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'Fractured' tales offer classic characters in new stories

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 26 2014 4:55 p.m. MDT

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.

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