Top 20+ World's Best Fairy Tale Books Of All Time For Kids
Top 20+ World's Best Fairy Tale Books Of All Time For Kids
Table of Content

This extensive collection of fantastic children's fairy tale novels will enchant your children with fascinating tales that are rife with humor, intrigue, magic, and adventure.

These books are sure to delight and entertain, ranging from original and famous fairy tales like those by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen to novels that expose young children to softer versions of the tales.

For decades, fairytale novels have been a favorite among young readers. And as a result, there are many fairytale retellings for children. The fairytale genre is undoubtedly well-worn, appearing in everything from board books to picture books to pop-ups, from graphic novels to books for middle schoolers. However, as every fan of fairy tales knows, these tales are special in their capacity to be retold and reshaped in unique ways with each telling.

Here are the 20 best fairy tale books of all time for your kids, ranked by

Reasons Why Fairy Tales Are Essential to Childhood

Fairy Tales Show Kids How to Handle Problems

We learn from the characters in stories, even as adults. They help us because we connect to our own lives, dreams, anxieties, and consider what we would do in their shoes. Fairy tales help children learn how to navigate life. (Bettelheim, B. Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.)

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

― G.K. Chesterton

Fairy Tales Build Emotional Resiliency

Fairy tales depict contemporary problems in fanciful settings, where the hero typically prevails. (Unless in the original Grimm tales.) Children must learn in a secure setting that horrible things do happen to everyone. Since, guess what? No one is exempt from difficulties in life, so we must give our kids the skills they need. Should we help our children develop their emotional fortitude so they can withstand adversity, or do we shield and protect them, rendering them helpless to withstand anything demanding fortitude?

Fairy Tales Give Us a Common Language (Cultural Literacy & Canon)

Neil Gaiman writes, “We encounter fairytales as kids, in retellings or panto. We breathe them. We know how they go.”

Fairy Tales Cross Cultural Boundaries

Common fairy tales like Cinderella are shared by many nations, each with their own local twist. We read the many renditions and realize that we all have something in common: the desire to use narrative to explain life and the belief that good will ultimately prevail over evil.

Fairy Tales Teach Story

Fairy tales include learning the fundamentals of a story, such as the distinction between fiction and non-fiction, as well as the place, characters, and storyline (increasing action, climax, and conclusion). If a child is familiar with tale structure, it helps him predict what will happen next and grasp the other stories he is reading.

What Are Top 20 World's Best Fairy Tale Books Of All Time For Kids?

1. Blackberry Blue: And Other Fairy Tales

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

There are six stories in this collection. Blackberry Blue is a Cinderella story which pits a Raven Witch and her Wolf Son against a beautiful girl and true love. It's absolutely lovely. The Purple Lady is an evil Pied Piper type and Abu must show extreme courage and fortitude if he is to rescue his sister from her clutches. The Golden Carp is a parable about the way in which greed breeds other sins but generosity can bring good fortune. Emeka the Pathfinder sees an evil spell of transformation that can only be reversed by a special soul. Oddboy is a sad one, in which a lost boy understands the power of music. The Night Princess is all about doomed love and sacrifice. It's sad too, but also uplifting.

They are all absolutely gorgeous. Gavin brings them to life with simple but elegant and evocative prose that lifts from the pages. You can see, feel and even smell her stories. The themes are taken from the European tradition of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson but the flavour is more diverse. The heroes and heroines in these stories have beautiful dark skin and deep brown eyes. Gavin explains in her preface that she wanted to extend the European image so that more diverse children could identity with the characters and say that could be me. She has succeeded wonderfully.

“Here are six magical stories to thrill and enchant you. Watch Blackberry Blue rise from the bramble patch; follow Emeka the pathfinder on his mission to save a lost king; join Princess Desire as she gallops across the Milky Way on her jet-black horse.

These beautifully written and original stories will delight readers of all ages, and the stunning illustrations by Richard Collingridge will take your breath away.”

2. F is for Fairy Tale by Greg Paprocki

Photo: Angus and Robertson
Photo: Angus and Robertson

An engaging collection of 26 illustrations featuring many different fairy tales and fairy tale objects—such as Castle, for Cinderella; Lamp, for Aladdin; Tower, for Rapunzel; and Red Roses, for Alice in Wonderland. Teach your little ones to be just like a fairy tale hero with words such as Brave, for the brave little goat in Three Billy Goats Gruff; Fearless, for small Thumbelina who floats down a river; and Mighty, for the mighty little boy who pulls a sword from a stone. Illustrator Greg Paprocki’s popular BabyLit alphabet board books feature his classically retro midcentury art style that’s proven to be a hit with both toddlers and adults.

Greg Paprocki works full-time as an illustrator and book designer. He has illustrated several Curious George books, the Little Leonardo series, and the BabyLit alphabet board books including are S Is for Santa, B Is for Boo, and E Is for Easter. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Starting with A for adventurous, this beautiful board book captures castles, dragons, jewels, a unicorn, and more with an alphabet of fairy tale scenes featuring kids and animals for each letter all the way to ZZZZZzzzzz.

3. Bound by Donna Jo Napoli

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

In Ming Dynasty China, Xing Xing leads a quiet and lonely life. After the death of her mother when she was a child, and her father’s recent passing, all Xing Xing is left with is her father’s second wife, Stepmother, and a half-sister, Wei Ping. Though she has no dowry, Stepmother is determined to marry Wei Ping off to a respectable man, and so binds her daughter’s feet (though she is much older than the ideal age for initiating the process). While Wei Ping suffers the excruciating pain of her binding, Xing Xing, or “Lazy One” as she is called by Stepmother, is left to care for the household chores. Seeing her half-sister’s pain and inability to leave their cave, Xing Xing does not mind her place and takes solace in the memory of her calligraphy and composition, skills her father encouraged her to develop when he was alive. But when Wei Ping’s bound feet begin to fester and putrefy, it is up to Xing Xing to fetch the help of a traveling medicine man, and save Wei Ping from a slow, seeping death.

Although it is technically a Cinderella story, complete with a ball, a prince, and a missing slipper, Donna Jo Napoli’s Bound is much more a tale about three women – Xing Xing, Wei Ping, and Stepmother – their roles, and their relationships with each other. Although the tone of the novel is geared towards younger adults and middle grade readers, Bound is a beautifully written, deeply layered and subversive novel, filled to the brim with questions of family, the role of women, and the notions of independence versus tradition.

In Xing Xing’s China, young women who mean to attract any sort of prospects must have their feet bound to achieve the graceful lotus shape and desirable gait. While Wei Ping’s feet are literally bound in order to be physically attractive and societally acceptable, Xing Xing also finds her self bound, by her precarious family ties. Although, like Xing Xing, some women had become educated in calligraphy and other arts, her world is still one steeped in tradition, and without a dowry or any potential for marriage, she relies on the kindness of Stepmother and the protection of her ancestors to keep from being sold as a slave. Stepmother herself is another intriguing character bound in her own way, by her own past and role in the world as a widowed wife who was unable to produce a male heir, and unable to attract a husband for her only daughter. Desperate to provide food and a living for her family, and to ward away a bad luck demon that she insists has taken over their cave, Stepmother is not the Disneyfied caricature of “Evil” – not by a long shot. The murky, tense relationship these three women share cannot be so simply reduced to labels like “good” and “bad” but are complicated, believable tangles of duty and emotion.

Donna Jo Napoli’s writing and thought-provoking themes are the true draw to this memorable book. Though parts are violent and gruesome and others are poetically beautiful, Bound is a moving reimagining that is not to be missed.

4. Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales by Nelson Mandela

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

Nobel Peace laureate Mandela understandably gets top billing here, but this collection of short fables compiles writings and translations by numerous authors and features illustrations by a diverse collection of artists. Together, the tales and their accompanying artwork create a patchwork of legends drawn from all over the African continent, from Morocco to Kenya to Swaziland. Snakes with seven heads and Zulu tricksters are found here, as well as various creation myths and a Kenyan lion (with the familiar name of Simba) who teaches a cunning hyena a lesson. The colorful birds, giant elephants and mischievous children populating the volume teach sometimes cryptic lessons about obedience, perseverance, cooperation and the simple strangeness of life. In one story, the children of an East African village must destroy a beautiful and enchanting bird that has brought bad luck to the surrounding countryside. In another, a courageous girl frees a prince from the spell that made him a python. In tales such as these, the dream-like, unpredictable symbology and sometimes cruel morality of myths resonate, and, in Mandela's words, the ""gritty essence of Africa"" shines through in stories with universal themes.

A collection of favorites from the beloved activist, this anthology is brimming with vibrant storytelling. Featuring stories from all over the continent of Africa, this is a wonderful book. With fascinating characters and beautiful creation myths, this collection of 32 stories will truly transport you. There is even an audiobook that’s brimming with any much-loved voices including LeVar Burton.

5. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Photo: Little Book, Big Story
Photo: Little Book, Big Story

“Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn’t help it—Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn’t fit anywhere else.

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it’s never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack’s heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it’s up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she’s read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn’t the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen,’ Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.”

Breadcrumbs is a beautiful fable that follows young Hazel on an impossible journey not only to save her best friend, but to discover her own sense of worth. So many times on her journey, Hazel questions herself – because, as a perpetual outsider, Jack is the only person that has ever made Hazel fit (or so she thinks). With her parents recently divorced, her father has a new life with a new family and no time for Hazel or her mother, and Hazel herself feels alone and awkward in a school that does not appreciate her scope for imagination. Furthermore, as an adopted child from India, Hazel feels even more estranged from her classmates.

6. The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M.Romero

Photo: Ko-fi
Photo: Ko-fi

“Karolina is a living doll whose king and queen have been overthrown. But when a strange wind spirits her away from the Land of the Dolls, she finds herself in Krakow, Poland, in the company of the Dollmaker, a man with an unusual power and a marked past.

The Dollmaker has learned to keep to himself, but Karolina’s courageous and compassionate manner lead him to smile and to even befriend a violin-playing father and his daughter—that is, once the Dollmaker gets over the shock of realizing a doll is speaking to him.

But their newfound happiness is dashed when Nazi soldiers descend upon Poland. Karolina and the Dollmaker quickly realize that their Jewish friends are in grave danger, and they are determined to help save them, no matter what the risks.”

Karolina is a refugee from the Land of the Dolls. Her homeland has been ravaged by rats and Karolina was blown by a magical wind into Krakow, Poland, at the height of WWII. She finds herself in a workshop belonging to Cyryl, known as the Dollmaker of Krakow. Lonely, crippled Cyryl repairs Karolina and the two cement a strong friendship which helps Cyryl in his life outside the workshop. But it's not just the Land of the Dolls suffering under a vicious enemy: it's Poland, too. Together, Karolina and Cyryl befriend their Jewish neighbours and determine to do whatever the can to save from the monstrous Nazi regime...

There is a great deal to like in this blend of magical fantasy and historical realism. The evocative descriptions of Polish culture and folklore will be new to many readers and they are developed with both accuracy and affection. The two main characters, Karolina the magical doll and Cyryl the dollmaker, are perfect foils for one another. Karolina is impetuous, direct, blunt and determined. She brings out the best in the quiet, retiring Cyryl, whose experience and history has led him to retire from the world. The main quest - saving the pair's Jewish neighbours from the Nazis - is something every reader can get behind. And each setting - Poland under the Nazis and the Land of the Dolls - is beautifully realised.

7. Girls, Giant and Goddesses: Tales Of Heroines From Around The World by Lari Don

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

Scottish storyteller Lari Don here recreates 12 stories culled from the traditions of every continent. She has retained the savage elements of the originals, and, in the very helpful source notes at the back of the book, she admits to playing up the goriness of some of climaxes.

Only a small number of the stories are likely to be familiar. The Wolf in the Bed is a version of Red Riding Hood in which the human aspects of the wolf are chillingly emphasized. Vasillisa’s visit to Baba Yaga highlights the solidarity between the young women and the oppressed animal servants. In the story of Durga and the Demon, the ten armed Goddess uses a panoply of weapons to maim, mutilate and finally slay her frantically shape-shifting opponent. Shape-shifting also occurs in the Scottish story of the Giant’s Heart, in which the elusive organ is hidden inside an egg inside a salmon inside a duck inside a stag inside a tree stump. The heroine of this story winkles the location out of the giant who has kidnapped her by pretending to fall in love with him.

In all of the stories, courage mingled with ingenuity and bloody-minded determination win the day, though not all of the heroines survive their challenges. Kindness and good manners are also rewarded: in the Cameroonian tale of Mbango and the whirlpool, the heroine helps an old lady before politely accepting the offer of a plate of pig dung as a thank you meal. The pace and imagery of the stories are thrillingly intense, and the writer addresses the reader in a direct lively voice that mingles the brutality with wry humour in the manner of Angela Carter or Susan Price. They are excellent for reading aloud. This outstanding collection is embellished with Francesca Greenwood’s spirited silhouettes of characters and motifs.

Featuring stories of bravery from girls all over the world, this collection is perfect for the young heroine in your life. With 11 stories to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Each tale is full of strength and determination, but also kindness and magic. A great collection for any age.

8. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

Ella Enchanted is a Newbery Honor book written by Gail Carson Levine and published in 1997. The story is a retelling of Cinderella featuring various mythical creatures including fairies, elves, ogres, gnomes, and giants. In 2006, Levine went on to write Fairest, a retelling of the story of Snow White, set in the same world as Ella Enchanted. In 2018, Levine published Ogre Enchanted, a prequel to Ella Enchanted.

On April 9, 2004, a movie loosely based on the novel was released. It was directed by Tommy O'Haver and starred Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy as Ella and Prince Charmont, respectively. The film received mostly mixed reviews, and was heavily criticized for its changes to the source material. Levine stated that the film is "so different from the book that it's hard to compare them," noting the addition of new characters such as Sir Edgar and Heston, and suggested "regarding the movie as a separate creative act".

When Ella was just a baby, the fairy Lucinda bestowed a gift on her. Inspired by her crying, the fairy placed the gift of obedience on the baby. When Ella is around fourteen, she and her mother are taken ill. Ella recovers, because she drinks the soup with unicorn hairs while her mother (who takes out the unicorn hairs) dies. Her cook Mandy reveals herself to be her Fairy godmother. She is also given two gifts by Mandy: a gnome-crafted necklace from her mother and a magic book which allows her to see diary entries, letters and fairy tales. At her mother's funeral, Ella meets the kingdom's prince, Char, who expresses fondness for her mother. At the wake, she is introduced to Dame Olga and her terrible daughters, Hattie and Olive.

Her father, Peter, decides to send her to finishing school with the two mean sisters. Before leaving she visits all of her favorite places, once again running into Char, who enjoys her company. At the royal menagerie, they encounter a Gnome toddler standing too close to the Ogre pen. Char saves him in time but hands him to Ella. Ella is then ordered by the Ogre to bring the child to him and against her will she starts toward the pen. They are only saved when Char commands her to stop.

On the trip to finishing school, Hattie discovers that Ella does whatever she is told and uses this for her own gain. Her first act is taking Ella's mother's necklace and then depriving Ella of food for the next three days. At school, she is constantly ordered and corrected, taking solace in her new friend, Areida. When Hattie orders Ella to end her friendship with Areida, Ella cannot stand this and sets out to find Lucinda so that she can reverse the spell. She learns of a Giant wedding and hopes to find her there.

Ella comes upon the kingdom of Elves, who offer a warm welcome and provisions for the journey ahead. The next morning, she awakens surrounded by ogres who plan on devouring her. She is given the command not to run away, so she is trapped, and stays up all night practicing her persuasive Ogrese in hopes of using it on the ogres. It works and she talks them back to sleep, just in time for Char and his soldiers to show up and apprehend them. The men are impressed with Ella's ability. One of his men is sent to escort Ella to the Giant wedding.

Lucinda unintentionally curses the bride and groom to always be together, and two other fairies in attendance give her grief for ruining the newlyweds' lives. Ella then learns that ungrateful recipients of her gifts often end up as squirrels and decides to use an alias when talking to her. Ella tells her she desires more mettle for she is too obedient, but Lucinda tells Ella to "be happy to be blessed with such a lovely quality" and Ella is forced to feel happy because of her 'gift.'

9. The Happy Prince And Other Stories By Oscar Wilde

Photo: Penguin Books
Photo: Penguin Books

The Happy Prince and Other Tales is a collection of short stories for children by Oscar Wilde. It contains The Happy Prince, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Selfish Giant, The Devoted Friend, and The Remarkable Rocket.

Among the many commendable things about this collection are the style and voice. Oscar Wilde uses the most basic of words to get his ideas across. He is very straight to the point, and what makes this approach even more powerful is the fact that the style is lyrical at the same time. The simplistic yet lyrical writing style gives this book a magical impression.

But this collection is not just for the entertainment of children. It could also be enjoyed by the adults. The stories, even though their premises seem to be too simplistic and childish, are actually metaphorical and allegorical -- much like the episodes of Alice in Wonderland. They have subtleties that could not be easily detected by children, and that’s where the adult audience come into play.

The Happy Prince, the story where the collection gets its name, is a clear example of this. At the outermost layer, it is just about a statue who pities the poor people of the city. He then decides to help them by making a swallow, which has been separated from its fellow birds, pluck his valuable statue materials out of himself, to give to the poor for pawning. But it doesn’t take a literary genius to realize that this story is about compassion, and that compassion always has its pay-offs in the end. This style is also employed in the other stories of the collection. The Nightingale and the Rose presents a subtle naivety on love and appreciation. It does this in such a romantic voice that this voice has come to contradict itself, giving an ironic notion, according to Paper Prophet review.

10. The Firework Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

This short story from the author of I Was a Rat! and Clockwork takes place in an unnamed kingdom, where a girl named Lila has been raised by her firework-maker father. She wants to follow in his footsteps, but he thinks a girl’’s place is to get married. Meanwhile, her best friend Chulak is planning to run away with the king’s talking white elephant, Hamlet, whom Chulak takes out for exercise.

One day Chulak tricks Lila’s father into telling him the secret to becoming a firework-maker. As soon as she hears about it, Lila set off for the volcano where the Fire Fiend is to give her the royal sulfur she needs. Then Lalchand, the firework-maker, tells Chulak the other part of the secret: without magic water from the Goddess of the Emerald Lake, Lila will be burned to a crisp! Chulak and Hamlet immediately run away, racing to get the water and bring it to Lila before it is too late.

Though their journey through the jungle includes humorous encounters with a group of hapless would-be pirates, etc., the best part of the story takes place when Lila returns and finds her father under arrest for stealing the king’’s elephant. The king offers Lalchand a chance to live – but only if he wins a firework contest against brilliant craftsmen from Germany, Italy, and America.

Here is a story that sizzles and pops with excitement, humor, mystery, and suspense. The courage and friendship of Lila, Chula, and Hamlet are both enjoyable and uplifting, and the solution to Lila’s quest may provoke some serious thought and discussion.

Recommended Age: 12+

11. Princess and the Peas

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

“In this adaptation of ‘The Princess and the Pea,’ Ma Sally cooks the best black-eyed peas in Charleston County, South Carolina. Her son, John, is a highly eligible bachelor, and three local women vie for his hand in marriage by attempting to cook as well as Ma. At the last minute, a surprise contestant named Princess arrives at the door. Princess and John are well-matched, but Princess has her own ideas. When told she has won John’s hand, she asks him to scrub the pots and pans before she’ll give him an answer. Her answer, it turns out, is that she wants to spend some time getting to know John first.

Backmatter includes an author’s note and a recipe for Princess’s Black-eyed Peas.”

Top 20+ World Top 20+ World's Best Fairy Tales (Full Text) Must Read For Kids Every Night

12. The Goose girl by Shannon Hale

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

The Goose Girl is a fantasy novel by Shannon Hale based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the same title, published by Bloomsbury in 2003. It is Hale's debut novel and the first in her Books of Bayern series. It follows the story of Anidori-Kiladra "Ani" Talianna Isilee (later called "Isi"), Crown Princess of Kildenree, as she travels to the neighboring kingdom of Bayern to wed their Crown Prince. On the journey, she is usurped by her jealous lady-in-waiting, and must prove her true identity as the princess. Critical reception of the novel was mostly positive. The book won the 2003 Josette Frank Award for fiction and has been published in English, Spanish, Hungarian, Dutch, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

When crown princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee was born, she did not open her eyes until her aunt held her. The woman became her nursemaid and constant companion, nicknaming her Ani and telling her stories about three gifts people have: people-speaking, animal-speaking, and nature-speaking. The aunt has the second ability, and teaches Ani to speak with birds, mainly swans. Ani grows to be more comfortable at the pond than in the palace. When her aunt leaves, Ani is forced to abandon her unique talent. At age sixteen, she devotes herself to preparing to be the next Queen of Kildenree, but finds solace in communicating with her horse, Falada. After her father dies, Ani's mother tells her that, instead of becoming queen, she is to travel to the kingdom of Bayern and marry their crown prince. During the journey, half of the royal guards mutiny and attempt to kill the princess and replace her with Selia, Ani's lady-in-waiting; but Ani flees, leaving behind Falada.

After days of walking in the forest and recovering from near starvation, Ani assumes the alias of "Isi," and travels into the capital of Bayern. She soon discovers that Selia has assumed the role of princess. Ani finds a job tending the king's geese, and lives among other animal workers to whom she tells stories. After a few hiccups, she learns to use her animal-speaking skills to communicate with the geese. In this time, she slowly discovers her nature-speaking ability: understanding and eventually manipulating wind. Ani also befriends a royal guard named Geric, and soon they begin to develop romantic feelings for each other. One day, Ani's best friend, Enna, discovers her secret identity and swears to help her reclaim the throne when the time comes. Geric tells Ani that the execution of Falada has been planned; she tries to rescue him, but is too late. He later sends her a letter saying he will be unable to see her anymore. Ani continues life as the goose girl, and uses her animal-speaking and wind-speaking abilities to save her geese from thieves. She then learns that Selia has spread a rumor that Kildenree is planning to attack Bayern. Ungolad, Selia's most loyal guard, hunts Ani down and stabs her in the back. She narrowly escapes and flees to the forest, where she heals. It is here that she discovers one of her loyal guards, Talone, has survived, and he accompanies her back to the kingdom. When she returns, Enna had told the other animal workers Ani's secret, and they rally behind her.

The group rides to the castle where the wedding is to take place. It is here that Ani confronts Selia and learns that the Crown Prince of Bayern is actually Geric. Selia and Ungolad trap Ani alone, but before they can kill her, an eavesdropping Geric appears with the king in tow after hearing Selia's full confession. A fight breaks out; and Geric, with the help of Ani's wind-speaking, defeats Ungolad. Selia is also captured. Days later, Ani goes before the king and convinces him that Kildenree has no plans to attack Bayern. Geric is impressed by this and Ani's knowledge of Bayern. Now that she is proven to be his true betrothed, they acknowledge their love for each other and happily rule together.

13. Grounded by Megan Morrison

Photo: WordPress
Photo: WordPress

In all of Tyme, from the Redlands to the Grey, no one is as lucky as Rapunzel. She lives in a magic tower that obeys her every wish; she reads wonderful books starring herself as the heroine; her hair is the longest, most glorious thing in the world. And she knows this because Witch tells her so---her beloved Witch, who protects her from evil princes, the dangerous ground under the tower, even unhappy thoughts. Rapunzel can't imagine any other life.

Then a thief named Jack climbs into her room to steal one of her enchanted roses. He's the first person Rapunzel's ever met who isn't completely charmed by her (well, the first person she's met at all, really), and he is infuriating-- especially when he hints that Witch isn't telling her the whole truth. Driven by anger at Jack and her own nameless fears, Rapunzel descends to the ground for the first time, and finds a world filled with more peril than Witch promised ... and more beauty, wonder, and adventure than she could have dreamed.

14. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

"One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century."—Time magazine on the Fairyland series

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn't . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when author Catherynne M. Valente first posted it online as a serialized novel. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is the first book in the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente, with beautiful black-and-white illustrations by Ana Juan. Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of the Fairyland series, for young readers, and the author of many books for adults, including Radiance.

The adventures continue in the rest of the Fairyland series, including The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Volume Two), The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Volume Three), The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (Volume Four), and The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home (Volume Five.) Not since Oz has there been a land, or a cast of characters, so rich and entrancing. This deluxe paperback edition contains bonus materials, including interviews with the author and the illustrator.

15. Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales

A volume that transports readers to a place where the lines between beastly natures and beautiful appearances can be difficult to discern.

Here are 12 familiar European fairy tales, folktales, and classic stories retold in ways that evoke elements of the traditional versions, populated by slightly different casts, and focusing on particular aspects of their usual forms. The tales include, among others, an ironically named Snow White with dark skin, persecuted for the form her beauty takes; South Asian siblings who hopefully follow a trail of rosewater and saffron sweets after being left in the forest by their father and stepmother; and a beautiful brown-skinned prince cursed to appear as a beast and the Chinese girl who moves into his castle to spare her father’s life (the two of them bond over books). The entries are expertly crafted with a deep understanding of the source material and are updated with feminist sensibilities, the addition of some queer relationships, and the inclusion of racial and ethnic diversity. Chainani’s writing is raw in what it lays bare on the page, perfectly appropriate to revisiting these beloved, ubiquitous stories that may have left readers with naïve expectations or dissatisfied conclusions. Chainani infuses his retellings with practicality while still evoking the wonder, terror, and magic of the fantasy realms. Final illustrations not seen.

For any lover of fairy tales who seeks alternative endings. (Fantasy. 11-adult)

16. Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

Magical realism in children’s novels is a rarity. It’s not unheard of, but when children’s authors want fantasy, they write fantasy. When they want reality, they write reality. A potentially uncomfortable mix of the two is harder to pull off. Ambiguity is not unheard of in books for youth, but it’s darned hard to write. Why go through all that trouble? For that reason alone we don’t tend to see it in children’s books. Kids like concrete concepts. Good guys vs. bad guys. This is real vs. this is a dream. But a clever author, one who respects the intelligence of their young audience, can upset expectations without sacrificing their story. When author Nikki Loftin decided to adapt Hans Christian Andersen’s tale The Nightingale into a middle grade contemporary novel, she made a conscious decision to make the book a work of magical realism. A calculated risk, Loftin’s gambit pays off. Nightingale’s Nest is a painful but ultimately emotionally resonant tale of sacrifice and song. A remarkably competent book, stronger for its one-of-a-kind choices.

It doesn’t seem right that a twelve-year-old boy would carry around a guilt as deep and profound as Little John’s. But when you feel personally responsible for the death of your little sister, it’s hard to let go of those feelings. It doesn’t help matters any that John has to spend the summer helping his dad clear brush for the richest man in town, a guy so extravagant, the local residents just call him The Emperor. It’s on one of these jobs that John comes to meet and get to know The Emperor’s next door neighbor, Gayle. About the age of his own sister when she died, Gayle’s a foster kid who prefers sitting in trees in her own self-made nest to any other activity. But as the two become close friends, John notices odd things about the girl. When she sings it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before, and she even appears to possibly have the ability to heal people with her voice. It doesn’t take long before The Emperor becomes aware of the treasure in his midst. He wants Gayle’s one of a kind voice, and he’ll do anything to have it. The question is, what does John think is more important: His family’s livelihood or the full-throated song of one little girl?

17. Reflection by Elizabeth Lim

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

This book is another Disney Twisted tale is a retelling of Mulan. It twists the original Mulan story by taking us a journey of What if Mulan had to travel to the Underworld?

Fa Mulan is under disguise in China’s army. She is known as Ping, and everyone thinks she is a boy fighting in the regime. No one knows who she is except for Mulan (and her guardian and cricket) that she has disguised herself to save her old, sickly father from having to fight.

In a deadly battle against the Huns, Mulan/Ping saves her comrades, but in the process, her Captain, Li Shang, takes a fatal hit that should’ve struck Mulan/Ping. The guilt of watching Li Shang suffer is more than she can bear. It is why she decides to venture down to the Underworld, known as Diyu, to try to save him.

With the help of ShiShi, the lion guardian of the Li family, Mulan faces the ruler of the Underworld, King Yama. To save Li Shang, Mulan must survive the depths of the Underworld, battling demons and ghosts out to take her life. But first, she must convince Li Shang she is really who she says he is and allow him to decide to fight to live on his won, according to Heyits Carly Rae.

Top 10 Best Free Websites to Download or Listen Audiobooks Right Now Top 10 Best Free Websites to Download or Listen Audiobooks Right Now

18. The Isle of The Lost by Melissa De La Cruz

Photo: Amazon
Photo: Amazon

“Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made to live in virtual imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost. The island is surrounded by a magical force field that keeps the villains and their descendants safely locked up and away from the mainland. Life on the island is dark and dreary. It is a dirty, decrepit place that’s been left to rot and forgotten by the world.

But hidden in the mysterious Forbidden Fortress is a dragon’s eye: the key to true darkness and the villains’ only hope of escape. Only the cleverest, evilest, nastiest little villain can find it…who will it be?”

19. The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

“Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.

With its able and gutsy heroine, lyrical narration, and inventive twist on the classic Haitian folktale ‘The Magic Orange Tree,’ The Jumbies will be a favorite of fans of Breadcrumbs, A Tale Dark and Grimm, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.”

20. Fairy Tale Comics by Chriss Duffy

Photo: Goodreads
Photo: Goodreads

A lovely collection of fairytales by your favorite children’s comics are compiled in this visually stunning collection. Perfect for the young comic book reader in your life, this collection is a fresh take on the classics. Included are Jamie Hernandez’s take on Hansel and Gretel and Brett Helquist’s version of Rumplestiltskin. There’s a lot to love about this collection.

21. Seven Wild Sisters

In this lovely sequel to The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, the earlier story's heroine, Lillian, now elderly, still lives in a simple house in a secluded hollow, up in the hills. Strong-willed Sarah Jane lives with her mother and six feisty sisters in the nearest town, but she loves the woods and soon befriends Lillian, who is full of wondrous stories about the local fairies. When Sarah Jane saves the life of a tiny ‘sangman (ginseng fairy) struck by many tiny arrows, she enters into her own fairy story. The ‘sangmen, it seems, are at war with the bee fairies, and the two hostile fairy tribes soon take Sarah Jane's sisters hostage, hoping to trade them for the tiny man. Vess's illustrations are gracefully in sync with the storyline, and de Lint fleshes out both major and minor human characters, as well as mythical creatures like Lillian's fairy love, the Apple Tree Man. The lyrical narrative blends a contemporary setting with a fairy tale that might have been plucked from a distinctly different time and place. Ages 8–12.

22. Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible

Sleeping Beauty gets a feisty, furry twist in this hilarious new comic series from the creator of Dragonbreath

Harriet Hamsterbone is not your typical princess. She may be quite stunning in the rodent realm (you’ll have to trust her on this one), but she is not so great at trailing around the palace looking ethereal or sighing a lot. She finds the royal life rather . . . dull. One day, though, Harriet’s parents tell her of the curse that a rat placed on her at birth, dooming her to prick her finger on a hamster wheel when she’s twelve and fall into a deep sleep. For Harriet, this is most wonderful news: It means she’s invincible until she’s twelve! After all, no good curse goes to waste. And so begins a grand life of adventure with her trusty riding quail, Mumfrey…until her twelfth birthday arrives and the curse manifests in a most unexpected way.

Perfect for fans of Babymouse and Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories, this laugh-out-loud new comic hybrid series will turn everything you thought you knew about princesses on its head.

23. ADELITA: A Mexican Cinderella Story

There's no pumpkin coach or glass slipper in sight, but Cinderella fans will find much to like in dePaola's (26 Fairmount Avenue) original twist, infused with Mexican warmth and color. Following her father's sudden death, Adelita is left to suffer the abuse of her cruel stepmother and stepsisters. Adelita's kindly nanny/housekeeper takes on the role of fairy godmother, making certain that the girl has something to wear to the party thrown by a local wealthy family to honor their (eligible bachelor) son, Javier. Adelita makes an unforgettable impression at the gala, draped in a dramatic red shawl that was her mother's; Adelita uses it to signal to Javier when he comes looking for her the next day. DePaola tweaks just enough details to make his version fresh; his liberal use of Spanish phrases (translated within the text) and cultural details enlighten as they enliven. He humorously winks at readers, too, by having his characters refer to the classic story ("All Doña Micaela and her two daughters could talk about was 'the mysterious Cenicienta' [Cinderella] who had appeared and then disappeared from the fiesta, just like the fairy tale"). His vibrant acrylics incorporate folk art motifs as well as rustic domestic items. The jazzy design features mosaic-like tile backgrounds of varying shades that frame smaller panels and portraits throughout. Ages 5-up.

24. The Girl Who Married the Moon: Tales from Native North America

Bruchac and Ross (How Rabbit Tricked Otter) team up for a companion volume to Bruchac's Flying with Eagle, Racing with Great Bear, a collection of Native American tales that focused on boys' rites of passage. Here, girls or young women are the protagonists of 16 stories intended ``to reach the daughters and granddaughters who will come after.'' Becoming a woman and marrying correctly are common themes: brave and resourceful heroines escape monsters and kidnappers, comically avoid marriage to trickster Owl or tragically die with their husbands. Unusual selections include ``The Beauty Way,'' a recounting of an Apache rite of passage; ``Stonecoat,'' the defeat of an evil and powerful medicine man by women who use the power of their ``moontime''; and the title story, in which a girl not only marries the moon but shares his job with him. Comments on the stories open the four sections of the book (Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest), each of which contains tales from four different nations (e.g., Penobscot, Seneca, Passamaquoddy and Mohegan for the Northeast). An afterword and source notes close this useful resource for storytelling and multicultural learning. Ages 10-13.

25. Brothers of the Knight (Picture Puffin Books)

Debbie Allen's contemporary retelling of the classic tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses with illustrations from Kadir Nelson!

Reverend Knight can't understand why his twelve sons' sneakers are torn to threads each and every morning, and the boys aren't talking. They know their all-night dancing wouldn't fit with their father's image in the community. Maybe Sunday, a pretty new nanny with a knack for getting to the bottom of household mysteries, can crack the case. This modern, hip retelling of the classic tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses bursts with vibrant artwork and text that's as energetic as the twelve toe-tapping Knight brothers themselves.

26. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

“Once upon a time, there were three hungry Dinosaurs: Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur…and a Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway.

One day—for no particular reason—they decided to tidy up their house, make the beds, and prepare pudding of varying temperatures. And then—for no particular reason—they decided to go…someplace else. They were definitely NOT setting a trap for some succulent, unsupervised little girl.

Definitely not!”

27. The Little Mermaid (Pop-Up Classics)

“A beloved under-the-sea tale is now a pop-up masterpiece, from expert craftsman Robert Sabuda.

Come along on a magical journey under the sea in this stunning pop-up adaptation of the beloved fairy tale ‘The Little Mermaid,’ expertly crafted by renowned paper engineer Robert Sabuda. Amazing three-dimensional paper structures pop off each page, bringing this classic underwater adventure to life. This visually stunning tale of adventure, true love, and sacrifice is sure to become a favorite in any story-lover’s library.”

28. Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion

“Yum! The lovely Alex serves up a sweet treat fairy tale. A hungry lion. A little girl. A box of doughnuts…? Gorgeous proof that a perfect picture book can look even more tempting than a sweet shop window. Worried about wolves? Don’t make Little Red laugh. She’s not even scared of hungry lions. After all, why would this furry chap want to gobble her up? She’s sure he’d rather have a doughnut. Right, Mr Lion? A sassy heroine, beautiful artwork, jungle animals, a funny twist on a tale you adore. Once again, the World Book Day artist gets us all eating from his hand.”

29. Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China

“Not for the faint-hearted, Lon Po Po (Grandmother Wolf) is a tale of a menacing danger and courage. (Young’s) command of page composition and his sensitive use of color give the book a visual force that matches the strength of the story and stands as one of the illustrator’s best efforts.” —Booklist

30. Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood

“Big Bad Gator Claude will do anything to have a taste of Petite Rouge…even if it means putting on a duck bill, flippers, and frilly underwear. He presents no match for the spunky heroine and her quick-thinking cat TeJean, though, as they use some strong Cajun hot sauce to teach Claude a lesson he will never forget! The combination of hilarious rhyme and exaggerated art creates a highly original retelling of the classic fairy tale. A pronunciation guide/glossary accompanies a tempting dialect that begs to be read aloud or acted out again and again. This is Little Red Riding Hood as she’s never been seen before: Cajun and ducky.” Sleeping Beauty gets a feisty, furry twist in this hilarious new comic series from the creator of Dragonbreath

Harriet Hamsterbone is not your typical princess. She may be quite stunning in the rodent realm (you’ll have to trust her on this one), but she is not so great at trailing around the palace looking ethereal or sighing a lot. She finds the royal life rather . . . dull. One day, though, Harriet’s parents tell her of the curse that a rat placed on her at birth, dooming her to prick her finger on a hamster wheel when she’s twelve and fall into a deep sleep. For Harriet, this is most wonderful news: It means she’s invincible until she’s twelve! After all, no good curse goes to waste. And so begins a grand life of adventure with her trusty riding quail, Mumfrey…until her twelfth birthday arrives and the curse manifests in a most unexpected way.

Perfect for fans of Babymouse and Chris Colfer’s Land of Stories, this laugh-out-loud new comic hybrid series will turn everything you thought you knew about princesses on its head.

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If you’re a bookworm, getting audiobooks for free that you can download and listen to can save you a lot of money. Thankfully, these are ...

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If you're looking for great books for reading next years, check out KnowInsiders' list right below with short reviews to choose your favorite ones!