Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPIB: Once Upon a Time

upon a time, there were tales . . . and today, those tales are being re-told.  With a twist.

One of my very favorite fairy tales retold is Enchanted by Orson Scott Card.  It is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty; but what I really love about it is the way he portrays the magic of womanhood.  What we call women’s intuition he calls magic and as he weaves his world you know that you are a part of something special.

Some of my other favorites include Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (great book, horrible horrible movie) and Beastly by Alex Flinn (ditto).  It is fun to read these twisted takes on old stories and see how they can be re-imagined.

And how can you overlook the always fantastic The Princess Bride by William Goldman.  And the movie, a perennial classic that still should work with the teen audience . . .

The Grandson: A book?
Grandpa: That’s right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today I’m gonna read it to you.
The Grandson: Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa: Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…
The Grandson: Doesn’t sound too bad. I’ll try to stay awake.
Grandpa: Oh, well, thank you very much, very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.

Just, brilliant. (More The Princess Bride quotes at IMDB)

Soon there will be 2 shows debuting on TV that focus on retelling classic fairy tales:  Once Upon a Time and Grimm.

The zeitgeist is right to start pushing those teen fiction tales, old and new, by making displays and doing programming tie ins.  Why here’s a poster to help you with your display needs.  You’re welcome.

You can download the poster at http://www.box.net/shared/p8o2qc10ebs93tt1d6jt

There is a pretty good list of fairy tales old and new at GoodReads.  There are also some here, here and herePublisher’s Weekly also had an article in the February 17, 2011 edition that talks about a new Harlequin series.

Teen Program in a Box:

Fairy tales of all types are great for programming tie-ins.  You can be creative, and inspire creativity.  You can go big, or simply spend an afternoon reading tales and eating cookies (but don’t eat too many, you never know when a witch is trying to fatten you up to put you in the stew.)

For younger teens, bead and princess themed crafts would work.  You can also do some Nerf jousting.  Build castles out of Legos.  Play capture the flag.  Life size chess (think Harry Potter) or Battleship would also work.  Do not underestimate the fun in some water fights during the summer months (outside of course).

If you are so inclined, these stories are a great opportunity to engage in some fun reader’s theater activities.  Or you could have the teens make and put on fairy tale inspired puppet shows for younger kids.  John Sciezka tales would work great for that.  You could have a series of events where teens selected the pieces, wrote the scripts, discusses approach and practiced, and then presented.  This is a great idea for increasing teen involvement in your programming.

Fairy tales are ripe for creative writing and drawing exercises.  The exquisite corpse works for both storytelling as well as creature drawing.  Also, any activities that focuses on monsters, costuming (think Project Runway type challenges), and survival (let’s face it – we all want to survive the evil beings that haunt fairy tale land).

You can set up a fairy tale themed scavenger hunt through your library where they have to help Little Red Riding Hood get the basket of goodies to grandma.  They collect the basket of goodies as part of the scavenger hunt.  Be sure and get a teen to play the part of the big bad wolf and create fun obstacles along the way.

Don’t think for a moment that teens don’t let to be pampered like a princess, so princess make-overs would definitely work.  You could decorate flip flops to be pseudo glass slippers and make bead tiaras.  And there are some great spa activities in Beauty: Things to Make and Do by Jennifer Traig.

Fairy tales are full of imagination, which makes them fun to adapt for programming.  You can find tie-ins for a variety of crafts and activities.  And the more creative opportunities you allow teens to engage in, the better.  If you don’t want to do come to the library programming, you can do drawing and story telling programming in the form of contests where teens create and share online.

Whatever you do, be sure to tap into this pop culture moment and strike while the iron is hot.  And please feel free to share your programming ideas and pictures in the comments or on the TLT FB wall.


  1. What is the very cool font used for the “Once” headline??

  2. Anonymous says

    It's called Bleeding Cowboys. You can get it free on dafont.com 🙂

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