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Spin-offs from Traditional Tales

Traditional tales lend themselves beautifully to spoof retellings and further development of traditional characters. These spin-offs are usually played for laughs and can be a huge success with children, including reluctant readers.

Cinderella: The Fairy Tale Files
by Alan Durant, illustrated by Ross Collins
(Walker Books)
This hilarious version of the traditional story is written as if it was a case file compiled by Rumple Stiltskin, private investigator, working on behalf of Cinderella's future in laws. His report is accompanied by plenty of evidence which is enclosed in envelopes within the book, including a birth certificate, drawings of feet, a shopping list, a wish contract and an invitation to the ball. The final envelope contains a wedding card from the Fairy Godmother that opens out like a flower.
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The Three Horrid Pigs and the Big Friendly Wolf
by Liz Pichon
(Little Tiger Press)
In this hilarious twist (both verbal and visual) on the original favourite, an exasperated Mother Pig sends her pesky offspring out into the world as expected; but from then on nothing is quite the same. The first little pig resents kindly wolf’s offers to improve on his messy building efforts and and tells him in no uncertain terms to PUSH OFF or be booted out. The second, even lazier pig gives the wolf a similar reception and the third doesn’t even bother with attempting to build anything. He merely evicts a brood of chickens and takes up residence in the hen coop. With each pig ensconced in his new home things are looking good for the porcine trio but not for long. Straw and sticks are highly desirable commodities for cows and birds ...
  This picture book had my audiences of under eights hooting with laughter. Splendid stuff!
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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The Fabulous Fairy Feast
by Sue Heap
(Egmont)
Many of the traditional fairy tale ingredients – an invitation to a midnight happening, a frog, dark woods, a Fairy Queen, magic wands and wishes - have been mixed in this deliciously modern tale of Lizzie Little Fairy. But, Lizzie’s mode of transport is a pink flying bicycle, the frog is her pet Burp who sports a striped scarf and trainers, the guests at the happening include an elephant, a shark a bat and a hen, whilst the spread at the feast has such fare as Earl Grey Tea, Fizzy Fudge Cake, Chocolate Chips and Knickerbocker Glory, not to mention Jumping Jelly Beans and the odd carrot; and the fairies themselves are decidedly multiracial.
   The amusing, great to read aloud text, breaks into rhyme in places to add to the enjoyment and there’s the novelty of fold-out pages for some of the forest scenes, sparkling outlines to the animals and shimmering food at the magic midnight hour. Add to that a touch of monkey mischief – what more can any young listener ask?
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Beware of the Frog
by William Bee
(Walker Books)
All-consuming predators such as the Danish greedy cat, the Chinese Nung Gwama and the African clay pot boy are the model for this neo folk tale that takes elements of many traditional stories and weaves them into a hilarious mock-scary whole. So, we have hungry travellers, three of course, - a goblin, a troll and a giant; then there is the loving, protective, kiss-wanting frog, not to mention magical transformation.
   Sweet little old Mrs Collywobbles lives alone on the edge of a ‘big dark scary wood’. Her only protection from the ghastly creatures residing therein is her little froggy guardian. But the final kiss results in a very unexpected change and final meal; it will surely be the reader who has the last laugh though . There are rhyming chants to join in with from wonderfully woesome meal seekers as well as a predictable repeating pattern to add to the tension and fun of this present tense telling.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Previously
by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman
Walker Books)
It’s amazing what you can do with just one word. Here Allan Ahlberg weaves a magical spell with the adverb ‘previously’ and proceeds to tell backwards, and to make unexpected connections between, the stories of Goldilocks, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and Jill, the Frog Prince, Cinderella and the Gingerbread Boy. But it doesn’t end there or perhaps I should say, begin, for Previously takes us back to when we were babies, bears were cubs and the once upon a time beginning of everything. The connections and collaborations are almost endless for once you start with ‘previously’ it seems there’s just no end to the imaginative links you can make.
   Ingman clearly enjoyed his task of illustration: his pictures - a mix of paint and pen and ink - are imbued with a child’s spirit of joy and playfulness. A book not to be missed.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Three Little Ghosties
by Pippa Goodhart, illustrated by AnnaLaura Cantonne
(Bloomsbury)
Ideal for the Hallowe’en season is this mock scary rhyming tale complete with a ghostly mobile. It takes the traditional rhyme about the ‘three little ghosties, sitting on their posties, eating buttered toasties’ as the starting point and weaves a delicious seasonal cautionary tale wherein the Ghostie trio try to outdo one another with tales of their exploits. But what happens when they decide to go haunting to scare some girlsies and boysies?
   The multi-media illustrations, in suitably murky browns, greens and sludgy greys, are slightly reminiscent of Steadman and will appeal to a wide age range of tricksters.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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What's the Time Little Wolf?
by Ian Whybrow and Tony Ross
( Harper Collins)
Little Wolf (an uncharacteristically 'good' wolf cub) and baby brother, Smellybreff, are driving their parents crazy with their noise so Mum sends them out to catch a 'nice fat piggy for dinner'. Before long, Smellbreff is hungry and creating a fuss. Despite Little Wolf's exhortations to huff and puff, and BLOW down the home of their potential meal of chicks, Smellybreff proceeds to hop, plop and CHOP. He's equally disobedient when it comes to the bees' hive and when finally the pair reach the piggies' house, by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin they 'COULD NOT get in.'
    Smellybreff's howling of, 'What's the time, Little Wolf?' brings out lots of mice and rabbits all wanting to play the game. But, a timely shout and a few deft moves on the part of the wolf brothers, results in a sackful of tasty morsels for the supper table.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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The Wolf's Story
by Toby Forward, illustrated by Izhar Cohen
( Walker Books)
Here it is - straight from the wolf's mouth - the true story of what happened to Little Red Riding Hood. If Wolf is to be believed he's a strict vegetarian, good around the house and a DIY expert, a ' new wolf ' you might say. According to him, he was only wearing Grandma's clothes because she had knocked herself out when she slipped and fell; and the rest we all know . . .
    The trouble with Wolf's story is that he does look so very wicked, red in tooth and claw in fact. And for all his honeyed words who are we going to believe: him or sweet Little Red, especially with that Wolf's eye view, or when we peer round Wolf's huge ears, and if that's not scary enough, stare out at Little Red from between the dagger-like, tooth filled, Wolf's mouth. There's real synergy between words and pictures at work here.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Pigs Might Fly!
by Jonathan Emmett & Steve Cox
( Puffin )
This story tells what happens next to those three little pigs of house building fame, here named Waldo (straw builder and none too bright), Woody (slightly brighter but somewhat slapdash in approach) and Wilbur (the smart one). Then of course there's that Big Bad Wolf (still suffering from a scalded bum). In this, their second adventure, the three brothers set about building aeroplanes in an attempt to win the 'Pie In The Sky Air Race'. Well you can guess what Waldo and Woody use for their planes but Wilbur? His plane, painstakingly designed, is built from finest metal.
  The day of the race arrives, the planes line up, but who is that competitor clad in sheepskin flying jacket and hat? Read on .for some breathtaking aeronautics and a pie fest finale. Brilliant, punning fun.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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The Three Fishing Brothers Gruff
by Ben Galbraith
( Hodder)
Borrowing the structure and pattern of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, this is a cautionary tale about greed, pollution and the plundering of the ocean with no happy ending. Even Minke Whale (guardian of the ocean) cannot stop Anglo, Anvil and Angora Gruff, three fishing brothers with their small, medium and large fishing boats, from breaking out into the green pastures of the Bay of Plenty. There they carry on in their old uncaring ways, blaming one another as they had in Poverty Bay, for the degredation of the ocean until once more, there are no fish, no life, in the sea. But the whale does have the last words and sends the trio and their vessels to the bottom of Davy Jones' locker.
   The grim, multi-media illustrations seem almost to have been created in anger and pull no punches showing fish strangled in plastic making heart-felt pleas for conservation measures. A book for sharing, pondering over and discussing with audiences of seven and over.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Winston the Book Wolf
by Marni McGee and Ian Beck
( Bloomsbury)
Winston Wolf munches through words quicker than anyone can write them: signs (including that NO WOLVES ALLOWED) are his hors d'oeuvre, but his main course is the library books themselves. Until, that is, he meets Rosie (sporting red hoodie and carrying a basket) in the library one day. Rosie helps Winston to learn that instead of chewing up all those wonderful words - words such as ' sunset and swoosh and rambunctious', not forgetting his favourites all rhyming with ' crunch - punch and munch and lunch' - taste even better when it's the eyes not the teeth that do the feasting. Once Winston's literary and literacy talents are sufficiently developed, a fresh supply of books becomes the order of the day, but there's still that pesky ' NO WOLVES ALLOWED!' rule in the library. So, who better to become the library's resident children's storyteller? None other than our hirsute friend, 'Granny Wolf'.
    With its large bite-size hole in the cover, what could be a more wonderful way to foster an all consuming passion for devouring books or treatise on the power of stories with wonderfully memorable words as THE motivational force for learning to read, not to mention Ian Beck's additional but equally wonderful inbuilt lessons on visual literacy.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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