Teaching a unit on fairy Tales, folktales and fables was always one of my favorite times in school. We would start with traditional tales, which even back in the 1990’s not everyone knew, and if they did it was often just an wide-eyed Disney version. Then we would move on to lesser known tales, like that of Bluebeard, who told his wife never to open the room on the top floor of the house (but left her the key anyway), Rushen-Coatie and Yeh-Shen (Scottish and Chinese versions of Cinderella, respectively). By far my favorite part of the unit though, was teaching ‘twisted’ or ‘fractured’ versions of familiar fairy tales, usually from another character’s point of view (more often than not, the villain of the traditional story). This was a great way to address the common core craft and structure standard in grades 2-5 in Reading Literature ending in .6)
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The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
My introduction to these takes on fairy tales began with the wildly popular ‘The True Story of the Three Little Pigs’. It is as funny now as it was when it was first published over 20 years ago.
There are so many opportunities for writing activities stemming from this book. From newspaper reports, to court testimonies, to character witnesses, this book is rightfully a number one choice when teaching fractured tales.
The Three Billy Goats Fluff by Rachael Mortimer
The Three Billy Goats Gruff was always my younger students favorite fairy tale – they loved yelling out, “Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge?” So this version earns a special place on my bookcase.
In The Three Billy Goats Fluff by Rachael Mortimer, all Mr. Troll wants is to get a good sleep. How is anybody supposed to sleep with all that trip-trapping over the bridge, directly above his bed? Twice a day, they loudly cross it to eat the lush green grass in the field by Mr. Troll’s home. (The grass makes their fleeces extra fluffy, important for Mother Goat’s knitting business.) But when Mr. Troll threatens to eat them, Mother Goat has a fluffy plan to keep everyone happy in this funny twist on a classic fairy tale.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs: As Retold by Mo Willems
I don’t know who enjoyed ‘Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs’ by Mo Willems more. Every page makes me smirk, from the introduction of Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur and some other dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway, to the truest sentence ever: ‘a poorly supervised little girl named Goldilocks who came traipsing along’.
Make sure you take time to look at the end pages, with scratched out titles such as “Goldilocks and the Three Clams,” “Goldilocks and the Three Goats,” and best, “Goldilocks and the Three Major Networks”. Moral of the story: lock your back door. Or, if you find yourself in the wrong story, then leave.
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat is not a fractured fairy tale but more of a twisted nursery rhyme. Nobody enjoys falling off a wall. For Humpty, aside from the physical trauma of broken bones, there were deeper issues that took a lot longer to heal.
Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat’s poignant tale follows Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall—that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most. Will he summon the courage to face his fear?
The Jolly Postman and Other People’s Letters by Allan Ahlberg
I have saved my favorite for last. The Jolly Postman and Other People’s Letters by Allan Ahlberg is another book that’s been around for more than 20 years and has enchanted all primary school ages. I used this book with my kinders and with my 5th graders and all loved it equally. Because of the small parts in the book that make it so interactive (letters to fairy tale characters), it was the only book that never went in our classroom library and that made it all the more special.
It harkens to a by-gone era that is fun to explore with students – this book is full of letters that are now replaced by texts, instagram and emails. What could possibly be in a letter from Goldilocks to the Three Bears? Who would write to the Wicked Witch? Open this book, take out the letters, and discover what favorite characters would write to each other, and reimagine best-loved tales together. What a great opportunity for writing activities to update the content of these letters in a format more familiar to children today. It’s not a budget book, but it is one that you will cherish for years.
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