Fables & Folktales: Simple Versions for Youngest Listeners
When you search for a fairy or folk tale, you'll often find umpteen retellings & modernizations & "fractured" versions in the library catalog. Here are my picks for which to choose when you want the plain, classic tale told simply enough for a preschooler. All have a good number of colorful illustrations and a simple, unembellished text.   Print this list Print this list

Contributed by Emily Lloyd

The three bears /
Barton, Byron.
Barton's bright, very simple illustrations and bare bones text make this version a perfect choice to read to 2-4-yr olds. If you're looking for a similarly simple text but more sumptuous illustrations, Paul Galdone's "The Three Bears" is the one to get.
Easy Fiction PZ8.1.B3135 Th 1991
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Little Red Riding Hood /
Ford, Bernette G.
A very clean, simple text with letters printed in a nice, big point size; friendly cartoonish illustrations. This version has the gentlest ending I've seen for this story--a woodsman "knocks out" the wolf and "unzips" his stomach (there's a cartoonish zipper down his middle, as if he were a pair of footy pajamas) to find Grandma inside.
Easy Fiction PZ8.F678 Li 2013
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The little red hen /
Galdone, Paul.
The classic, well-done. In some versions, the hen shares the bread or cake (here it's cake) with her chicks; in this one, she eats it by herself (has no chicks).
Easy Picture BookGALDONE
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The three billy goats Gruff /
Galdone, Paul.
Perfect, classic version, and man, is Galdone's troll ugly.
Children's Nonfiction Book398.20948 G
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The three bears /
Galdone, Paul.
Galdone's versions of folk & fairy tales are usually great choices when you want a simple telling for a young audience, and the Three Bears is no exception. Interestingly, here the bears are called not Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear, but Great Big Bear, Middle-Sized Bear, and Little Wee Bear, which also makes it a good choice for families that don't include a mother and a father (though "Great Big Bear" is occasionally referred to as "he" and "Middle-Sized Bear" as "she", the bears look like bears--naked--and aren't in gendered outfits).
Easy Fiction 398.245 G
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The ugly duckling /
Isadora, Rachel.
A little long--though I haven't found a shorter retelling--but the language is nice and the illustrations are outstanding. In one spot, Isadora reserves a full two-page spread for a tiny bit of text--"At night the ugly duckling would cry himself to sleep"--beautifully capturing the loneliness, isolation, and sadness of the "duckling" who has far too much space to himself.
Children's Nonfiction BookPZ8.I84 Ug 2009
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The gingerbread man /
Kimmel, Eric A.
A simple, classic retelling. I love this particular sly fox, the epitome of stranger danger ("Why, Gingerbread Man, you don't have to run from me. I am your friend. I want to help you.") Will work with preschoolers and up.
Children's Nonfiction BookPZ8.K527 Gi 1993
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The city mouse and the country mouse /
Percy, Graham.
A nice, clear telling of the classic story that isn't too wordy and will work for preschoolers. I dislike that the moral is printed in large letters on a page at the *beginning* of the book before the story opens--were I reading this to children I'd skip that page. It's printed again at the end of the story. The book isn't large--about 8.5" x 7.5--so best for reading to a smaller group, not a storytime of 60 kids.
Easy Fiction PZ8.2.P435 Cg 2010
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Goldilocks and the three bears /
Spirin, Gennady
A simple, not-too-wordy "Goldilocks" that will work with both preschool and older audiences. Detailed but not visually overwhelming illustrations--both the bears and Goldilocks seemed to be dressed for Renaissance Italy. Spirin's bears look seriously fierce when they learn G's been messing with their stuff, so a child with a pre-existing fear of bears or animals might quake a little, but they're ultimately harmless, and bid Goldilocks "Bye" cheerfully enough at the end.
Children's Nonfiction BookPZ8.1.S76733 Gol 2009
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