What would a techo-modern version of the Three Little Pigs look like? Little Red Riding Hood? Cinderella? Solar panels, discos, and salons meet fairy tales when a child and mom read together at bedtime.
There are scores of children’s books, both picture and chapter, that revamp traditional fairy tales. What makes Fairly Fairy Tales different? The illustrations by Chavarri put the traditional story in a modern setting with technology.
Parents and children love to play “question” games: Would you eat spaghetti made with gummy worms? Would you wear your clothes backwards all day? Sometimes the answer is “yes” and sometimes it’s “no”–but the fun is in the asking. Gifted writer and educator Esme Raji Codell has writtten a book that incorporates fractured fairy tales with this kind of parent-child interplay to create a pitch-perfect combination of bedtime read-aloud and fairytales that will delight children and parents! The pictures by Elisa Chavarri are bright and cartoony.
Kids current on their fairy tales will appreciate the whimsical way Codell spins the basics by adding one oddball element to each story told by a mother to her recalcitrant boy at bedtime. In the tale of the Three Little Pigs, for instance, solar panels make an appearance along with the straw and bricks. After the boy checks off the tried-and-true elements of Little Red Riding Hood, red hood, wolf, and grandma, he has to pause to consider if shampoo can figure into the plot: NOOOOO! Well, maybe. Chavarri’s colorful, almost wordless two-page spreads imagine how the twists impact each story and are packed with details delighted readers will pore over. At Grandma’s Beauty Salon, for instance, several wolves, one wearing a Big ‘N’ Bad T-shirt, are getting their fur pampered. Baskets of goodies are for sale, and Grandma is painting the heroine’s nails with Lil’ Red polish. This fun outing will be a surefire winner whenever it’s read bedtime or not.
Codell’s text is simple, but actually very smart. She presents three elements that readers who are familiar with fairy tales will recognize, then throws in a fourth element that does not traditionally belong with the fairy tale at all. On the page this is show as pictures on a white background with the words above them.
This collection of mixed-up fairy tales begins with a mother reading to a child at bedtime. “Kiss? Yes./Water? Yes./Bedtime? NOOOO!” The retro illustrations, reminiscent of the 60’s carry the story forward. They artfully create zany and fun juxtapositions. For example, in the story of the Three Little Pigs, sticks, straw and bricks are followed by, “Solar panels? NOOOOO!” and the next page concedes, “Well, maybe,” as readers are treated to a double-page spread depicting hippie pigs hanging solar panels on their brick townhouse. They work next to a community garden where a folk music concert is taking place. Sharp-eyed readers will spot the first of many visual jokes, including a wolf strolling by, handing out flyers promoting wind power.
By adding shampoo to Little Red Riding Hood’s story, the grandmother becomes a manicurist at a beauty salon. Red gets her nails done as the woodsman expertly shampoos the wolf’s mane. An abundance of the little details filled with sly humor make this book really fun to read. The salon contains baskets of sale items, including “Den Head” fur wax, and a copy of “WQ” magazine (Wolf’s Quarterly, no doubt) for waiting patrons to read. A disco ball hangs from the ceiling and readers find Cinderella shimmying in a silver jumpsuit and platform heels. She dances with a suspiciously John-Travolta-esque Prince Charming. Meanwhile, a bellbottomed Fairy Godmother looks on and giggles.
The recurring refrain of, “Well, maybe,” finally comes in to play at the end of the book as the mother and child say, “Kiss? Yes./Water? Yes./Bedtime? Well, maybe,” leaving the child snuggled soundly into bed.
Fairly Fairy Tales is a nice, fun addition to the pile, great for sharing one-on-one.