5 Books that Give Classic Fairy Tales a Cultural Twist

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My obsession with “Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion” got my wheels turning. How many other classic fairy tales have been updated and reimagined to include people of various races and cultures?

Lots. And lots and lots.

I’ve found dozens with arresting visuals and interesting twists on the standard storylines. These five, though, stuck with me. All are too advanced for my baby, but they’ve definitely earned spots on my must-read-to-Baby-Bird list.

Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya. This is a sassy, modern, Latino-inspired version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” My favorite part? Our protagonist saves her abuelita (granny) from a wolf. Girl power!

There are Spanish words peppered throughout, and the book includes a glossary for easy translation. My opinion: Little readers should be able to use the context clues to figure out what the Spanish words mean.

Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Guevara

Rapunzel by Chloe Perkins. This board book gives “Rapunzel” a beautiful Indian-inspired makeover, and the illustrations are glorious.

Rapunzel by Chloe Perkins

See? Vibrant enough to attract littles, and intricate enough to interest adults.

From the archways of the tower to the adornments on the outfits, the imagery screams India. Unfortunately, the storyline is the same as the classic … but perhaps that’s OK.

If the goal is to help children see diversity in the books they read, then that’s accomplished with the art. Kids won’t know the story is the same, so no harm no foul, I suppose. (See how I talked myself back into loving this book?)

Little Red Gliding Hood by by Tara Lazar. This one isn’t as cultural as the others, but it does feature Little Red as a brown baby, allowing me to show my daughter someone who looks like her.

And if you’ve always had a soft spot for The Big Bad, then this one’s definitely for you.

In this fractured fairy tale, Little Red is a figure skater in need of a partner. The Dish has the Spoon, and Hansel has Gretel, so Red turns to you-know-who to help her win an upcoming competition.

If you’re tired of reading Mother Goose’s rhymes, give this one a spin. Little One will recognize the characters, and you’ll get a nice — and entertaining — change of pace.

Did I mention the wonderfully whimsical illustrations?

Little Red Gliding Hood by by Tara Lazar

Auntie Tiger by Laurence Yep. (Warning: This book is not for younger readers.) Older kids will be captivated by this adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood,” and they’ll understand the book’s lessons of safety and sibling love.

This book is much more grim than the other titles on this list (a child is eaten and a tiger is drowned), but the spectacular art helps it feel lighter.

Auntie Tiger by Laurence Yep

Despite less-than-cheerful storyline, I thought this book deserved a spot because of its quality, and the fact that parents could use it to discuss stranger danger and China.

The Rough-Face Girl by by Rafe Martin. The protagonist of this “Cinderella” adaptation (who has been scarred by fire) has to find/see her “prince” to marry him. Instead of relying on a fairy godmother to guide her, The Rough-Face Girl uses her own skills and intuition to get what she wants.

The illustrations are beautiful — each a painting that could stand on its own — and they meld wonderfully with the story.

My favorite parts of this tale are the theme of seeing the wonder of nature, and the messages of self-reliance and beauty manifesting from the inside.

They’re lessons we all want our children to learn.

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Five Books that Give Classic Children's Fairy Tales a Cultural Twist
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