Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Fairy Tale Mash-Ups

My fourth graders were having a hard time getting their heads around the idea of writing original fairy tales, but once I introduced the idea that they could borrow from familiar stories to create an original, they began having a blast reinventing the old stories by remixing characters, settings, and problems.

Vivian Vande Velde obviously had the same kind of fun writing Cloaked in Red.

Cloaked in Red
by Vivian Vande Velde
Marshall Cavendish, 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

Here's how the introduction begins:

"Everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species."

After a thorough exploration of the bizarreness of the various versions of this story, Velde suggests that a story as preposterous as this would never get past a self-respecting creative writing teacher, since it doesn't have memorable characters, a vivid setting, or an exciting plot. Besides all that, there is no discernible theme in this story.

"However you look at it, "Little Red Riding Hood" is a strange and disturbing story that should probably not be shared with children.

That is why I've gone ahead and written eight new versions of it."

Versions that begin, "Once upon a time, after fashion was discovered but before people had makeovers on TV, there was a young girl named Meg." Or, "Once upon a time, long after people had found out that their families could sometimes be an embarrassment, but before there were advice columnists you could complain to, there was a girl named Roselle." (In this story--spoiler alert--Granny is a werewolf, which accounts perfectly for her big teeth and hairy arms.) One of my favorite stories is "Deems the Wood Gatherer," in which a seriously myopic woodcutter bumbles through one fairy tale after another, not realizing that his good intentions are sealing the demise of characters right and left.

I'll share selected stories from Cloaked in Red with my fourth graders. Older readers will enjoy the book in its entirety.

In Front of My House
by Marianne Dubuc
Kids Can Press, 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

I can't wait to share this book with my students. It's a circular story that wanders from the narrator's house on the hill, to outer space, the inside of a whale, the zoo, and back home again. At one point, the story takes a detour into fairy tales and back out again. It's so surprising to find these familiar characters in story that's not itself a fairy tale! The story goes like this (each page has a simple illustration, and after each ... is a page break):

"On a little hill, behind a brown fence, under a big oak tree, is...
my house. In front of my house...
a rosebush. On the rosebush...
a little bird. Above the little bird...
a window. Behind the window...
my room. In my room..."

Very fun for predicting (although you're wrong nearly every time, like you are in Apples and Oranges: Going Bananas With Pairs by Sara Pinto) and I can't wait to see the kinds of writing my students will do with this book as a model.

1 comment:

  1. Vivian Vande Velde is a delightful speaker too! She lives near here, in the Rochester, NY area, and it is such fun to hear her talk about how she writes her books. If you ever have the chance, don't miss it. I look forward to reading this new picture book you recommend as well. I've loved every single order I make from A YEAR OF READING, and we shall name the new library after you two. A.

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