Cinderella and the Furry Slippers (Tundra Books)
Written by Davide Cali
Illustrated by Raphaelle Barbanegre
For ages: 3-7
Things start how you might expect. Cinderella is a put upon young woman, made to do endless chores at the hands of her stepmother and stepsisters. So when the prince’s ball is announced, Cinderella phones a fairy godmother she finds advertised in a magazine. Unfortunately, what she gets delivered is not as promised, including the titular furry slippers. But Cindy has to work with what she’s got. It turns out the ball isn’t all it was cracked up to be, and Prince Charming has severe bad breath. The lesson here is an empowering one, to not rely on the fantasies young girls are inundated with but be you, be who you want to be, and not be shaped and influenced by outside forces.
Fairy Tale Pets (Tiger Tales)
Written by Tracey Corderoy
Illustrated by Jorge Martin
For ages: 3-7
Bob loves animals so much after caring for his dog Rex that he sets out to become the neighborhood pet sitter. He puts up a sign declaring “No Pet Too Big,” which may not have been a great idea. The following day a little girl with golden locks shows up with a baby bear she wants Bob to watch. Jack brings a goose while a neighborhood troll drops off his three goats. When everyone gets together, chaos ensues. Don’t even get me started on the wolf and all the trouble he causes. Your young readers will benefit from knowing the original stories beforehand to get the most out of this wonderfully illustrated slapstick comedy story. This is one of those books that will benefit from a read-aloud with a big performance.
The Three Little Pugs & The Big Bad Cat (Tiger Tales)
Written by Becky Davies
Illustrated by Caroline Attia
For ages: 3-7
Not only are the pigs and the wolf replaced with pugs and a cat, but the pugs are also real-life photographs accented with digital effects. The Big Bad Cat is no slouch, wearing a magenta 10-gallon hat and boots. Our three pug siblings (Bubbles, Bandit, and Beauty) follow the familiar plot, splitting up to build their homes. They carry backpacks of food that catch the cat’s attention, who has designs on filling her belly. She’ll employ a blow dryer and a leaf blower to destroy the houses, and for the brick house, she’s brought a jumbo jet. The exaggeration and escalation of stakes are what make this such a crazy, fun read. Like Fairy Tale Pets, this one will benefit from a reader who is also a performer.
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs (Balzer + Bray)
Written & Illustrated by Mo Willems
For ages: 3-7
You know Mo Willems; there’s no need for me to introduce him. However, you might not know this particular text from his extensive bibliography. Goldilocks and the Three Bears has always been a strange story to me when you pay attention to the plot, so it’s fun to see authors play with that structure. Willems is always a master of absurdist humor. From the opening, it’s there as he explains we have a Mama, Papa, and a dino visiting from Norway. Willems’ commentary continues as he tells about Goldilocks, in Willems’ words, “a poorly supervised little girl.” The author isn’t caught up delivering some morals for life, and that’s what I love about his work; it’s just about kids having fun while reading a good book.
Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? And Other Notorious Nursery Tales Mysteries (Schwartz & Wade)
Written by David Levinthal
Illustrated by John Nickle
For ages: 4-8
Acrylic paint illustrations accompany this noir retelling of popular fairy tales. Officer Binky is the frog on the scene, getting calls from familiar fairy tale characters to help solve crimes. Mrs. Bear calls when she comes home to find her house has been broken into. Binky thinks he knows just the culprit. In another story, Binky is called by a witch who claims two siblings attacked her in her gingerbread house. The copper smells something fishy about her story. The stories aren’t too long and provide fun, quick reads as transitions or just a moment to give the children a fun break. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear kids shouting out the solutions to the crime as they use their prior knowledge to connect the dots and help out Binky.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (Viking Books for Young Readers)
Written by Jon Scieszka
Illustrated by Lane Smith
For ages: 5-9
This is my favorite of all these books, a classic that will never get old. Author Jon Scieszka collaborated closely with his illustrator Lane Smith to play with the images and visually enrich the comedy and absurdity. The humor here is irreverent, which will draw even your hesitant readers to this tome. The book jacket itself is a piece of comedy advertising that it has 75% more pages than your average picture book. The Table of Contents and the Title Page become settings for stories that will be told later in the book. In many ways, this book helps teach the text features of fiction. The stories are parodies of popular classics and some of the best children’s writing I’ve ever seen.
The Sisters Grimm Book #1: The Fairy Tale Detectives (Amulet Paperbacks)
Written by Michael Buckley
Illustrated by Peter Ferguson
For ages: 8-12
This criminally underrated middle-grade series starts here with Sabrina and Daphne beginning a new life with their estranged grandmother in Ferryport Landing, New York. Things are weird from the start with Granny’s friend Mr. Canis who shows dog-like traits and warns them not to leave the house and go into the woods at night. Eventually, readers discover Ferryport Landing is home to all the classic folklore characters & creatures who traveled from Europe to the United States. The girls and their granny get embroiled in a murder that appears to have been committed by a giant, who is banned from the human world. Of course, no good mystery is that simple, and more familiar names are introduced as the list of suspects grows. If you are looking for a book series that needs some love, I highly recommend The Sisters Grimm.