Booklist: Fairy Tale Re-tellings – Modern and Traditional

Everyone THINKS they know everything about Snow White, Beauty, Cinderella and all the other characters that populate fairy tales.  But do you know the WHOLE story?  Here are a few (okay, maybe more than a few) re-tellings of classic tales. Some are set in modern times, some in medieval times, and some in “once upon a time” times. But each one features a re-telling of a classic.  See if you still see fairy tales the same way, once you read the characters’ stories…

Books with a J at the end of the synopsis are in the Juvenile section of the library, books with a YA are in the Young Adult/Teen section. If they have both, we have a copy in both collections!

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Fairy Tale Retellings

Traditional and Modern re-tellings of Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and more…

Baker, E.D.  The Frog Princess
Shy and clumsy and facing an arranged marriage with a dull prince, Princess Emeralda hides out in the nearby swamp or escapes to the chambers of her aunt Grassina, who is a witch. One day she meets a talking frog who claims to be a prince. Eventually the frog persuades Emeralda to give him a kiss, but  instead of turning him into a prince, she becomes a frog!. Working together, the two frogs must escape the swamp and reach the castle. Will Emeralda regain her human form, or remain a frog forever? Read the entire Tales of a Frog Princess series!  J

Dokey, Cameron.  Golden
Before Rapunzel’s birth, her mother made a deal with sorceress Melisande: if she could not love the newborn just as she appeared, she would surrender the baby. Horrified when Rapunzel is born bald with no hope of ever growing hair, she’s given to the sorceress. Sixteen years later, Melisande reveals that she has another daughter, Rue, who was cursed by a wizard. Even though the girls don’t get along, Rue and Rapunzel have exactly “two nights and the day that falls between” to break the enchantment. If they fail to work together, Rue will remain cursed…forever. Try other Once Upon a Time series titles: Beauty Sleep, Before Midnight, Belle, The Storyteller’s Daughter, Wild Orchid, Winter’s Child and The World Above.  YA

Durst, Sarah Beth.  Ice
Cassie always told herself that her mother had been taken prisoner by trolls because of a deal she’d made with the Polar Bear King, a fairy tale to soothe a child whose mother had died. But on her eighteenth birthday, the “fairy tale” comes true when the Polar Bear King comes to take Cassie for his bride. Realizing she has the power to save her mother, Cassie makes her own deal with the bear and finds herself on a journey against time, traveling to a land east of the sun and west of the moon. It is a journey that will teach Cassie the true meaning of love and family—and what it means to become an adult.  YA

Ensor, Barbara.  Cinderella (as if you didn’t already know)
You’ve heard the story a million times before. Mean stepmother. Lots of sweeping. Fancy ball. You remember. Or do you?  Did you remember that Cinderella was such a nice girl—so smart and funny? You probably would’ve liked her. Did you know that “Cinderella” was just a nickname? And that her handsome prince loved Jell-o and was a wonderful dancer?  Read this take on the classic tale. J

Ensor, Barbara. Thumbelina: The Tiny Runaway Bride
Thumbelina is that story most of us can’t quite remember. Okay, sure, it’s about a tiny girl just the size of your thumb. But did you know that her troubles (or adventures, if you prefer) begin when she begs her mother to let her sleep outside on the porch? And that in no time she is engaged to a frog, and then a mole, and even receives a proposal from a miniature king? Just read  what all the fuss is about.  J

Fletcher, Susan.  Shadow Spinner
Every night, Shahrazad begins a story. And every morning, the Sultan lets her live another day — IF the story is interesting enough to capture his attention. After almost one thousand nights, Shahrazad is running out of tales. It falls to her friend Marjan to help find new stories — ones the Sultan has never heard before. To do that, Marjan must sneak from the harem and travel the city, pulling tales from strangers and bringing them back to Shahrazad. But as she searches the city, a wonderful thing happens. From a quiet spinner of tales, Marjan suddenly becomes the center of a more surprising story than she ever could have imagined.  J & YA

George, Jessica Day.  Princess of the Midnight Ball
Rose is one of twelve princesses forced to dance through the night in an underground palace. Each of the twelve sisters long for a way to escape the enchantment, but the rules of the curse call for items that are dangerous or impossible to find. Breaking the spell calls for magic knitting needles, an invisibility cloak, and—of course—true love. Are the princesses doomed to dance their way into marriage with twelve brutish underground princes? Or will they find a way to escape their fate? Follow up with the sequel, Princess of Glass. J & YA

Haddix, Margaret Peterson.  Just Ella
You’ve heard the fairytale: a glass slipper, Prince Charming, happily ever after…  Welcome to reality: royal genealogy lessons, needlepoint, acting like “a proper lady,” and — worst of all — a prince who is not the least bit interesting, and certainly not charming. As soon-to-be princess Ella deals with her newfound status, she comes to realize she is not “your majesty” material. But breaking off a royal engagement is no easy feat, especially when you’re crushing on another boy in the palace…. For Ella to escape, it will take intelligence, determination, and spunk — and no ladylike behavior allowed. J & YA

Hale, Shannon.  The Goose Girl
Ani, the Princess of Kildenree, is being sent to marry the prince of a neighboring kingdom. When her handmaiden, Celia, plots to replace her, the resulting deception, stolen identity, and danger transform Ani into a peasant girl, the caretaker of the king’s geese. If Ani is to expose Celia and the danger to two kingdoms, she and her new friends must find a way for a goose girl to counsel a King.  Try the other Books of Bayrn too; they’re not based on any fairy tales, but on the characters introduced in this story. J & YA

Hale, Shannon.  Rapunzel’s Revenge
After using her hair to free herself from her prison tower, this Rapunzel ignores the pompous prince and teams up with Jack (of Beanstalk fame) in an attempt to free her birth mother and an entire kingdom from the evil witch who once moonlighted as her mother. Dogged by both the witch’s henchman and Jack’s outlaw past, the heroes travel across the map as they right wrongs, help the oppressed, and generally try to stay alive. Try the sequel, Calamity Jack, too. J COMICS

Holmes, Sara Lewis.  Letters from Rapunzel
Once upon a time, there was a girl called Rapunzel. Abandoned, alone, waiting for her hair to grow and dreaming of a way to escape from her tower. Trapped by the dreaded after-school Homework Club. A desolate place where Rapunzel sat, day after day, cursing the evil spell cast over her father. The doctors called it something else, but a true heroine can smell an evil spell a mile away. So when a mysterious letter falls into her hands, she knows she’s found the pea under her mattress. But since when is finding happily ever after as simple as Just Writing Back? J

Jones, Diana Wynne. Fire and Hemlock
Polly Whittacker has two sets of memories. In the first, things are boringly normal; in the second, her life is entangled with the mysterious, complicated cellist Thomas Lynn. One day, the second set of memories overpowers the first, and Polly knows something is very wrong. Someone has been trying to make her forget Tom – whose life, she realizes, is at supernatural risk. Based on the ballad of Tam Lin, this is a fantasy filled with sorcery and intrigue, magic and mystery. J & YA

Lairamore, Dawn.  Ivy and the Meanstalk
Princess Ivy and her dragon friend, Elridge, are called to defend their kingdom! Many years ago, a magical harp and a hen that laid golden eggs were stolen by a youth named Jack. The rightful owner, a surly giantess who hasn’t slept a wink since the thefts, needs her harp back to cure her insomnia; otherwise, the kingdom will suffer an unspeakable fate. So Ivy and Elridge set off on an adventure–a quest for the magical harp that takes them across the sea, into the fiery depths of a magnificent golden kingdom, and high into the clouds to the top of a vicious man-eating meanstalk. J

Levine, Gail Carson.  Ella Enchanted
At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy’s gift — the “gift’ of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it’s hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse — once and for all.  J & YA

Levine, Gail Carson.  The Princess Test
King Humphrey has decided its time for his son, Prince Nicholas, to marry. But he must make sure the bride is a real princess. So he devises a series of princess tests, designed to weed out the phonies and the fakes. Meanwhile, Nicholas has fallen in love with Lorelei, a mere blacksmith’s daughter. She’s no princess, but he wants to marry her all the same–but how will she ever pass the terrible tests?  Make sure you read the other Princess Tales: Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, For Biddle’s Sake, The Fairy’s Mistake, The Fairy’s Return, and Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep. J

Lynn, Tracy.  Snow
After her mother’s death, Jessica spent the first eleven years of her life running free on the family estate, cared for only by the servants. Then her father decides to remarry. At first her new stepmother just seems overly strict. But as Jessica grows into a beautiful young woman, it becomes clear that her stepmother is also wildly (and murderously) jealous.  Escaping to London and going by the name Snow, Jessica falls in love with an odd band of outcasts who accept her into their makeshift family. But when her stepmother appears in the city seeking her forgiveness, Jessica will have to decide whom to trust…with her life. YA

Marriot, Juliet.  Swan Kingdom
After Alexa’s mother is killed, her father remarries a cunning and powerful woman. Shadows fall on the once-lush kingdom. Alexa knows the new queen is responsible when her beloved brothers disappear, and she is banished to a barren land.  To save her family and her kingdom, Alexa must take matters into her own hands and fight. She sets out on a long, dangerous journey as she attempts to harness the mystical power she inherited from her mother and restore the kingdom to its proper balance.  J & YA

Mass, Wendy.  Rapunzel, the One With the Hair
Rapunzel is having the ultimate bad day. She’s been stolen by a witch, may have a ghost for a roommate, and doesn’t even have a decent brush for her hair.  Prince Benjamin’s got it pretty tough, too. His father wants him to be more kingly, his mother wants him to never leave her sight, and his cousin wants to get him into as much trouble as possible (possibly with a troll). Both Rapunzel and Prince Benjamin are trapped–in very different ways. Once their paths cross, though, that’s when things get really strange. Look for Sleeping Beauty, the One who Took a Long Nap, coming soon.  J

McGowan, Keith.  The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children
When Sol and Connie Blink move to Grand Creek, one of the first people to welcome them is an odd older woman and her friendly dog (who carries a very strange bone in his mouth). Sol knows a lot more than the average eleven-year-old, so when he identifies the bone as human, he and Connie begin to wonder if their new neighbor is up to no good.  In a spine-tingling adventure that makes them think twice about who they can trust, Sol and Connie discover that solving mysteries can be a dangerous game—even for skilled junior sleuths.  J

McKinley, Robin.  Beauty
Beauty has never liked her nickname; it is her two sisters who are the beautiful ones. But what she lacks in looks, she can perhaps make up for in courage. When her father comes home from a long and dangerous trip, he tells the family of an enchanted castle in the forest and the horrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there. To save her family, Beauty knows she must go to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Will she have the courage to stay in the enchanted castle, with its mysterious servants and terrible master? J & YA

McKinley, Robin.  Spindle’s End
All the creatures of the forest and field and riverbank knew the infant was special. She was the princess, spirited away from the evil fairy Pernicia on her name-day. But even though she has escaped the castle, the curse was cast: Rosie was fated to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a poisoned sleep—a slumber from which no one would be able to rouse her.  Or is there still some hope for Rosie?  YA

Napoli, Donna Jo.  Ugly
Ugly just isn’t like the other ducklings in the clutch. Whether he’s stretching his long neck to feed on the succulent grasses at the bottom of the pond (and making a mess of it too!), climbing onto his mother’s back whenever he’s afraid, or nipping sharply at those who threaten him, Ugly’s behavior is distinctly unducklike. When all the other birds of Dove Lake turn against him, Ugly’s mother has no choice but to protect her family. Left on his own, what is a genius duckling to do? J

Napoli, Donna Jo.  Zel
High in the mountains, Zel lives with her mother, who insists they have all they need — for they have each other. Zel’s life is peaceful and protected — until a chance encounter changes everything. When she meets a beautiful young prince at the market one day, she is profoundly moved by new emotions. But Zel’s mother sees the future unfolding — and she will do the unspeakable to prevent Zel from leaving her. YA

Pearce, Jackson.  Sweetly
As a child, Gretchen’s twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch’s forest threatening to make them disappear, too. After their stepmother casts them out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They’re invited to stay with a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic. When Gretchen meets handsome outcast Samuel, he tells her the witch is still lurking, preying on girls and looking to make Gretchen it’s next victim. Determined to stop running and start fighting back, Gretchen investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims. The more she discovers,  the more she wonders who the real monster is.  J

Pope, Elizabeth Marie.  The Perilous Gard
Exiled by Queen Mary Tudor for supporting the young Princess Elizabeth, Kate Sutton is sent to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard. There, she becomes involved in a series of mysterious events; her guardian’s daughter has vanished, and his brother Christopher blames himself.  Then Kate stumbles upon clues that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk, whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice. In terrible danger from what she’s learned, can Kate save both Christopher and herself? A beautiful and adventure-filled retelling of Tam Lin. J & YA

Skurzynski, Gloria.  What Happened in Hamelin?
The stranger appeared on a rainy day , and promised to run the rats out of the town of Hamelin. He did so, and asked for the agreed-upon wages. But after the townspeople of Hamelin refuse to pay, and all the children of Hamelin disappear. Can piper’s young apprentice discover his master’s horrifying scheme to revenge himself on Hamelin’s children in time to save them?  J

Stanley, Diane.  Bella at Midnight
Bella has grown up thinking that she was just a simple peasant girl until her world collapses. First, her best friend, Julian, betrays her. Then she finds out that she is, in fact, Isabel, the daughter of a knight who abandoned her in infancy. And now he wants her back. Bella is torn from her beloved foster family and tries to accept her new life with her deranged father and his resentful wife. But when she finds out about a terrible plot that threatens the kingdom, she sets out on a journey that will lead her to a destiny far greater than she could have imagined. J

Tomlinson, Heather. The Swan Maiden
In the quiet hour before dawn, Doucette can dream of being a creature of flight and magic, of wearing a swan skin like her older sisters. But in reality, she must run the castle household while her sisters learn to weave spells. Her dream of flying suddenly comes true the day she discovers her own hidden birthright. Yet, not even magic can protect against every danger, especially when the heart is involved. As she struggles to find her own way in the world, Doucette risks losing the one person she loves most of all. J

Tomlinson, Heather.  Toads and Diamonds
Diribani never expected to meet a goddess or be granted a remarkable gift. But she did, and now flowers and jewels drop from her lips when she speaks. It seems only right to Tana that the goddess judged her kind stepsister worthy of such riches. When Tana encounters the goddess, she is not surprised to find herself speaking snakes and toads as a reward. Blessings and curses are never so clear as they might seem, however.  Each sister struggles to understand her figt as their fates hang in the balance. Will it bring her wisdom, good fortune, love . . . or death? YA

Ursu, Anne.  Breadcrumbs
Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. When glass falls from the sky and pierces  Jack’s heart, it changes his behavior toward his family and friends. He won’t even speak to Hazel. Soon afterward, a white woman, seemingly made of ice, lures Jack to a frozen pond.  Now it’s up to a devastated Hazel to go in after him.  She plunges into an icy world filled with people, creatures, and elements that echo the books she loves in order to find her best friend and return him. But things are not always as they seem to be, and Hazel will be fighting more than the icy queen.  J

Valentino, Serena.  Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen
For anyone who’s seen Walt Disney’s Snow White, you’ll know that the Wicked Queen is one evil woman! After all, it’s not everyone who wants to cut out their teenage step-daughter’s heart and have it delivered back in a locked keepsake box. But if you examine the life of the Wicked Queen and find out just what it is that makes her so nasty. Here’s a hint: the creepy-looking man in the magic mirror is not just some random spooky visage—and he just might have something to do with the Queen’s wicked ways! J

Viguie, Debbie.  Violet Eyes
Violet is amazed when a storm brings the dashing Prince Richard to her impoverished family’s farm. The two fall in love at first sight, but although Richard has given his heart to Violet, his parents will only let him marry a princess of their choosing, a lady of the highest nobility and sensitivity. Now on a quest to be reunited with her true love, Violet must rely on her wits—and a little help from an unexpected source—to compete with princesses, pass the king and queen’s tests, and prove herself worthy of being Richard’s bride. Try other Once Upon a Time books: Midnight Pearls, and Scarlet Moon. YA

Weatherill, Cat.  Wild Magic
The Pied Piper had his reasons for enchanting the children of Hamelin and stealing them away—ones rooted in a deep history of wild magic. Mari and her brother Jakob are among the children who followed the piper’s song, and they are now trapped in a beautiful but cruel world inhabited by a horrid Beast. They must remain there until he finds the right child, the chosen one, who can lift his century old curse. But the price of breaking the curse is a terrible one. ..J

Weyn, Suzanne.  The Crimson Thread
Bertie is grateful to be given work as a seamstress in the home of a textile tycoon.  But when his business is in peril, Bertie’s father boasts that Bertie is so skillful she can “practically spin straw into gold.” When pressured to do so, Bertie creates exquisite evening gowns overnight. What she doesn’t tell people is that she had help. Ray Stalls uses an old spinning wheel to create dresses that are woven with crimson thread and look as though they are spun with real gold. An indebted Bertie asks how she can repay him, and Ray asks for her firstborn child. Bertie agrees, never dreaming that he is serious….  Try other books in the Once Upon a Time series: The Diamond Secret, The Night Dance, and Water Song. YA

Wrede, Patricia.  Snow White and Rose Red
Blanche and Rosamund gather the herbs their widowedmother  needs for her business, sometimes crossing into the realm of Faerie, whose borders lies in the forest nearby.   The sisters know enough about magic to know when a spell is being cast, and watch uneasily as two nearby “magicians”  seek to harness the magic near the border. However, they cannot act without endangering their mother and themselves. When an intelligent, kind black bear shows up at Snow White and Rose Red’s home, they realize he’s connected to the spell-making they saw.  Even though they couldn’t act at the onset of the spell, the girls vow to help free the bear of what’s been done to him.  YA

Yolen, Jane. Snow in Summer: Fairest of Them All
With her black hair, red lips, and lily-white skin, Summer is as beautiful as her father’s garden. And her life in the mountains of West Virginia seems like a fairy tale; her parents sing and dance with her, Cousin Nancy dotes on her, and she is about to get a new baby brother. But when the baby dies soon after he’s born, taking Summer’s mama with him, Summer’s fairy-tale life turns grim. Things get even worse when her father marries a woman who brings poisons and magical mirrors into Summer’s world. Stepmama puts up a pretty face, but Summer suspects she’s up to no good – and is afraid she’s powerless to stop her.  J

Yolen, Jane.  Pay the Piper: A Rock ’n’ Roll Fairy Tale
Not much happens in Callie McCallan’s sleepy Massachusetts town. So when the famous rock band, Brass Rat, schedules a concert in the Valley, it’s big news. Callie isn’t sure what the fuss is all about . . . until she meets the band. Lead singer. Peter Gringras and his band mates are so cool. Especially Peter. When he plays his flute, it’s as if he has some kind of hypnotic power. But there is something strange about the band. Maybe she’s just being weird, but it’s as if they’re from here-but not from here-at the same time.  Also try Troll Bridge. YA

Zahler, Diane. Princess of the Wild Swans
Princess Meriel’s brothers have been cursed by a terrible enchantment–cast by their conniving new stepmother. The handsome princes have been turned  into swans. They now swim forlornly on a beautiful heart-shaped lake that lies just beyond the castle walls. Meriel will do whatever it takes to rescue her beloved brothers, but she must act quickly. If Heart Lake freezes, her brothers will be forced to fly south or perish. Meriel knows what will save them and  vows to finish the seemingly impossible task. If she completes it, her brothers may be saved.  But if she fails . . . all will be lost.  J

Zahler, Diane.  The Thirteenth Princess
Zita is not an ordinary servant girl—she’s the thirteenth daughter of a king who wanted only sons. When she was born, Zita’s father banished her to the servants’ quarters to work in the kitchens, where she can only communicate with her royal sisters in secret.  When the princesses all fall mysteriously ill, the only clue is their strangely worn and tattered shoes. With the help of her friends Zita follows her bewitched sisters into a magical world of endless dancing and dreams. But something more sinister is afoot—and unless Zita and her friends can break the curse, the twelve princesses will surely dance to their deaths.  J

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 So there you have it…princesses, peasant girls and other fairy tales characters with an old (or new!) story to tell.  Would you have guessed that the two most popular re-tellings would be The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Swan Princess? Neither would have been my first guess!

Coming soon…tales with a slant for boys, and tales for older teens.  As always, let us know what you think!



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