A Quartet of Fairy-tale Picture Books

Some great new fairy-tale picture books, including one from Lisbeth Zwerger, along with Fairy-Tale Comics!  I’m spending the afternoon reading the entire Children’s Books Section of the NYTBR, but first a walk while there is still light to brighten the fading beauty of autumn leaves.


In adult reworkings of fairy tales, almost anything goes, and in a creative flash, the girl in red can turn into Red Hot Riding Hood. When it comes to versions for children, the urge to preach becomes almost irresistible. We put tight constraints on improvisation, insisting on morals, even when they do not square with the facts of the story. MacDonald turns the audacious Jack into a repentant rogue who “knew he shouldn’t have risked his life like that.” Adventurous and beauty-loving Little Red Riding Hood is portrayed as disobedient (for talking to the wolf) and wayward (for picking flowers). In the end, she promises “never to stray from the path again,” just as her mother had told her in the beginning. All versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” in these collections make the same point, even though staying on the path would not have changed a thing. In “Fairy Tale Comics,” Little Red Riding Hood vows never to talk to strangers again, an update to the story, making it about stranger danger but ignoring the fact that conversation was never the real problem.