15 Fractured Fairy Tales
for Young Readers
by Devon A. Corneal
Ever wonder what would happen if Red Riding Hood weren’t quite so dense, or the pigs got smarter, or Cinderella stood up to her evil stepmother?
Timeless fairy tales are timeless for a reason, but every so often, I need something different. That’s where fractured fairy tales come in.
Jon Scieszka gave me my first glimpse into the devilish world of reimagined fairy tales with The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and I used it to stage a protest with a group of kids at a children’s theater. These things happen.
If you want to be equally subversive, check out these wonderfully surprising takes on the classics.
The Stinky Cheese Man
This award-winning classic is laugh-out-loud funny! Jon Scieszka retells and twists age-old fairytales we all love while breaking the fourth wall. With stories like Cinderummpelstiltskin and The Really Ugly Duckling your young readers will be holding in their giggles as they get to know all these quirky and unique characters.
Three Little Vikings
The creator of Little Red puts a feminist twist on a new fairy tale in this action-packed picture book about three Viking girls. They notice signs of a troll wreaking havoc in their village and go to their chieftain for help. When the chieftain insists nothing is wrong, the girls take matters into their own hands.
Ninja Red Riding Hood
Corey Rosen Schwartz is a master at weaving together martial arts and familiar fairy tales to create extraordinarily engaging, funny, and unforgettable new stories. The wolf always learns his lesson, but in surprising ways, and don’t be shocked when Red Riding Hood and her Granny show off their karate skills. Can’t get enough? Check out Rosen Schwartz’s The Three Ninja Pigs as well. Wolves don’t have it so easy anymore.
Cinderella and the Furry Slippers
Does your child love The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch? If so, they’ll appreciate this fractured fairy tale! When no prince shows up to save her from a life of servitude, Cinderella takes matters into her own hands. But her fairy godmother isn’t what she expected, and neither is the castle, the prince, or anything else. So Cinderella does what any girl in her situation would — she saves herself.
Look Out, Wolf! There's a Beast in Your Book
What happens when you’re not the scariest thing in the forest anymore? You become the hero. At least, that’s what the big, bad wolf does when the three little pigs ask for his help getting rid of a monster. This fractured fairy tale will become an instant favorite with its unexpected twists, humor, and interactive flaps to lift.
Verity Fairy: Cinderella
Verity, a citizen of the kingdom, is a fairy whose name means truth, and that's exactly what she does: she ALWAYS tells the truth, and it often gets her into a lot of trouble! Young readers will love this beautifully illustrated early chapter book about Verity and Cinderella. The classic story isn't quite like you may remember it. Kids can continue to following Verity's hilarious escapades in Verity Fairy: Rapunzel.
Anyone familiar with the particular agony that can come from reading to children before bed will appreciate Interrupting Chicken and its excitable, but well-intentioned title character who just wants to save her favorite fairy tales from their usual endings.
The Wolf's Story
Read the story of Little Red Riding Hood from the wolf’s point of view. According to the wolf, he and Grandma had an excellent work arrangement until her granddaughter showed up. Subtle humor and visual clues in the illustrations make this picture book a must-read for fairy tale fans.
Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty?
Humpty Dumpty’s fall is one of several fairy tale crimes being investigated by a blunt police frog named Binky, who looks like he walked straight out of a ‘40s noir film. In Levinthal’s world, Goldilocks is a serial offender, Hansel and Gretel go free after claiming self-defense, and Humpty Dumpty? Well, let me tell you — it wasn’t an accident.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
No one reworks fairy tales like Jon Scieszka. He’s a genius. Clever, sly, and very, very funny, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is on my All-Time Top Ten list of children’s books. It takes a fairy tale, turns it on its head, and makes you root for the bad guy. It’s perfect. If you’ve never heard the wolf’s side of the story, it’s time you did. Equally amazing is The Frog Prince, Continued which looks at the realities of “happily ever after.” What happens when the princess is a nag and the prince has some swampy habits? You’ll never look at fairy tales the same way again.
Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf
Readers who love interactive stories will get a kick out of this hilarious retelling of The Three Little Pigs. When the big, bad wolf skips to the end of the story and gobbles up the pigs, the reader demands a do-over. Kids and adults will love counting up the pigs in this darkly humorous story.
The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo
Run, run, as fast as you can — to the zoo! When the gingerbread man gets separated from his class on a trip to the zoo, he’ll have to follow the clues to catch up. If your child likes this book, they’ll enjoy reading the rest of The Gingerbread Man series by Laura Murray.
Three Little Pugs and the Big, Bad Cat
Pet lovers will adore this humorous spin on The Three Little Pigs. When their mother sends them out into the world, three adorable pugs will have to build their homes and learn to take care of themselves. But trouble slinks into their lives in the form of a fluffy, white cat. With bright illustrations and the cutest pugs you’ve ever seen, children will want to read this picture book again and again.
Princess and the Peas
Rachel Himes turns the classic fairy tale The Princess and the Pea on its head in this Southern retelling. When her son needs a wife, Ma Sally puts the potential brides’ cooking skills to the test. But when a woman named Princess wins the son’s hand in marriage, she flips the script and makes him pass a test as well.
Fairy Tale Pets
When Bob decides to become a pet-sitter, he expects to take care of bunnies, puppies, and hamsters. But when a menagerie of fairy tale critters walks through the door, Bob has his work cut out for him. Young readers will enjoy the vibrant artwork and comical take on fairy tales.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2022.