While there are many beautiful adaptations of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, H. Chuku Lee's Beauty and the Beast is my favorite. Set in an unnamed West African country, this gorgeous retelling is mostly faithful to the original story, but adds West African backgrounds, clothing, and headdress, making this a highly memorable and oustanding version.
I've heard that the beauty, sensitivity, and sensibility of Hans Christian Andersen's writings can only truly be appreciated in the original Danish. While that's inarguably the case with most literature in translation, I suppose, those of us not fluent in Danish thankfully have creations such as Naomi Lewis's and Angela Barrett's The Emperor's New Clothes. As explained in the foreward, Lewis and Barrett chose to set the story in 1913, one year before World War I erupted (and the eventual demise of many small European kingdoms).
As many Aesop stories can fit on one page, his stories are often collected into volumes (and not as single volume picture books). Hare and Tortoise is an exception, which is why there are many retellings. Alison Murray's Hare and Tortoise is a fabulous choice for very young children; its moral story is clearly depicted, and there's lots of humor to set off giggles (Janet Ward's retelling is a top choice for elementary school children; it offers a more sophisticated and even cynical look at the story).
The cultures of West Africa have produced many imaginative and fun folktales that contain positive moral lessons that can be understand by many young children. Head, Body, Legs, which originated with the Dan people of Liberia, is a hugely funny and entertaining tale with an impactful lesson about the importance of working together.
When I am asked to read at school literacy nights, I often bring Jan Thornhill's retelling of The Rumor. When nervous nellie Hare hears an enormous rumble, she is convinced that the world is falling apart. As the other animals hear the news, they are whipped into a frenzy until they reach a very wise leader, who helps them realize the foolishness of spreading gossip and jumping to conclusions. The subtitle refers to the Jataka tales, which is a collection of stories about the Buddha depicted in human or animal form. As you might guess, this is a "sky is falling" story that can be found across cultures, such as Henny Penny.
Byron Barton's The Three Bears is a straightfoward rendition of the Goldilocks story; his simple illustrations and storytelling make this accessible and entertaining to toddlers and preschoolers.
Pick up a copy of our Picture Book Month calendar to enter our Picture Book Month contest! Calendars are available at all Fauquier County libraries.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library