Why I Created This Kit
Goldilocks: Innocent victim…or ruthless vandal? Depends on whom you ask. Personally, I was always a little put off by that adorable little girl who just walked into a random family’s house, ate their food, broke their furniture, and slept in their beds. Can somebody say, “Entitled”? I mean, what makes Goldilocks think that she could just saunter into a stranger’s house like that and take over? And come to think of it, where were her parents? Sounds like a case for Child Protective Services if I’d ever heard one. If you, too, have ever wondered about other versions of our most beloved childhood stories, then welcome to the Fractured Fairy Tales kit. May your mind be as open as the three bears’ front door.
General Information for Parents
Fairy tales are often viewed as the cornerstones of childhood with their stories of faraway lands, anthropomorphic animals, and magical beings. Fairy tales are built around values we want our children to embody, like treating others fairly and valuing people over objects.
Charles Perrault is seen as the originator of fairy tales with the 1697 publication of The Tales of Mother Goose, written when Perrault was 67. This tome includes best-known fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Sleeping Beauty.
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, also known as the Brothers Grimm, are two of the most well known fairy tale authors. These brothers penned versions of over 200 fairy tales including Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin. Interestingly, the Grimms did not start out writing for children as their stories were rather menacing. It wasn’t until later that they revised their stories to appeal to a younger audience. Moreover, the adaptations that we are used to today have been further watered down thanks in large part marketed by the Walt Disney Company.
Another beloved writer of over 150 fairy tales is Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen, responsible for The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Ugly Duckling, often used his own life as inspiration for his stories. The Ugly Duckling is seen as a metaphor for Andersen himself, as he considered himself unattractive yet able to create great beauty through his words.
Before getting into fractured fairy tales, make sure to recount the traditional versions with your child. The humor in fractured fairy tales depends on a good understanding of the original versions. (How else can we appreciate Cinderella’s stepmother’s view if we can’t compare it to what we’ve seen through Cinderella’s eyes?) Here are some traditional fairy tales to get you started (all of which are mentioned in this kit):
The Gingerbread Boy
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Jack and the Beanstalk
Little Red Riding Hood
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
- The Three Little Pigs
General Information for Children
In order to understand what a fractured fairy tale is, it’s important to know what elements make up a traditional fairy tale. I’m sure you already know some fairy tales, like Cinderella, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs. Sound familiar? Good. So let’s jump into what makes a story a fairy tale:
Children’s story that teachers readers a lesson
Usually has imaginative details and may contain magic
Takes place in the past
Clearly defined good characters vs. evil/tricky characters
Often has a happy ending
If something is “fractured”, it is broken or split in some way. A fractured fairy tale, then, is when an author takes a traditional fairy tale and splits or changes it to create a new story. For example, the new version could have Cinderella’s stepsisters telling their side of the story instead of reading from Cinderella’s point of view. Or instead of Little Red Riding Hood traveling through a forest to see her grandmother, she goes to a city to visit her Great Uncle Tito. Another writer may decide to tell readers what happened to Beast from Beauty and the Beast before he met Belle. Fractured fairy tales are like food for our brains. They make us see something in a totally different way than we first thought. Cool, right?
Even if your child is reading independently or into chapter books, it is still important to start out by reading a couple of picture books. Picture book immersion is a technique adopted by many schools when delving into a unit of study as a way to develop a solid foundation for understanding the unit/kit topic as a whole. The easier-to-read text and descriptive illustrations allow readers to focus on content as opposed to decoding words. What’s more, picture book immersion is a process that heightens knowledge building when done under the guidance of adults who help facilitate learning. This facilitation could be through guided questions (i.e. What are the similarities/differences in this version compared to the traditional story?) and/or sharing one’s own perspective (i.e. I love how the author uses The Three Ninja Pigs to talk about the importance of reading about strong female characters).
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
How does Mo Willems do it? He continuously creates hilariously funny stories suitable for children and adults alike. This sidesplitting take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears is very tongue-in-cheek (“I sure hope no innocent little succulent child happens by our unlocked home”) and could be easily compared to the original. After you read, ask your child to point out the similarities and differences between this version and the one with the three bears. If your child is in need of additional chuckles, ask him/her to look through the illustrations and find the items made just for dinosaurs (dinosaur lamp, tall chairs with dinosaur feet, etc.).
Trust Me, Jack’s Beanstalk Stinks! (The Other Side of the Story Series) by Eric Braun
The Other Side of the Story series is a staple on my boys’ bookshelves. From Cinderella to Little Red Riding Hood to this one about Jack and the Beanstalk, these fractured fairy tales provide readers with a different perspective on well-known stories. Here, the giant in the story talks about being bullied because of his size and later expresses his frustration and anger with Jack’s thievery. This book is used in several 2nd grade classrooms at the school where I work to show the complexity of storybook characters.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
First published in 1989, this book is often credited as jump starting the fractured fairy tale movement in elementary schools. Written by the very funny Jon Scieszka and illustrated by the talented Lane Smith, this text gives readers a look into the mind of the “misjudged” wolf. According to A. Wolf, he is a sickly, resourceful, misunderstood creature whose story has been twisted by the press.
Little Red Writing by Joan Holub
The book lover in me adores this literary take on Little Red Riding Hood. A student, a red pencil, is in search of a story, meeting action words (in the gym, of course) and grammatical gems along the way. When she ends up at Principal Granny’s office, she comes face to face with a wolf…just not the kind you’re used to seeing in a fairy tale. This wolf is a Wolf 3000, a pencil sharpener set out to shorten pencil Granny. Can Little Red save Granny before Granny turns into a nub?
The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst
Everyone knows the story of the Gingerbread Boy, but how many people have heard of his wiser sister, Gingerbread Girl? Upon learning of her brother’s fate, Gingerbread Girl decides to confront the fox that ended his life. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens but let’s just say that Gingerbread Girl is one smart cookie!
The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Who doesn’t love ninjas? Or pigs? Or…wait for it…ninja pigs? This butt-kicking version of the Three Little Pigs has quickly become a go to read-aloud in my house. The pigs decide to take wolf matters into their own hooves by training in different types of martial arts. Similar to the traditional version of the Three Little Pigs, the first two pigs are not successful when facing the wolf while the third pig, a female in this text, puts her much-practiced karate skills into action to defeat the wolf. Let me tell you, she creates a whole new meaning for the term “pork chop”!
Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz
Yes, this is the same ninja-loving author from The Three Ninja Pigs. This time, Corey Rosen Schwartz continues the tale of sisters doing it for themselves with a fractured account of Little Red Riding Hood. Apparently, fairy tale characters have heard about the sister pig’s experience with the wolf and started a self-defense movement. The wolf, hungry and not used to being outdone by his prey, tries his hand at the dojo in hopes changing his fate but meets his match with Little Red…and her Tai Chi-practicing grandma.
Jack and the Bean Snacks (After Happily Ever After Series) by Tony Bradman
The funny chapter books in this series show readers what happens after fairy tales end. In this volume, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, experiencing a major adrenaline rush after outsmarting a giant and stealing the golden goose, is looking for more action. As such, Jack comes up with a special food plan after visiting a superstore in the forest…will he be as successful as his last food adventure? If your child enjoys this story, you may want to check out other titles in this series including Rapunzel Lets Her Hair Down, The Fairy Godmother Takes a Break, and Mr. Wolf Bounces Back.
Snow White and the Seven Aliens (Seriously Silly Stories Series) by Laurence Anholt
The author of the Seriously Silly Stories series has written a multitude of books that provide readers with different versions of well-known fairy tales, ranging from Ghostshocks (Goldilocks) to Cinderboy (Cinderella). In Laurence Anholt’s modernized take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White isn’t a princess but an aspiring singer. After being banished to the big city by her jealous stepmother, Snow White meets seven singing aliens, forms a band, and gains fame as a popular pop star, much to her stepmother’s chagrin.
The Three Little Pigs by Nosy Crow (for iOS)
Nosy Crow is an interactive eBook app developer that could do no wrong in my eyes. They deliberately design their apps to enhance the reader’s understanding of text in ways that are rich and meaningful. Although their Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood apps are equally fabulous, I have a fondness for the Three Little Pigs app (which could be because it was the first one Nosy Crow developed and, subsequently, the first one I experienced). The fact that the user gets directly involved in the story just blows my mind. Speaking of which, one cool feature in the Three Little Pigs app is when the user is able to actually blow on the device’s microphone to help the wolf blow down the pigs’ houses in the story. AWESOMESAUCE.
Princess Fairy Tale Maker by Duck Duck Moose (for iOS)
Let your child create his/her own fractured fairy tale with this easy to use app. Children can start by uploading their own photos to this app or choosing a scene and characters from the app’s own database. Next, use the app’s pencils or crayons to draw or write on the chosen scene. Finally, once the scene is created, users can animate the scene and record their own voices as narration.
Story Patch by Haywoodsoft LLC (for iOS)
The teachers in the school where I work use Story Patch and love it. Story Patch is an app where children can create their own picture books (and fractured fairy tales). It comes loaded with tons of illustrations and characters that users can customize to their liking. One particularly kid-friendly aspect of this app is the story theme feature, which allows younger children to create stories with support. Here, children select a theme and answer a set of questions that will later be used to build a story. Once the text is generated, the child adds illustrations to the story using the app’s tools.
To encourage your child to become an active viewer, ask some of these questions before or after watching the movie listed below:
Based on the title, what do you think the movie will be about?
What do you already know about fractured fairy tales?
What’s your favorite fairy tale? What do you love about it?
What was the movie about?
How does this fairy tale differ from other fairy tales of the same title? What’s the same?
Would you recommend this movie to a friend? Why or why not?
Jack and the Beanstalk (Movie)
This is a cute G-rated fractured fairy tale best suited for 6-7-year-olds. The fact that the movie is more contemporary helps its appeal, as children can relate to it a bit more. To illustrate, instead of selling a cow like in the original version of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack sells his C.O.W., otherwise known as Computer of Wonder.
“This live-action take on Jack and the Beanstalk begins when Jack discovers he won't pass fairy tale school without a better grade in heroism. When he sacrifices his computer for a few magic beans he tosses out the window, the adventure sprouts, and it's up the beanstalk with sidekick Grayson the Goose and friend Jillian to prove his heroism, battle a giant, and learn a few important lessons about perseverance.” (Common Sense Media)
Unstable Fables: 3 Pigs and a Baby (Movie)
After the Big Bad Wolf meets his tragic demise, the remaining wolves in his crew seek revenge. This fractured fairy tale does a good job extending the story of the Three Little Pigs with humor and real-life elements. Rebellious teenager, anyone?
“The Three Little Pigs become the target of a special-ops team of wolves. The wolves' plan to finally infiltrate the impenetrable house of bricks by leaving a tiny wolf cub on the unassuming pigs' doorstep. The pigs take the baby in and raise him as their own. The newest addition to their family, Lucky, grows up into his teens not knowing his history, his role in the wolves' plan or the difficult choice he will have to make about the family that raised him.” (Wikipedia)
This movie is hilarious and highly entertaining for both children and adults. Amy Adams is perfect as Giselle, the optimistic princess in search of a prince. It’s refreshing to see a movie that urges people to get to know one another first before declaring that they’ve found their “true love”, similar to Princess Elsa’s plea in Frozen, which goes against some sentiments found in traditional fairy tales (ahem, Cinderella).
“The beautiful princess Giselle is banished by an evil queen from her magical, musical animated land and finds herself in the gritty reality of the streets of modern-day Manhattan. Shocked by this strange new environment that doesn't operate on a "happily ever after" basis, Giselle is now adrift in a chaotic world badly in need of enchantment. But when Giselle begins to fall in love with a charmingly flawed divorce lawyer who has come to her aid - even though she is already promised to a perfect fairy tale prince back home - she has to wonder: Can a storybook view of romance survive in the real world?” (IMDb)
Bring on Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona! Although the Shrek franchise has been expanded into sequels, a Broadway musical, and fluffy bedding sold at your local department store, I prefer the original film based on the book by William Steig. For one thing, it’s fun spotting favorite fairy tale characters in this film like Baby Bear and the Magic Mirror. Best suited for 8-year-olds due to a bit of off-color humor.
“It has an enchanted princess in a tower, guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. It has a donkey that not only talks, and not only sings, but sings the old Monkees' song, "I'm a Believer." It has an evil (but short) bad guy, kickboxing, a Robin Hood and Merry Men who perform an Irish Riverdance, potty humor, and some digs at Disney. It has sensational animation, adventure, romance, and laughter. And most of all, it has Shrek, a big, green ogre who lives happily alone in a swamp until Lord Farquaad of nearby Dulac sets out to create the perfect kingdom by getting rid of all of the fairy tale characters and sending them to "a designated resettlement community." Soon, the three blind mice, the three little pigs, the gingerbread man, all the broom-flying witches, Pinocchio, and a talking donkey are all relocated to the swamp. Shrek is furious at the intrusion. He makes a deal with Farquaad, who needs to marry a princess to put the final touch on his kingdom. Shrek will rescue Princess Fiona and bring her to Farquaad, and Farquaad will give Shrek his swamp back.” (Common Sense Media)
Point of View Role Play
The body is an incredible vehicle for learning. There’s something about incorporating fine and gross motor movements that helps to imprint information on the brain. Harness this modality by having your child act out fairy tales from different points of view. Show a recently read book as an example of how characters experience the same event differently (i.e. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka). What other fairy tales might change if told by another character? For example, what would the Fox say about his time with the Gingerbread Boy? What about the Witch’s experience meeting Hansel and Gretel? Ask your child to act out a scene with the traditional version and then perform what would happen using a different point of view. Discuss this activity with your child. What “version” does s/he believe? Why? Lead into the old adage, “There’s two sides to every story,” advancing critical thinking and evaluation of mass media.
Map It Out
Fairy tales are perfect for teaching the story element of setting (time and place). Ask your child to create a map of his/her favorite fairy tale. This art activity also taps into reading comprehension, as your child will have to recall story details to design the map. To begin, grab plain paper, a pencil, crayons/colored pencils, and a copy of your child’s favorite fairy tale.
Start by explaining that s/he will create a map of where the story takes place. Reread the fairy tale, encouraging your child to pay special attention to the “wheres” and their respective descriptions.
After reading, make a list of the places that the characters visit.
Using a plain piece of paper and a pencil, sketch the various places along with corresponding labels (i.e. a picture of a straw house with the label “2nd Pig’s House).
Continue illustrating the map with additional details, such as forest animals, flowers, and boats on a body of water.
If applicable, ask your child to draw the route that the character follows in the story (i.e. Little Red Riding Hood goes through the woods to get to her Grandmother’s house).
When finished, have the child use the map to retell the fairy tale.
Suggested Family Experiences
Fantastic Fractured Fairy Tale
Let the fun begin! Have your child choose his/her favorite fairy tale to fracture and think about its major story elements, including the setting, main characters, problem, and solution. Next, help your child decide how to fracture his/her fairy tale by considering these possible avenues:
Changing the main character
Altering the setting
Telling the story from a different character’s point of view
Making the problem and/or solution different
Explaining what happens before or after the traditional version
If your child needs support, head back to some of the fractured fairy tales that you’ve already read. Examine what the author did with his/her fractured fairy tale; it’s ok to borrow some of those ideas if your child needs some ideas. Once your child has decided on the basic outline of his/her story, it’s time to get writing. If your child is not yet writing, let him/her tell the story through illustrations. Remember to encourage your child to use humor – silliness goes a long way in fractured fairy tales.
Storynory has a free audio library of traditional fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and other well-known authors. Each story has text that accompanies it, but my son prefers to sit back, put his listening ears on, and enjoy the narrated story. After listening to a fairy tale, ask your child to compare/contrast this version with others that you have read (especially fractured ones). Another idea is to use this site as a base for delving into some unknown fairy tales to build your child’s fairy tale repertoire.
Fairy tales are such a part of our world’s collective history that some cool people have chosen to honor these stories through public art. Amusing Planet created a page dedicated to a few famous statues based on fairy tale characters, including The Little Mermaid, The Town Musicians of Bremen, and, my personal favorite, Alice in Wonderland. Even if your family can’t visit these statues in person, Google Earth takes you there for free.
Connections to Other Subjects
An interdisciplinary approach to learning allows children to make connections between various subjects in order to increase learning and meaning making. Fractured fairy tales could easily be integrated into other subjects such as social studies (compare fairy tales from different cultures; study monarchies), performing arts (attend plays based on fairy tales), science (understand the law of reflection and mirrors), and math (compose word problems using details from fairy tales). Researchers state that interdisciplinary learning helps children study a topic deeply and understand the links between subjects.
About Sheila F.
Sheila is a Jersey girl (or should we say "mom"), with a passion for teaching and literacy. She is Jersey bred, currently living in Montclair. Sheila has 16+ years working as a teacher and reading specialist and recently completed her dissertation on children's literature and technology. We "met" Sheila through her blog, teachingliteracy.tumblr.com.