Bookshelf Bests: Once Upon a Fairy Tale (Grades K5)
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5
Looking to escape reality for a while? There's no better place to travel than the world of fairy tales. Whether you're planning a fairy tale unit, looking for an enchanting read aloud, or leading independent readers to new magical worlds, these titles are sure to cast a spell. For creative inspiration on teaching about this literary genre, check out Scholastic's Myths, Folktales, and Fairytales Internet Project.
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
This folktale takes readers to an ancient African village where Mufaro lives with his two beautiful daughters — Nyasha, who is kind and hard-working, and Manyara, who is mean-spirited and boastful. When the king invites "The Most Beautiful and Worthy Daughters of the Land" to come to the city so that he might choose a queen, Mufaro sends both girls. Manyara sneaks ahead hoping to gain an advantage. Nyasha travels the same route, but responds to the people and creatures she meets along the way differently than her sister, all of which has implications once they meet the king, who wisely chooses the daughter who has both inner and outer beauty. Lesson plan and discussion guide available.
The Quiltmaker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau
In this vividly told story, a wondrous quiltmaker teaches a materialistic king about generosity by refusing to give him one of her colorful patchwork quilts. She tells him, "They are not for the rich. . . . they are for those who are poor or homeless." Despite threats, the only circumstances under which the quiltmaker will give the king a quilt is if he makes presents of everything he owns. "With each gift that you give, I'll sew in another piece." The king balks at first, but eventually his obsession prompts him to start giving away small items. Slowly, he realizes that the more he gives, the happier he becomes. When all he has left to give is his throne, the quiltmaker has a quilt ready for him. In an ultimate act of generosity, the king bestows his throne to the quiltmaker as a sewing chair. The two become fast friends, with the quiltmaker sewing all day, and the king delivering quilts to the poor and downhearted at night.
The Elves and the Shoemaker by Jim LaMarche
Big, beautiful illustrations of cherubic elves and a portly old shoemaker and his wife make this retelling of the Brothers Grimm tale especially delightful. It's also a fun read-aloud because many children are unfamiliar with this story about industrious elves who help a poor, struggling shoemaker find success by secretly crafting magnificent shoes in his workshop late at night.
King Midas and the Golden Touch by Charlotte Craft
This rendition of the Greek myth about the king whose wish for everything he touches to become gold is poignant and well told. It's also accompanied by illustrations glowing in golden hues. As is the case with most stories about wishes that come true, the king's wish goes horribly wrong. In a gesture of comfort, the king turns his beloved young daughter into a golden statue. This classic tale cautions readers to be careful what they wish for and to appreciate the treasures they already have. The book was illustrated by the author's mother, Kinuko Craft, who also created the artwork for Cupid and Psyche (by Charlotte Craft), and The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Pegasus (by Marianna Mayer). To encourage your students to write myths of their own, use Scholastic's Myths Brainstorming Machine.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
The Big Bad Wolf finally gets to tell his side of the story in this fractured fairy tale. The author's satirical take on The Three Little Pigs finds the Big Bad Wolf in jail claiming that he was framed. The story teaches kids point-of-view while tickling their funny bones. Use these extension activities to help students write and publish fractured fairy tales of their own. For more fairy tale twists, check out Squids Will Be Squids and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, also written by Jon Scieszka, a former teacher. To hear what inspires Jon Scieszka to write, check out this audio interview.
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards
A fanciful story that follows three British siblings and an eccentric professor on an adventure to find a magical creature called the Whangdoodle. The journey to Whangdoodleland requires keen powers of observation and lots of imagination. Along the way, the children meet many amazing creatures, learn a little science, and come to understand the value of having an open, curious mind. For fantasy lovers, Whangdoodleland is as enticing as Oz, Willy Wonka's Factory, Narnia, and Hogwarts. And yes, the author is beloved actress Julie Andrews, star of Mary Poppins, The Princess Diaries, and The Sound of Music.
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
This retelling of Cinderella features Ella, a young girl cursed with the "gift" of obedience by an inept fairy. Her secret is safe for a while, but when her "wicked" stepmother and stepsisters find out, Ella encounters mounting misery. So, off she goes on a journey to find the fairy who cast the spell and ask her to undo it. During her travels, she encounters an assortment of magical creatures, fierce enemies, a charming prince, and a few plot twists. This clever, enchanting, and original story won a Newbery Honor and has lots more depth and detail than the Miramax movie starring Anne Hathaway. Use this lesson plan to discuss the fairy tale genre and compare/contrast Ella Enchanted to traditional Cinderellas and/or the movie version. Reading guide also available.