Being able to discuss characteristics of fiction—character, setting, motivation, and point of view, for example—is an advanced skill, something beginning readers and certainly nonreaders can’t do. Right?
By using two versions of the same fairy tale, children are able to contrast the stories, telling what is the same and what is different, who is telling the story, how characters change, and where and when the story takes place. Even writing styles of authors can be contrasted.
Another advantage of using two versions of the same fairy tale is to deepen the meaning of the original. Just like reading one book of fiction and one book of nonfiction on the same topic deepens meaning, so does reading two differing fictional accounts of the same story.
Read about these examples and see what I mean (clicking on the cover graphic will enlarge it).
- Mike Artwell’s Three Little Cajun Pigs sets the porcine trio deep in Louisiana where Trosclair, Thibodeaux and Ulysse need to build homes in swampland. Old Claude, an alligator, would like to lick his chops on couchon de lait—that’s Cajun for roast pig. The basic elements of The Three Little Pigs are included in the story, but with changes children can easily notice, including telling the story in couplets.
- Lisa Campbell Ernst’s Little Red Riding Hood; A New Fangled Prairie Tale finds Little Red Riding Hood in a red hoodie riding a bike through rows and rows of sunflowers on her way to Grandma’s. Meanwhile, a vegetarian wolf wants to learn Grandma’s secret muffin recipe. However, Grandma is meaner than the wolf. Lots of details are the same, but enough differ to make finding them a treasure hunt.
- Susan Lowell’s Cindy Ellen: A Wild Western Cinderella offers a sweet cowgirl whose father has married the “orneriest woman west of the Mississippi.” Cindy Ellen mends fences, milks cows and shovels a corral, attracting Joe Prince, the son of a cattle king. Lots of changes make this tale a delight, but younger kids might need help recognizing the original Cinderella in this fractured version.
- And of course Jon Scieszka’s The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, one of the first of this type fairy tale and one of the best, tells the familiar story from Alexander T. Wolf’s point of view.
As starting points for discussion of literature with young children, these stories are great.