The themes and motifs in traditional tales live on, sometimes in contemporary stories and sometimes "fractured" into new plots to help them live forever. The following are six picture books and two novels with twists and turns, altered or new characters, but in recognizable settings.
“BRAVE CHICKEN LITTLE,” retold and illustrated by Robert Byrd, Viking Children's Books, $17.99 (ages 4 and up)
Beginning just like the traditional tale (“The sky is falling! I must go and tell the king!”), Chicken Little collects a troupe of concerned followers — Henny Penny, Lucky Ducky and others — to alert the royal house.
Here’s the twist: Crafty Foxy Loxy with Mrs. Foxy Loxy and seven Foxy kits lock the friends in a basement room while licking their chops in anticipation of stew for dinner. Though wily and crafty, the Foxy Loxys are outdone and the theme of good-over-evil is kept intact.
Robert Byrd’s lilting text and embedded rhymes are accompanied by meticulous drawings, the details of which will keep children searching for hidden items through many re-readings of the favorite new folktale.
“GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS,” by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton, illustrated by Nate Wragg, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99 (ages 5-8)
While the Three Bears are searching for the “just right” singer for a band, Goldi discovers and explores their music studio. Putting on the headphones, “Mama Bear’s pair was too tight/The Papa’s were loose But Baby Bear’s fit her just right.”
Trying out all the music equipment was exhausting and the Three Bears find Goldi snoozing on Baby Bear’s piano, which “was perfectly grand.”
Goldi’s high-pitched fear was “a perfect C” that qualified her as lead singer for The Three Bears Band.
The authors’ almost-limerick rhymes accompanied by Nate Wragg’s (artist for “Ratatouille” and “Toy Story”) comical drawings are just right for reading aloud.
“THE TREE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT,” by Bonnie Verburg, illustrated by Mark Teague, Scholastic, $17.99 (ages 3-5)
Bonnie Verburg has augmented the traditional cumulative rhyme pattern with a generous number of friends that slither, chase, peek, buzz, swat and swing through Jack’s aerie perch waiting for the bell that signals story time.
“The Tree House That Jack Built” is a little mystery; which animal will arrive next? It is the artwork that will captivate young readers seeking out clues along the way in the elegant, jungle-like drawings.
“THE CAT, THE DOG, LITTLE RED, THE EXPLODING EGGS, THE WOLF AND GRANDMA,” by Diane and Christyan Fox, Scholastic, $16.99 (ages 4-8)
This husband-and-wife team have created a story within a classical story that reads like a comedy team doing a stage performance.
The cat tries reading “Little Red Riding Hood” (“who wore a red cape with a hood”) to an unruly dog who demands more action than the story affords: “I love stories about superheroes. What’s her special power?”
The dog's skepticism of Little Red Riding Hood’s intentions add to the humor, as do the simple line drawings of the pair and the zany visual props used to tell the story.
Following the wolf’s demise the dog’s retort, “Are you absolutely sure this is a children’s book?” is a brilliant punch line and sure to bring a read-it-again response from young readers.
"VERY LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD," by Teresa Heapy, illustrated by Sue Heap, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 (ages 4-8)
In this retelling, Red Riding Hood is re-cast as a toddler — Very Little Red Riding Hood. As she goes to Grandma's house, she encounters the Big Bad Wolf, whom Very Little Red Riding Hood calls "A foxie!"
And keeping Very Little Red Riding Hood content to follow her to Grandma's house is no easy task for "Foxie," and later at Grandma's as the pair show up on her doorstep. The classic lines do come, but so does an unexpected answer.
Author Teresa Heapy has captured the voice of a toddler in Very Little Red Riding Hood in this tale that brings a smile.
This is first in a series of books recasting classic fairy tales with younger main characters.
"TWELVE DANCING UNICORNS," by Alissa Heyman, illustrated by Justin Gerard, Sterling Children's Books, $14.95 (ages 4-7)
The jewel of the king's menagerie is 12 unicorns, but each morning their chains are broken and the unicorns are found sleeping peacefully. The king puts out the challenge for anyone to help find where the prized unicorns are going each night.
A little girl volunteers and, armed with a gift from her mother, she waits and watches the unicorns.
Due out next month, this beautifully illustrated twist on the "Twelve Dancing Princesses" tale doesn't include an evil underworld, but rather a story about about friendship, love and letting go.
“THE REBEL PRINCESS,” by Janice Sperry, Cedar Fort, $12.99, 180 pages (f) (ages 8-10)
Raven’s mother, Princess Butterfly, has been “blessed” with a gift from a fairy: Jewels can fall from her lips when she does anything nice. Raven Perilous has the same gift; she hates her plight.
Things are even worse for Raven in middle school when a new boy, Eric Charming, appears. He is Raven’s nemesis and the Prince Charming who was supposed to have saved Raven’s mother from the tower years before. The mystery remains; what happened to Eric through those years?
Utah author Janice Sperry combines a bevy of archetypes from traditional folktales (gingerbread houses, shape-shifting animals, magic objects), classical fairy stories (castles with dungeons, royalty, fairy godmothers), and popular myths like the Tooth Fairy into a mashup contemporary novel with the hint of “days of yore.” Eric Charming is turned into a rodent that rides on a school bus to middle school, and the cafeteria serves pizza for the would-be fairy godmother and a princess with magic powers.
Each chapter in “Rebel Princess” adds many additional one-dimensional characters, both new and drawn from tradition. The story leaps from one dilemma to the next so frequently that the plot feels jumbled — almost too much for a light-hearted tale to carry effectively and making it difficult to follow the main storyline.
"ALIAS HOOK," by Lisa Jensen, Thomas Dunne Books, $ 24.99, 368 pages (f) (ages 16 and up)
Everyone has grown up with the story of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys' daring adventures.
But what about Captain Hook's story?
In "Alias Hook," Lisa Jensen explores questions of Captain James Hook's background, including how did he get to be in Neverland, where did his group of bloodthirsty pirates come from and who is Captain James Hook really? From Hook's perspective, Peter Pan may not be the young, innocent boy that everyone thinks him to be. And Captain Hook may not be an evil man so much as he is a misunderstood and misguided man looking for companionship in what to him is an endless Neverland nightmare.Comment on this story
Told in much the same way as "Wicked" from author Gregory Maguire, "Alias Hook" gives voice and credence to the character of Captain Hook. Jensen captures Hook's enlightened albeit bitter speech and thought patterns in the most dastardly villainous and incredibly satisfying way. So good is the character's voice, in fact, that it's easy to root for the tragic character of James Hook and wish Peter Pan would just fly away.
This telling of the life of Captain James Hook does include profanity and some descriptions of sex and violence.
Contributing: Nathan Sorensen, Christine Rappleye