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June 14, 2016

Writing and Illustrating Twisted Fairy Tales

What if the Big Bad Wolf was framed?

Twisted or “fractured” fairy tales are old, familiar fairy tales told with a twist.  They challenge us to ask “what if”, through words and images.  Writing and illustrating fractured fairy tales gives you the opportunity to write creatively as well as breathe some life into your illustrations.

I recently had a chance to illustrate a portion of Little Red Riding Hood in a new way, which reminded me of fractured fairy tales. The Tomie dePaola Award, given out yearly by SCBWI, challenges artists to illustrate a particular prompt.  Since I and many teachers use my illustrations as writing prompts- I decided to flip the script and try it.

The Tommie dePaola prompt was described on the SCBWI website: “The task for this year’s award was about UNIQUE VISUALIZATION of the MAIN CHARACTER.”  We were given a passage from Little Red Riding Hood.  So, I decided to take a line or two from the passage and make a more futuristic scene, yet still set in a forest.

 

Denise Cassano Illustration

“She Was Not Afraid,” My entry to the Tomie dePaola Award through SCBWI

The line I illustrated:

“When Little Red Riding Hood had only been walking a few minutes, a wolf came up to her. She didn’t know what a wicked animal he was, so she wasn’t afraid of him.”  I added an unusual city in the background, and a mech wolf.

This contest reminded me of Twisted Fairy Tales.  Numerous books, both middle grade and picture books, have addressed this topic. For example, Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka comes to mind (if you missed this book, you need to read it.) Also by Jon Scieszka: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.

Here are some questions to ask students before writing:

  • What is a fairy tale?
  • What are some special characteristics of fairy tales?
  • What kinds of plots, characters, and settings do we expect to find in these stories?
  • What makes each fairy tale unique?
  • Why are fairy tales so prevalent as a form of storytelling throughout the world?
  • How have illustrations been used to make fairy tales more enjoyable?
Then, ask “What if?”  What if we changed the circumstances? Try changing the characters’ gender, age and/or motive.  Change the setting, time of day, or year.  What if you put it in modern day?
Another way to fracture it is change the point of view. Tell it from the perspective of a different character (from Cinderella’s stepmom, or from the Wolf in The Three Little Pigs, etc.)

Want to teach art and writing through twisted or “fractured’ fairy tales?  Try these resources:

Stuck with your writing and art? Try flipping the script, it may get your creative juices going! Let me know what you make.
 
PS: Side note, two months after the the winner was announced, I took a picture book class with Barbara Lalicki and Steve Henri.  Who did I happen to sit next to in the class? Lisa Cinelli, the WINNER of the 2015 Tomie DePaola award!)  List of other winners of the contest here.
-Denise Cassano

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