In Goldilocks and the Three Vampires, a brown-skinned Goldilocks with natural brown-and-gold twists is a quick-thinking Indiana Jones-type adventurer. Through diligent research (and a bit of luck), she has found out how to open an ancient tomb that has been sealed for centuries against thieves. Once in, she navigates through several booby traps and other dangers with aplomb until finally discovering three different-looking tombs. They turn out to contain three dim but murderous vampires and she has to use some quick thinking and physical skill to escape.
Sleeping Beauty, Magic Master begins like the original fairy tale with the birth of a princess, subsequent celebration, and sleeping curse cast by the Bad Fairy. But this East Asian princess Aurora grows up learning magic so she will be able to break the Bad Fairy’s curse, saving herself and her kingdom before the deadline on her thirteenth birthday. She goes on a quest to collect the ingredients necessary for a curse-breaking potion, and has lots of adventures involving scary creatures like ogres, dwarves, and a Yeti. However, potions have never been Aurora’s strong suit, and there is some uncertainty about whether she will master the difficult skill in time.
These graphic novels are designed very well for newer or struggling readers. The action-packed plots and the brevity of the stories (33 pages) are perfect for this group. The vocabulary is kept fairly basic, with unfamiliar words given lots of context clues. For example, the Good Fairy says about the curse-breaking potion, “The ingredients are spread far and wide,” and Aurora, looking at a large map of the kingdom, replies, “Oooo, is this going to be an epic, magical quest?” Readers won’t get stuck on the word “epic” because they already have the idea that it’s going to be a long, difficult journey with lots of adventures. The scaffolding provided by the original fairy tales lets the reader know the basic story arcs and objectives—Goldilocks will have to escape from the three vampires, Aurora will have to break the sleeping curse—but the changes in characters’ physical features, adjustments to some plot points, and modernized dialogue all heighten interest for elementary-aged readers.
In addition, teachers and parents will be pleased with the back matter if they are working with new or struggling readers, because it explicitly prompts analysis of visual or textual features in the story. A summary of the original tale is given (all in text), and the following page has a chart comparing the original tale with the one in the book, complete with pictures of relevant scenes. Another spread prompts analysis of events in different panels, either by pointing out things like a change in the gutter color or by asking why a character might have made a particular statement.
Jennings’s art in Goldilocks is sketchy, simple, and serviceable but not spectacular. For the most part, the simplicity of the art is a good thing; it keeps the reader’s focus on the characters and the action, which aids in reading comprehension. However, there are a few panels where the art is inconsistent compared to previous panels, or the proportions of objects are slightly off. One sequence, showing Goldilocks throwing a hatchet into a stalagmite to make it collapse onto the vampires, shows the stalagmite in several different angles in relation to the floor, making it unclear how exactly she’s making it collapse in the correct way.
Lopez’s art in Sleeping Beauty is much more detailed and refined-looking in style. Lighting in particular is used effectively to express the story’s mood in several panels. The color scheme is varied and vivid, contributing to the dynamic nature of the story.
Readers who like rich, complex fantasies like Mighty Jack or the Amulet series might be disappointed by the brevity of these stories, but readers who like quick reads and are intimidated by longer books and unfamiliar vocabulary will love them. Fans of Art Baltazar’s Tiny Titans books who are willing to move outside the superhero realm should try the Far Out Fairy Tales series.
Far Out Fairy Tales: Goldilocks and the Three Vampires
by Laurie S. Sutton
Art by C.S. Jennings
Publisher Age Rating: 8-11
Far Out Fairy Tales: Sleeping Beauty, Magic Master
by Stephanie True Peters
Art by Alex Lopez
Publisher Age Rating: 8-11