s 15.  One by one her older sisters get to go explore, returning with stories of gorgeous sunsets and great floating icebergs.  Finally, her big day arrives.  Reaching the surface, she sees a ship and watches a handsome prince dance with a succession of beautiful women.  A sudden storm sinks the ship, and the little mermaid rescues the prince, the slips away before he regains consciousness.  More than anything, she wants to be human and to marry him.  She makes a deal with a sea witch, trading in her tail for legs, even though she is in great pain with every step.  In return, she gives up her voice.  She gets her wish to meet the prince, and they become great friends.  But, alas,  he eventually falls in love with another woman, leading to the typical Hans Christian Andersen downer of an ending.  80 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  A lyrical, haunting retelling in graphic novel form of one of Andersen’s most famous tales.

Cons:  Disney fans may be dismayed by the ending.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

Published by Little, Brown

Summary:  Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney takes on another classic folktale, emphasizing the bullying aspect of troll vs. goats.  Each goat takes its turn trip-trapping over the bridge, until the biggest goat comes along.  A pullout page gives extra emphasis to his confrontation with the troll.  Pinkney explains in his author’s note that he didn’t like the traditional ending of this tale, so he has invented a new one.  It doesn’t necessarily seem like a happy ending, but a careful reader will see some troll-goat cooperation going on in the endpapers.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros: Pinkney continues his string of folktale successes.  The language is perfect for a storytelling-style read-aloud, and the watercolor illustrations provide plenty of details to examine.

Cons:  That is one scary-looking troll.

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

Published by First Second 

Summary:  Jack’s summer is not looking too great: he’s expected to take care of his autistic sister Maddie while his single mom struggles to make ends meet with two jobs.  At a flea market, an unsavory vendor (with the help of Maddie, speaking for the first time) trades Jack a box of seeds for the keys to his mother’s car.  Needless to say, this doesn’t go over too well with Mom.  The next day, Maddie is outside at the crack of dawn, digging up the backyard to plant the seeds.  Before long, the two kids have created a garden of plants that come to life in more ways than one, and that attracts both the neighbor girl, Lilly, and a talking dragon.  After a gigantic snail almost crushes Maddie, Jack has had enough, and tries to burn the entire garden.  But complete destruction seems impossible, and by the end of this book, Maddie’s been carried off by a garden monster, and Lilly and Jack are arming themselves to go after her.  Readers will have to wait for the next installment to see if they will be successful.  208 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  This graphic novel retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk has all the adventure, compelling characters, and fantastic artwork to make it irresistible to middle grade readers.

Cons:  The cliffhanger ending.

The Ninjabread Man by C. J. Leigh, pictures by Chris Gall

Published by Orchard Books


Summary:  As a reward to his hardworking ninja students, Sensei makes ninjabread, an age-old recipe that contains mysterious powers.  After making ninjabread swords and throwing stars, he makes a Ninjabread Man.  When Sensei checks to see how the cookies are baking, ka-pow!  The Ninjabread Man comes to life and runs off.  He taunts the other students, Bear, Snake, and Mouse, with different variations of the “You can’t catch me” rhyme.  Finally, he comes upon Fox, meditating by a waterfall.  Fox cleverly pretends he can’t hear the Ninjabread Man, luring him closer until the sly canine scarfs him up.  And in another dojo far away, another sensei begins the process of making ninjabread.  Includes recipe and brief glossary.  40 pages; ages 4-6.

Pros:  In this season of gingerbread men, kids will enjoy comparing the traditional tale with the ninja version.

Cons:  The ending was a bit of an anticlimax.