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By reading aloud, children develop their reading, language, and vocabulary skills and learn to express emotion as they portray the roles of characters in a book. This experience is further enhanced when they adapt one of their favorite stories into a play. Fables and fairytales offer an easy division of roles and interesting dialog among characters for younger children. While older children will enjoy dramatizing the action and conflict present in folktales from around the world. Picture books, and even poems, also present lots of potential for stage production. With a little creativity, any one of your child's favorite books could be ripe for a stage debut.

For more ideas on bringing stories to the stage, don't miss All the Backyard's A Stage.

Cinderella, Puss in Boots and Other Favorite Tales
Ages: All Ages
Author: Charles Perrault   Illustrator: Corinne Chalmeau  
Harry N. Abrams, Inc. / Abrams Books for Young Readers, $24.95 (Hard Cover)   

These eight old favorites, newly translated by A. E. Johnson into straightforward, simple English, do not shrink from the harsh truths of a more primitive time. The tellings are leisurely, and more than one tale at a sitting would be too many.

It's Raining Pigs & Noodles
Ages: All Ages
Author: Jack Prelutsky   Illustrator: James Stevenson  
HarperCollins Children's Books / Amistad, $17.95 (Hard Cover)   

Delightfully antiauthoritarian and antiestablishment, Prelutsky is the unexcelled master of word-playing nonsense. His laugh-aloud poems are rude, disrespectful, annoying and perceptive. In a word, marvelous.

Swine Lake Swine Lake
Ages: All Ages
Author: James Marshall   Illustrator: Maurice Sendak  
Harper Collins , $15.96 (Hard Cover)   

The hero/villain of this suspense-filled tale is a "lean and mangy" old wolf in dire need of a square meal. When he catches the delectable whiff of a pig, the famished wolf follows his nose to the New Hamsterdam Theater, where The Boarshoi Ballet is about to perform Swine Lake. From his box seat, the wolf leaps to the stage where he is mistaken for a new member of the ballet's cast.

How I Became a Pirate How I Became a Pirate
Ages: 3 - 7 yrs.
Author: Melinda Long   Illustrator: David Shannon  
Harcourt Trade Publishers/Harcourt Children's Books, $16.00 (Hard Cover)   

The pirate crew is sorely in need of a good digger to help them bury a treasure and are in luck to discover Jeremy building a sandcastle on the beach. Jeremy becomes their willing captive; nobody tells pirates when to go to bed or take a bath or change into pajamas. But listeners and our young hero alike soon learn the negatives of pirate life: no bedtime stories, no tucking- in, no goodnight kisses.

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!
Ages: 3 - 8 yrs.
Author: Jon Scieszka   Illustrator: Lane Smith  
Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers/Puffin Books, $6.99 (Paperback)

This is the wolf's side of the story - how he was baking a cake for his dear old granny and trotted off to borrow a cup of sugar from one silly pig who'd built his house out of straw, and one silly pig who'd built his house of sticks ... but it's Lane Smith's ironic virtuoso illustrations that make this more than just another fractured fairy tale.

Farmer Duck
Ages: 3 & Up
Author: Martin Waddell   Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury  
Candlewick Press, $5.99 (Paperback)

Duck lives with a lazy farmer who lies in bed all day while Duck does all the work. The other barnyard animals conspire to effect a horrendous - actually, a truly shocking - revolution.

A Penny a Look: An Old Story
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
By: Harve Zemach   By: Margot Zemach  
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $4.95 (Paperback)

Two brothers set out to capture a one-eyed man to display in the marketplace.

Look Out, Jack! The Giant Is Back! Look Out, Jack! The Giant Is Back!
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Tom Birdseye   Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand  
Holiday House, Inc., $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

This wacky sequel to Jack and the Beanstalk brings us to the late giant's big brother, bent on recovering his sibling's bags of gold, hen that lays golden eggs, and harp that plays itself. Since he is "twice the size . . . ten times as nasty, and ugly as slug pie," it looks as though the odds are in his favor, but don't count on it.

The Judge: An Untrue Tale
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
By: Margot Zemach   By: Harve Zemach  
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.00 (Hard Cover)    $6.95 (Paperback)

A judge discovers that five people he had imprisoned are innocent after all.

The Tale of the Turnip
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Brian Alderson   Illustrator: Fritz Wegner  
Candlewick Press, $12.99 (Hard Cover)   

An old-fashioned gem of a traditional English tale is stylishly retold by Brian Alderson. It concerns a turnip that just grows and grows and grows some more, and what the old farmer in whose field it appears decides to do with it.

The Twelve Princesses The Twelve Princesses
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Gordon Fitchett   Illustrator: Gordon Fitchett  
Penguin Putnam Inc., $15.99 (Hard Cover)   

With a crisp, virtuoso use of colored pencil drawings, the Australian illustrator Gordon Fitchett has provided a handsome and compelling rendition of a tale by the Grimm brothers. Not for a minute do we question the artist's decision to portray the characters as geese, because that guise seems to suit the dozen silly princesses to a tee.

Nursery Tales Around the World Nursery Tales Around the World
Ages: 4 - 9 yrs.
Illustrator: Stefano Vitale   Told By: Judy Siera  
Houghton Mifflin /Clarion Books, $20.00 (Hard Cover)   

A fine international selection of eighteen traditional tales retold with charm, richly illustrated in vibrant folk art styles that reflect the country of origin.

Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers: 14 More Stories Dutch Sneakers and Flea Keepers: 14 More Stories
Ages: 4 & Up
Author: Calef Brown   Illustrator: Calef Brown  
Houghton Mifflin Co., $15.00 (Hard Cover)   

This collection of fourteen nonsense verses accompanied by zany full-page (and sometimes more) illustrations requires an audience of a certain sophistication. But adults and children alike will appreciate the inspired lunacy of wearing “Dutch Wooden Sneakers”--complete with laces. (Of course, it will help if the listener knows that Holland is the home of wooden shoes.) The right audience will find the book good fun.

Tasty Baby Belly Buttons
Ages: 4 & Up
Author: Judy Sierra   Illustrator: Meilo So  
Random House Children's Books/Knopf, $17.00 (Hard Cover)   

The Japanese giants called oni kidnap babies for their favorite treat. They are outwitted, however, by the dauntless girl, Uriko. Wonderful pink-and-green hued watercolors boost this book into the "bound-to-be-a-favorite" realm.

The Kingfisher Book of Fairy Tales The Kingfisher Book of Fairy Tales
Ages: 4 & Up
Editor: Vivian French   Illustrator: Peter Malonje  
Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc., $19.95 (Hard Cover)   

It's hard to imagine a better selection of seven tales from the classic fairy-tale repertoire nor one so generously and sensitively illustrated. The author's retellings are leisurely, faithful and well suited to being read aloud - a full week's entertainment, one tale at bedtime each night.

Little Red Riding Hood Little Red Riding Hood
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Brothers Grimm   Illustrator: Trina S. Hyman  
Holiday House, Inc., $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

Full of the kind of detail that children linger over, the drawings in this classic tale delineate each object or creature with loving exactitude, from grandmother's teakettle to flowers that are botanically correct to the properly sly-looking wolf and his slavering tongue. The huntsman, the mother, the grandmother, and Riding Hood herself are very human, and the text has been simplified and pruned of archaisms so that contemporary children can relate to it.

The Story of the Three Kingdoms The Story of the Three Kingdoms
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Walter Dean Myers   Illustrator: Ashley Bryan  
HarperCollins Children's Books / HarperTrophy, $6.95 (Paperback)

Long ago, Elephant ruled the forest, Shark ruled the sea, and Hawk ruled the sky, until the People discovered a unique power that enabled them to dominate the other creatures.

Three Samurai Cats Three Samurai Cats
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Author: Eric A. Kimmel    Illustrator: Mordicai Gerstein  
Holiday House, Inc., $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

An adaptation of a Japanese folktale in which a feudal lord seeks a samurai cat to rid his castle of a savage rat, but soon discovers that violence is not always the best way to accomplish things.

The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig
Ages: 5 - 9 yrs.
Author: Eugene Trivizas   Illustrator: Helen Oxenbury  
Simon & Schuster/Aladdin Paperbacks, $6.99 (Paperback)

"Once upon a time, there were three cuddly little wolves... who lived with their mother," begins this "fractured fairy tale," and the giggles don't cease till wolves and pig merrily play "pig-pog" and then "piggy-in-the-middle."

A Handful of Beans A Handful of Beans
Ages: 5 - 10 yrs.
Author: Jeanne Steig   Illustrator: William Steig  
Harper Collins , $17.95 (Hard Cover)   

Irresistible both in content and format is this enticingly fat, small-size tome containing six of the most popular traditional fairy tales (Rumpelstiltskin, Beauty and the Beast, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Frog Prince, and Jack and the Beanstalk). Rendered in Jeanne Steig’s folksy, witty and refreshingly contemporary prose, the stories have never seemed more timely or compelling.

The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders
Ages: 5 - 18 yrs.
Author: Jack Prelutsky   Illustrator: Petra Mathers  
HarperCollins Children's Books / Amistad, $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

The prolific and talented Jack Prelutsky offers yet another collection of newly-minted nonsense verse. There's a fresh wrinkle in this volume: exotic place names of various cities and towns across the nation - Minneapolis, Winnemucca and El Paso, to name a few - figure in the rhymes.

The McElderry Book of Grimms' Fairy Tales The McElderry Book of Grimms' Fairy Tales
Ages: 6 - 10 yrs.
Illustrator: Emma Chichester Clark   Told By: Saviour Pirotta  
Simon & Schuster Children's/Margaret K. McElderry, $19.95 (Hard Cover)   

First published in England in 2002, this nicely designed collection of 10 Grimm's' tales includes both the well-known-"The Sleeping Beauty" (Briar Rose), "The Golden-Haired Girl in the Tower" (Rapunzel), and "The Magic Gingerbread House" (Hansel and Gretel); and the less-familiar: "Little Mouse and Lazy Cat," "The Swans and the Brave Princess" (The Six Swans), and "The Magic Bear and the Handsome Prince" (Snow White and Rose Red).

How and Why Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read and Tell
Ages: 7 - 11 yrs.
Author: Martha Hamilton   Author: Mitch Weiss  
August House Audio, $21.95 (Hard Cover)   

Tales from across the globe and through the ages explain such mysteries as why the sea is salty, why a bear has a stumpy tail and why babies say “goo.” Each story’s brevity, background information and presentation tips – as well as a general section on telling stories and reference sources – make it easy and fun for children to learn the expressive, entertaining art form of story telling.

Noodlehead Stories: World Tales Kids Can Read And Tell
Ages: 7 - 12 yrs.
Author: Martha Hamilton   Illustrator: Mitch Weiss  
August House Publishers, Inc., $21.95 (Hard Cover)    $12.95 (Paperback)

A collection of folktales from around the world, all featuring the character of the fool, with tips for telling the stories aloud, related activities, and source notes.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Author: Louis Sachar   Illustrator: Julie Brinckloe  
HarperCollins Children's Books / HarperTrophy, $5.99 (Paperback)

On the 30th floor of the wacky Wayside School is Mrs. Jewl's class. Sharie falls asleep and rolls out the window. Joe counts all wrong and gets the right answer. Calvin is sent to the 19th floor to deliver a note, but there is no 19th story- the builder forgot it. This nutty world is built on the sort of playful twists of logic that kids love.

The Devil's Other Storybook The Devil's Other Storybook
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Author: Natalie Babbitt  
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $14.10 (Hard Cover)    $5.95 (Paperback)

The Devil is back, just as full of vanity and other human feelings as he was in Natalie Babbitt's first collection, The Devil's Storybook. Includes ten new tales of the Devil's exploits in his own world and the world above.

The Jack Tales: Folk Tales from the Southern Appalachains
Ages: 9 - 12 yrs.
Author: Richard Chase  
Houghton Mifflin Co., $15.00 (Hard Cover)    $7.95 (Paperback)

A collection of folk tales from the southern Appalachians that center on a single character, the irrepressible Jack.

Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter Rumpelstiltskin's Daughter
Ages: 9 & Up
By: Diane Stanley  
HarperCollins/William Morrow, $16.95 (Hard Cover)   

This tongue-in-cheek rendition of a popular fairy tale should delight all those children who thought Rumpelstiltskin got a raw deal in the original telling.

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