I love seeing new takes on familiar stories: sometimes a little tweak or twist on an old tale can give us a fresh perspective on the whole thing. Or, sometimes, it’s just funny to flip everything on its head. I’ve seen this done in many formats, from picture books to adult fiction and everything in between. Today, I’ll take a look at several picture books (and some comics) that put a new spin on things.
This is the third comics anthology by First Second Books, after Nursery Rhyme Comics and Fairy Tale Comics. There are 28 different fables, adapted and illustrated by some of my favorite comic book artists, like James Kochalka and Jaime Hernandez and Vera Brosgol (and many artists that were new to me, too). Some are mostly faithful retellings of the fables, but others take the stories into new and fascinating directions. The majority of these fables are from Aesop, but there are a few from other sources as well. I’ve really enjoyed these anthologies because you get a fun mix of artwork and styles.
After hours at the Stratford Zoo, the animals get together to perform Shakespeare’s plays. The first book (which I haven’t read) was Macbeth, and this time around the animals are performing Romeo and Juliet. The setting for the play is between a petting zoo (the “Petters”) and the wild animals in the forest (the “Wilders”). Romeo is a rooster from the zoo, and Juliet is a bear from the forest. It’s a clever adaptation, making the play a little more kid-friendly while still conveying the tragedy of the warring families.
On top of that, there are bits with the animals in the audience, including a little monkey and lamb who are playing out their own version of Romeo and Juliet over the course of the play. At the end, there are some “notes from the director” that provide some more facts about Shakespeare and the play, but presented in a way that fits into the world of the Stratford Zoo. I really enjoyed this one and will need to go look for the Macbeth version.
The Storyland Ambulance makes its way through the world of nursery rhymes, patching up the cow who tripped over the moon, a washer maid who had her nose pecked by a blackbird, and a familiar egg who had a great fall. In rhyming verse, the crew drives around and looks for various mishaps and accidents and treats them all. It’s a cute little picture book, with opportunities to guess who will need help next.
For some more nursery rhyme fun, this book has Mother Goose inviting all the kids and animals from her poems to a slumber party, from Georgie Porgy to Little Bo Peep. It’s also in verse, and you get little glimpses of the various characters. At the end of the book, there are also several of the original nursery rhymes that the characters came from. (This book isn’t out until the end of October.)
This is, as you can probably guess, a spin on the old lady who swallowed a fly. The dragon swallows the knight, then his steed, a squire, and so on. The rhymes are clever and the illustrations are great. But the ending is a little different than the traditional old lady story, too.
Poor Troll. Every day he tries to catch and eat the Oliver, but he just can’t quite do it. That Oliver is a sneaky critter–and on top of that, it taunts Troll! But maybe things will turn out differently this time. This one’s fun because Troll gets to be the protagonist, and the Oliver is (sort of) the villain. I love the illustrations–they look like they could be from an animated film, and Troll’s facial expressions are wonderful. Bonus: the front cover has a nice cut-out window, and the endpages have a recipe for Troll Cupcakes. (There’s a sequel out this year, Grumbug, but I haven’t read it yet.)
You think you know the story of Cinderella and her evil stepmother and stepsisters–but this book tells a different tale. Cinderella had another stepsister, Gertie, who is sweet and nice, but you never hear about her. In this story, Cinderella is just as mean and nasty as the rest of the Ugly family. Gertie wants to go to the ball with the family, but she needs some training on being mean first–from various witches and the Big Bad Wolf. Things don’t turn out quite as Mrs. Ugly planned, though…
I’m not sure if this is meant to be a Halloween book or a Christmas book, but it was released this month so I guess you could use it for both! Zombelina loves dancing ballet and tries out for the Nutcracker, but her ghostly Grandpa is up to some tricks and it’s up to Zombelina to ensure that the show goes on. Molly Idle is great at capturing dancers in action (see Flora and the Flamingo, for instance) and her dancers here are adorable.
Disclosure: GeekDad received review copies of these books.