PRODUCT REVIEWS

Fairytales Gone Wrong

The Fairytales Gone Wrong series by Steve Smallman, published by QED, takes familiar tales and gives them a twist to help small children learn more about themselves and the world around them.

Fairy tales provide an endless source of materials for the classroom and nursery. Once children are familiar with tales like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Jack and the Beanstalk and The Gingerbread Man, the stories can be taken a step further by mixing up the characters or giving a twist to the endings.

This is where The Fairytales Gone Wrong series by Steve Smallman comes in, using traditional fairy tales as a framework for stories that are distinctly different from the original in order to help children recognise and understand particular issues around their health and emotional wellbeing. We asked teachers and librarians to take a look at the series for us and to tell us how useful they felt the books would be in class.

Primary school librarian Emily Beale felt that The Fairytales Gone Wrong series is a helpful set of books to have within a school, for use at foundation and KS1. "Each book offers an opportunity to talk about issues some young children find hard to comprehend the importance of," she explained. "Using well known fairy tale characters and stories, they show the negative side of behaviours and the positive when such actions are curtailed, encouraging children to adopt better practices."

So in Stinky Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack hates washing; he's too lazy, but when he ventures up the beanstalk to the Giant's castle, he is soon sniffed out! In Keep Running, Gingerbread Man, a lazy couple are no match for the Gingerbread man who soon outruns them and the rest of the town's animals. Meanwhile in Snow White and the Very Angry Dwarf, a cross young dwarf is helped by Snow White to keep his anger under control. Other stories look at bullying (You're Not Ugly, Duckling), getting enough sleep (Get Some Rest, Sleeping Beauty) and hygiene (Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Wash Your Hair!).

"I think that children who are familiar with fairy tale stories will enjoy these alternative tales," Beale adds. "They will enjoy comparing and contrasting the original stories with the 'Gone Wrong' versions and the humour in the 'teaching twists', and they will have a positive influence on children's thinking and behaviour." However, she also warns that without a familiarity with the stories - and many children don't learn these stories at home - the stories wouldn't have the same impact, so they are best used alongside the original tales.

Each of the books also comes with a helpful guide on the back pages, suggesting further activities and ways to approach the stories. Beale says: "These are quite helpful, offering simple questions that would prompt discussion about each book, recall, sequencing and further reflection including inference activities. If I were organising a PSHE lesson I would use them to organise written work as well as class, paired and small group discussions."

Indeed it is in PSHE lessons that the books come into their own says Reception teacher Lizi Coombs: "This range of books take old classics and give them a modern twist; I've enjoyed reading them and think that, in schools, they'd be most useful as part of PSHE or perhaps as ELSA/SEN support that runs alongside the curriculum."

All of the stories have good discussion points for PSHE particularly when looking at health and hygiene and managing feelings, she adds. "When planning lessons for these, I've found it hard to find a 'hook' before, but these stories would do that perfectly."

For example, Get Some Rest, Sleeping Beauty is a useful book to talk about the importance of a good night's sleep and how it can affect everyone else when we're tired or grumpy, says Coombs. "I'd recommend it to parents who are having trouble with children’s bedtimes, too." Stinky Jack and the Beanstalk, she adds, is great for talking about hygiene and cleanliness. "The giants are also very polite so you could discuss manners and how to behave towards visitors!" Snow White and the Very Angry Dwarf, meanwhile, would be good for sharing strategies with children who struggle with managing anger, Coombs adds.

You're Not Ugly, Duckling is another of the stories that explores managing our feelings. Teacher Lynnette Voisey suggests using this at circle time sessions, drawing on the suggestions from the back page of the book to help explore the complex theme of bullying with children aged four to six years. "They could use a thumbs up / thumbs down show of hands at particular points in the story; is that a kind thing to do?", says Voisey. "Also as 'bullying' is a tricky word for younger children to fully understand and use properly, I would be tempted to describe the characters actions as unkind or kind." Children could go on to explore the idea of friendship that this story illustrates, for example, how was the Sparrow a good friend to Tufty? What kind of things do you do to be a good friend? "If they are having a class focus on friendship, the children could nominate friends to receive a 'Tufty Award' for kind acts," Voisey adds.

But it's not just in PSHE that the teachers found the books to be useful as they can be used across the curriculum for lessons in science, maths, literacy and drama said teacher Marie Berry. Keep Running Gingerbread Man, for example, "is an ideal book to use as part of healthy eating week and could be used as a stimuli in a healthy eating assembly".

That could be followed up in Science with discussions around healthy bodies and eating; creating healthy eating wheels and pyramids; cooking healthy meals and snacks and deciding what are better snacks to choose at 'snack exchanges'. Children could also consider why the other characters couldn’t keep up with the Gingerbread Man; what are the problems when we are unhealthy and what are the associated health risks with obesity?

In Literacy, the story could be used alongside work on traditional tales. Children could be encouraged to write alternative tales with moral message, or to write another traditional tale as a healthy eating advice book,

As for Maths, children could create a map of gingerbread man's escape, measuring how far he ran; and then timing themselves and seeing how far they can run in a specific time; as well as looking at cooking ideas with weighing and measuring.

Another of the stories, Snow White and the very Angry Dwarf, can be useful for literacy and drama lessons. Children can compare this tale to the original and then write their own version. The text can also be used as the basis from which to write a playscript and then perform the drama, and it can be useful in understanding how to use direct speech.

You're Not Ugly, Duckling also gives opportunities for children to role play the story, with children using paper headbands with a character's picture on it says Voisey, as well as topic-linked themes for eggs, the spring and farmyard animals. In literacy, children could write a 'sorry' letter from the ducklings to Tufty, or thank you letters to the sparrow; as well as 'Beware of the Fox' posters for the farmyard.

There are many opportunities for exploring these ideas further in other books in the series, each of which has detailed and useful notes at the back describing further activities for home or the classroom.

The full list of Fairytales Gone Wrong by Steve Smallman, published by QED, includes these titles:

You're Not Ugly, Duckling!
Snow White and the Very Angry Dwarf
Stinky Jack and the Beanstalk
Keep Running, Gingerbread Man
Get Some Rest, Sleeping Beauty!
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Wash Your Hair!
Blow Your Nose, Big Bad Wolf: A Story About Spreading Germs
Don't Pick Your Nose, Pinocchio
Eat Your Greens, Goldilocks
Give us a Smile, Cinderella

Fairytales Gone Wrong
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