According to some distinguished opinions, there are no new stories in the world. Our world just keeps recycling the originals.
Some days I believe that, and some days I don't. At this moment, I'm tending toward belief because I've just read five "new" picture books that are retellings or reissues of one kind or another. Among the retellings, some seem to have improved on the original. Others have not.
"Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow," retold by Robert D. San Souci, is an outstanding new picture book illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Both text and pictures bring this old story leaping into life for children ages 5-8. If Robin Hood has been eclipsed by the Incredible Hulk in your family, start here to reinstate this legendary, traditional, pre-superhero hero. In this story, Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men outsmart the Sheriff of Nottingham and get the last laugh. As a bonus, the subtext is disrespect for authority.
"Imogene's Antlers" by David Small is a reissue of a dearly beloved picture book that originally was published 25 years ago. When Imogene wakes up with antlers, she's cool, calm and collected. The adults in her life go bonkers. Children love this wonderful story with its hilarious ending.
"Me and You" by Anthony Browne is a redo of the Goldilocks story. Booklist says, "Browne's wry fractured fairy tale sets the Goldilocks story in a contemporary urban neighborhood and tells it from the dual viewpoints of a lost little girl and a baby bear." Kirkus calls this book a "nuanced take on an old favorite." What you and I have to say about it may differ.
"The Red Hen" by Rebecca Emberly and Ed Emberly re-tells the traditional Little Red Hen folktale. In this version, the hen is baking a cake (recipe included at the back of the book), but the plot is identical. The press release calls this a "sparkling version ... filled with jaunty humor and eye-popping images." I agree that the images are "eye-popping."
"Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf" by Judy Sierra gives a twist of the snout to the folktale of "The Three Little Pigs." The Wolf tries to proclaim his innocence when he's invited to tell his story at the library. Book characters insist that he tell the truth and apologize for his misdeeds. The wolf complies, changes his name from Big Bad Wolf to Big Bodacious Benevolent Bookish Wolf, starts borrowing books from the library and builds a splendid house for the Three Pigs. Makes one wonder why it wasn't written that way in the first place.
Know of an old tale that could use your new twist? There's nothing to stop you or anybody else!
Fran Hawk is the author of "Ten Tips for Raising Readers." Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.