Fairytale Basics: Jack and the Beanstalk

We are quickly running out of time at the end of our school year, it’s crazy! But I still have time to read a few more fairytales with the first grade.  Today we read Jack and the Beanstalk retold by Steven Kellogg.


The kids liked this story a lot! Of course it helps a lot that Kellogg’s illustrations are outstanding.  There is always so much to see on his pages. One of the things we noticed that the Princess on the title page has a big white great dane that looks like Pinkerton from Kellogg’s hilarious series.  I’ve seen Pinkerton in so many of his books lately that I wonder if he’s in all of them….I need to research that more.  But, back to Jack.  In this version, there is no giant.  Instead, the people living at the top of the beanstalk are very tall and the man is an ogre.


He’s quite ferocious. Otherwise, we agreed that this is the basic Jack story, though some of the kids didn’t realize that he stole from the giant or ogre three times.  We have quite a few versions of the story in the library, from traditional to graphic novel and fractured fairytales.

I know that I have more than this, but these are the ones that I was the most familiar with.  The Thief and the Beanstalk was a great retelling, where it isn’t the original Jack going back up the beanstalk to right the wrongs that his forerunner committed.


Liesel Shurtliff’s story is tied to Rump, the true story of Rumpelstiltskin, in that the beanstalk leads Jack to a world of giants — the world where Rump lives. It’s a fresh mix on the story, where Jack is determined to rescue his father from the giants with the hinderance or help of his little sister in tow.


Shelly Duvall’s video series

I am so excited because I have found the perfect video series to supplement the Fairytales and Tall Tales I read with the kids! You may remember (if you’re old like me), an early cable tv series called Shelly Duvall’s Faerie Tale Classics.


This series was a gem! It’s packed with big-name celebrities and covers all of the basic stories we know and love, plus a few extra.  The episodes include:

The Frog Princess
The Nightengale
Sleeping Beauty
Jack & the Beanstalk
Little Red Riding Hood
Hansel and Gretel
Goldilocks & the Three Bears
The Princess and the Pea
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Beauty and the Beast
The Boy Who Left Home To Find Out About the Shivers
The Three Little Pigs
The Snow Queen
The Pied Piper of Hamlin
Puss In Boots
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Aladdin and the Magic Lamp
The Princess Who Never Laughed
Rip Van Winkle
The Little Mermaid
The Dancing Princesses

That’s a huge list! I’m not familiar with all of them, but for $28, I’ll buy the set and use it in class.  There were some spin-off series and I picked up the Tall Tales & Legends as well.


This series didn’t come all as a set (the picture from Google did though.) I was able to get all but the last episode. Here’s the list:

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Annie Oakley
Pecos Bill

Casey at Bat
Darlin’ Clementine
Johnny Appleseed
Ponce de Leon
John Henry
Davy Crockett

I couldn’t find the Davy Crockett episode for a reasonable price, but I was happy to grab all of the others! There was one other spin-off series that I didn’t buy for school, but I’d love to own myself. Nightmare Classics featured some of the greatest short horror stories from literature cast with amazing actors.

The Turn of the Screw

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Eyes of the Panther

If I can find them on Youtube, I’m going to watch them, I love the first three stories and I’m dying to learn the story of The Eyes of the Panther.


Book Cart Facelift

My library cannot function without book carts. I have a bright yellow half-size one that I use to put books away and a bunch of icky beige ones I sort books on for student browsing until I get them shelved. They are divided by age ranges, one being specifically for kindergarten and 1st grade students. They are not allowed to take chapter books or higher level nonfiction from the other cart.I have too many kindergarten and 1st graders trying to grab off the wrong cart. If only my carts were different colors!

I wanted to share my inexpensive idea to fix up my blah, beat-up beige book carts – I am a master of alliteration!

As you can see, the carts have seen better days. My friend the maintenance man and I discussed painting them, but it would quite expensive to do. He figured they would need to be powder-coated to truly have a durable finish.

And of course, I complicate things by wanting multiple colors. (There is entirely too much dark blue in my library!) My brainstorming led me to order colored contact paper. It’s not very expensive, comes in a lot of colors and it looks good. My only issues with the contact paper, having applied it today, are that it can crease if you aren’t careful, and I’m not sure how well it will hold up to my students, books and bookends.

I do think I achieved my goal. It will be very easy for students to identify which cart they are allowed to browse, and it added some fun pops of color to the library.

Telling Tall Tales: Paul Bunyan

The tall tale that my students know the most about was probably Paul Bunyan. Most thought he was probably from Wisconsin or Minnesota. They knew he was a giant, had a blue ox named Babe and that he made the Grand Canyon.

We enjoyed Steven Kellogg’s retelling of Paul’s life. The kids thought the illustrations were fabulous (Kellogg’s books are amazing!). They got a good laugh out of Paul being big enough to pick up a cow while still in diapers and wrestling bears — this seems to be a common theme in Tall Tales.

The kids were right in everything they knew about Paul, but there is a lot more. Yes, he is sometimes credited with coming from the forests of the upper Midwest, but earlier stories have him coming from Maine. The legends of his gigantic size are not part of the original stories, and Kellogg did not focus on that trait in his retelling.

The Grand Canyon was said to be made by Paul dragging his axe and the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota were supposed to be he and Babe’s footprints. The kids had never heard that the Northern Lights were caused by Paul and Babe wrestling, but a lot of those “facts” weren’t from Kellogg’s retelling. All of these additions to his story rely on him being a giant.

One great thing about Kellogg’s retelling was that Paul still roams the Alaskan wilderness today. It makes sense, as it is the last untamed American frontier.

There are a lot of great books about Paul Bunyan, and I wish I owned more of them:

I’d also like to get a copy of the Disney version of Paul’s story.

You can get it in a collection with stories about John Henry (the best of the set) and Johnny Appleseed to name a few.

Telling Tall Tales

Along with the Fairytale Basics that I’m working on with first grade and third grade, I decided to introduce the second grade to tall tales.

The kids know a few, like Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, but there are a lot more to share with them.

  • Paul Bunyan
  • Pecos Bill
  • Mike Fink
  • Mose the Fireman
  • Captain Stormalong
  • Casey Jones
  • Davy Crockett
  • Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind
  • Calamity Jane
  • Rip Van Winkle
  • Annie Oakley

There are more to share, and this list may grow as I pick stories for the kids. I am focusing on American characters. Keep an eye out for these exaggerated posts!

Fairytale Basics: Bremen Town Musicians

I have to admit to being a bit ignorant of the fairytale The Bremen Town Musicians. Somehow I missed it as a kid, I guess. But it’s a funny story that appeals to both boys and girls, and so I introduced it to the first graders today.

We started with the version retold and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith. I don’t own this version, but it can be found on Epic! as a read-to-me title. I like those read-to-me books once in awhile for a few reasons. It is almost like having a guest reader, the recordings often do great voices and it gives me a break.

The kids weren’t sold at first, but by the time the animals – who have been cast aside for being old and useless – are all gathered and headed for fame in the Bremen Town Band, the kids were interested. Then when the animals “attack” and fool the robbers, the kids were all laughing. I like this version because it is a bit gentler than others. Some versions talk about the cat’s owner planning to drown her and the dog’s owner plans to shoot him. This one is much nicer.

I do own the Ruth Gross (pictures by Jack Kent) version, but it’s one with talk of killing the animals.

We followed the read-to-me original version of the story with Kevin O’Malley’s Animal Crackers Fly the Coop.

In this story, the animals (you’ll notice that the donkey is replaced with a cow) leave home planning to do stand up comedy in Bremen. It is literally packed with puns and what I would call uncle-jokes – they are so bad, they’re good. I got a few good-natured boos when I told the story.

The farmer who owned me was so dumb, he plowed his field with a steamroller…because he wanted mashed potatoes!

Why does a milking stool only have three legs?

Because the cow has the udder!

I have a couple of other books by O’Malley, but I think I also need to get this one:

I read online that it’s a fractured middle-eastern folktale.

Bremen Town Musicians is a fun book to Google. There’s a lot of versions with a variety of art styles. I found this groovy record from Russia (maybe?). Go look them up!

Fairytale Basics: Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Let’s face it: Goldilocks was a home invader. I’ve certainly never read a version of the story where she had any reason to think she was welcomed into the home of the Bears.

But this beloved children’s story is all about respecting the property and space of others. You’ve heard the story, I’m sure. Goldilocks is out walking unsupervised is the forest and find the home of three bears who have gone out for a morning walk. Unconcerned about leaving trace evidence, she enters the home and tastes their breakfasts. Alas, one is too hot, one is too cold and one is just right. The breakfast porridge makes her sleepy (was it perhaps drugged? Is it all an elaborate set-up??) she decides to try the living room chairs, but one is too hard, one is too soft and one is just right. Still feeling sleeping despite the littlest chair breaking under her weight, she wanders to the bedroom and tries out the beds. Again, not concerned about leaving DNA or fingerprints, she climbs into their beds. And you guessed it, one is too hard and one too soft. But there is one that is just right and she quickly falls asleep.

It takes some real hubris to invade a home, eat the food, break the chairs and then fall blissfully asleep without consideration if the consequences, but I digress.

There are varying accounts about what happens when the bears find her. Usually she escapes, having learned her lesson. I’m not sure that getting away without punishment constitutes learning your lesson, but maybe she was scared straight.

The kids enjoyed the James Marshall retelling, though the Jan Brett version would have been a good choice too.

I always try to follow up with a funny version when reading to first graders and they loved Goatilocks and the Three Bears.

The kids were busting out laughing when Goatilocks ate the porridge, the bowl and the spoon…and the just right chair…and the just right bed. There were lots of giggles when she brought an apology bouquet to the bears and since it was so thoughtful and so kind and just right…they ate it.

We have a lot if retellings and fractured versions of this story at school. I love Helen Lester’s version, which stars Tacky the Penguin:

And here are a few others: