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Growing Reader

11 Classic Fairy Tales That Won’t Give Kids Nightmares

by Dena McMurdie

One day, my children were discussing the movie Frozen and wondering how Disney came up with a story like that. I mentioned that the original fairy tale is called The Snow Queen and is different from the movie. My kids were stunned. They had no idea that the feel-good movie they loved was based on a story that was hundreds of years old. Suddenly, they were full of questions. What happened in the “real” version of the story? Which other movies and books are based on classic fairy tales, and how are they different?

The next day, my daughter went hunting for classic fairy tales at her elementary school library. She came home with a stack of picture books for us to read together. We had a wonderful time reading the books and learning the original versions of the stories we love.

Of course, some of the original fairy tales are dark, violent, and are more likely to give a child nightmares than anything else. Thankfully, there are plenty of picture books that retell the classics without all the scary bits that could potentially scar your children for life. Here are some books that stay true to the original story — minus the nightmares.

  • Jack and the Beanstalk

    illustrated by Carly Gledhill

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    Introduce your baby or toddler to the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk with this wonderfully illustrated board book. Jack’s mother sends him to town to sell their family cow, but he trades the cow for some magic beans instead. When the beans grow into a beanstalk that reaches the sky, Jack climbs to the top and finds a sleeping giant and his home filled with treasure.
    (Ages 0 - 3)

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  • The Three Little Pigs

    illustrated by Carly Gledhill

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    This is another board book for small fairy tale fans. Young children will be captivated by the classic story of the three little pigs as they head out to make their way in the world. When a wolf comes along and bullies each pig in turn, they’re afraid that their new adventure will be short-lived. But the wolf meets his match when he tries to blow down the solid brick home of the third little pig.
    (Ages 0 - 3)

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  • The Princess and the Pea

    by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Jana Christy

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    Who knew that a pea could be so troublesome? A princess loses an entire night’s sleep when the tiny vegetable is placed under her mattress. No matter how many mattresses she piles up, she can’t get comfortable. This beautifully illustrated classic fairy tale is popular with readers young and old!
    (Ages 2 - 5)

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  • Little Golden Book Fairy Tale Favorites

    by Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen

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    You can always count on Little Golden Books to deliver beautifully written and illustrated classic stories that will be enjoyed for generations. This book includes the stories of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Wild Swans, and The Blue Book of Fairy Tales. With the breathtaking illustrations by Gordon Laite and Sheilah Beckett, this classic fairy tale collection is a must-have for any child’s bookshelf.
    (Ages 2 - 5)

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  • Sleeping Beauty

    by Tiger Tales, illustrated by Kirsti Davidson

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    Get swept away in this classic fairy tale about a princess, a wicked fairy, and a spell that puts an entire kingdom to sleep. With bright illustrations and simple text, this adaptation of Sleeping Beauty is the perfect way to introduce the story to young readers.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • Pinocchio

    by Tiger Tales, illustrated by Richard Watson

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    Pinocchio is happy to be alive, but he’d give anything to become a real boy. He wants a regular nose that doesn’t grow longer every time he tells a lie. With the help of his conscience, Pinocchio must learn to be kind and honest before his wish can come true.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • Cinderella: A Nosy Crow Fairy Tale

    by Nosy Crow, illustrated by Ed Bryan

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    Kids and adults adore this classic rags-to-riches fairy tale about a poor servant girl who finds true love. Complete with a royal ball, fairy godmother, magic slippers, and a midnight curfew, this retelling of Cinderella will capture your heart and imagination.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • Little Mermaid

    by Tiger Tales, illustrated by Kasia Nowowiejska

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    Get ready for a cuteness overload! Join the little mermaid as she rescues a sailor from drowning, falls in love, and risks everything to find him again. From the depths of the sea to the towers of a castle, the little mermaid must prove her mettle in this cute and colorful picture book.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • Snow White

    by Tiger Tales, illustrated by Olga Demidova

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    This fairy tale has charmed readers for more than two centuries. When Snow White escapes from her jealous stepmother, she takes up residence with seven tiny men in the forest. This beloved classic has been adapted into a picture book format and given bright new illustrations to appeal to a whole new generation of readers.
    (Ages 3 - 7)

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  • Beauty and the Beast

    by Jan Brett

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    Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales of all time, and I love this edition featuring the stunning artwork of Jan Brett. Beauty volunteers to go live with the Beast in order to save her father from certain doom. She expects to find a monster in an enchanted castle. But what she finds instead is a kind and gentle beast who earnestly seeks love and companionship.
    (Ages 5 - 8)

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  • Hansel and Gretel

    by Rachel Isadora

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    Author-illustrator Rachel Isadora created a collection of classic fairy tales set in Africa. Her books have lush, vibrant collage illustrations and beautifully crafted prose. Venture into the African jungle with Hansel and Gretel as they outsmart their villainous stepmother only to fall into the hands of a wicked witch in a house made of sweets.
    (Ages 6 - 8)

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