I've been reading some fantastic fairy tale inspired and retelling stories recently, including Jessie Burton's gorgeous, feminist reimagining of the Grimms’ fairytale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Restless Girls (read my review here), and Kiran Millwood Hargrave's frosty fairy tale, set in a Scandinavian wood during an everlasting winter, The Way Past Winter (read my review here).
I've always been a massive fan of fairy tales and myths, folk tales and magic, so I've complied a list of some of favourite fairy tales reimagined for young and old.
Bethan Woolvin needs no introduction. Here witty and feminist retellings of much loved fairy tales have taken the picture book market by a storm. When Little Red first appeared in 2017 its strikingly retro style illustrations and a simple, witty text with a brave Little Red Riding Hood at the forefront captured everyone's attention. And now Woolvin has successfully gone on to write about Rapunzel who puts her destiny of freedom in her own hands, and Hansel and Gretel's mischief and mayhem which is a little more magical then what the classic story believes.
With fantastical twists and fearless characters, these picture books make a perfect gift for fairy tale fans of all ages.
Cinderella is always a beautiful classic to retell but a couple of my favourites are, Interstellar Cinderella - a space loving, rocket fixing and independent-minded heroine, and Beverly Naidoo's beautiful earliest-known version of Cinderella in Cinderella of the Nile.
A few of my other favourite fairy tale retellings include Davide Cali's hilarious retelling of Snow White, involving a few more dwarfs than what the original tale recalls. With bright, energetic illustrations and not a gap of white left on the page, this is definitely Snow White at her best. Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia and Lauren O'Hara come a beautifully illustrated dark fairy tale of identity and self-acceptance.
I absolutely adore Chris Riddell's recent fairy tale twist of a picture book, weaving together familiar fairy tale characters as you've never seen them before, including Red Riding Hood, Thumbelina, Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, the three bears and many more! Full of witty details and warm and hilarious illustrations this is a truly delightful book. And Vita Murrow's Power to the Princess consists of 15 favourite fairytales which have been retold for a new generation. Focused on issues including self-image, confidence, LGBTQ, friendship, advocacy and disability these princesses are smart, funny, and kind, and can do anything they set their minds to!
Clotilde Perrin's Inside the Villains is an extraordinary pop-up book that reveals the secrets of the most famous fairy-tale villains! Including the giant, the wold and the witch, this brilliant book explores these famous villains through interactive flaps and personality cards. Find out about the diabolical thoughts inside the villains' heads, what hides beneath their disguises, or the victims of their last meals (now comfortably settled inside their stomachs!) if you dare!
The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton has without a doubt been one of my favourite books from 2018. A dazzling, feminist reimagining of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this fierce, inspirational fairytale brings a tale about family, sisterhood, imagination and bravery, and will now doubt become a classic that is handed down from mother to daughter for generations to come. Katherine Rundell's Into the Jungle again is a modern classic in the making. In this gorgeously produced gift hardback book, Rundell has created a charming and compelling origin stories for all Kipling's best-known characters, from Baloo and Shere Khan to Kaa and Bagheera. As Mowgli travels through the Indian jungle, this brilliantly visual tale, which weaves each short story together into a wider whole, will make readers both laugh and cry.
The Sleeper and the Spindle is a thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell - weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish. Cornelia Funke's Through the Water Curtain is a delightful, diverse selection of lesser-known fairy tales from around the world. From her native Germany, to snowy Siberia, from Japan to Vietnam, this collection is sure to capture and enchant any reader young and old. Read more Through the Water Curtain through my review here.
The middle grade sector is absolutely brimming with fairy tales, magic and myths, and The House with Chicken Legs, published just recently in 2018 is one of my favourite books! Weaving together Russian folklore and Baba Yaga, this utterly magical tale is a bold and beautifully-built adventure and enchanted me beyond belief. Read more of my review here. The School for Good and Evil and The Land of Stories are both brilliant series that turn the fairytale concept of 'happily ever after' on its head! Both thrillingly fast-paced and enchantingly epic these books are perfect for any fairytale lover!
The Dollmaker of Krakow is a beautiful, timeless tale set in the Second World War that weaves together magic, folklore and history.
One night a little doll named Karolina comes to life in a toyshop in Krakow, Poland, in 1939 and changes the life of the gruff, broken-hearted Dollmaker. And when the darkness of the Nazi occupation sweeps over the city, Karolina and the Dollmaker must bravely use their magic to save their Jewish friends from a terrible danger, no matter what the risks. This powerful story is about finding friendship in the darkest of places and the importance of love in times of great pain.
A genuinely beautiful book, that has become one of my all time favourite magical fairy tales. You can buy the book via Amazon here.
Louise O'Neill's reimagining of The Little Mermaid has been an absolute hit since it first published in May 2018. Reimagining the innocent of The Little Mermaid through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building, The Surface Breaks is full of rage and rallying cries, and the darkest of undercurrents. A dark and luxurious tale filled with beauty, bitterness and betrayal, this is a must read! Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is another enchantingly dark fairytale retelling with two marvelous heroines at its heart. Taking the tale of Rumpelstiltskin as her starting point, Spinning Silver is a rich, multilayered new story which is a joy to read.
If you haven't come across Marissa Meyer's Cinder yet then I definitely recommend that you get a move on because this Cinderella is nothing like the Cinderella you remember. No, Marissa Meyer has turned the classic tale inside out and introduced cyborgs, a deadly plague and a forbidden romance. Definitely a story you won't be forgetting anytime soon. And the same goes to Danielle Paige's Dorothy Must Die. Paige's reimagining of the wonderful world of Oz is a little more deadly than just following the yellow brick wall. In fact Oz has had a complete make over where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys.
For readers who enjoyed Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, this empowering collection of stories, poems and beautiful hand-drawn illustrations gives Once Upon a Time a much-needed modern makeover.
Gone are the gender stereotypes of obliging lovers, violent men and girls that need rescuing. Instead, lines blur between heroes and villains and you'll meet brave princesses, a new kind of wolf lurking in the concrete jungle and a courageous Gretel who can bring down monsters on her own.
Nikita Gill's Fierce Fairytales & Other Stories to Stir Your Soul is a stunning collection of feminist fairytales that will inspire and empower both young and old. Shop the book via Amazon here.
This wouldn't be a fairytale booklist in Roald Dahl's irreverent and hilarious collection, Revolting Rhymes! One of my all time favourite books that all I can say is if you haven't read it yet then you're missing out. But be warned, it's not ordinary once upon a time!
Tangleweed and Brine is a book I only came across just recently, but it is one that has enchanted my heart and mind. From one of Ireland's leading writers for young people comes a collection of thirteen dark, feminist retellings of traditional fairytales. Beguiling, bewitching and poetic, Deirdre Sullivan has given stories such as Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin a wickedly, witchy makeover - a masterful collection not for the faint-hearted.
If you have any fairytale recommendations, whether they're classics or retellings I'd love to hear about them in the comments!