Happily Ever After: 21 Multicultural Fairy Tales To Delight Every Child and Teen

As a kid, I used to love reading fairy tales. Fairy tales are unlike any other kind of story. They’re magical, enchanting tales where anything is possible, and they almost always end with the line “…and they lived happily ever after.” We all know life doesn’t always have a happy ending, but I found something uplifting in the optimism of these stories.

Perhaps one of the best things about reading fairy tales today is that there are so many multicultural versions for children and adults to enjoy. Gone are the days when all the main characters looked virtually the same. Now children from all over the world can glimpse different cultures through these stories and see themselves reflected as well.

Reading fairy tales with a multicultural twist also allows parents and teachers to have richer conversations with children. You can talk about the similarities and differences between the stories as well as the different cultural references, main characters, settings, and plot. Below are 21 fairy tale retellings to explore with little readers in addition to the classics.

no no 9780399247729 Rapunzel by Rachel Isadora

Rachel Isadora’s take on Rapunzel is bursting with vibrant collage artwork that will enchant readers of all ages. Rapunzel’s tower moves to a lush setting in Africa; her long, beaded dreadlocks greet her Prince Charming, who arrives on a zebra. And of course, as with all the best fairytales, there’s plenty of magic to go around.
(Ages 4 – 6)

9780399251566 La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

A charming bilingual retelling of the classic fairy tale The Princess and the Pea. The lively art featured throughout is inspired by the culture of Peru.
(Ages 4 – 8)

9780399547393 The Three Billy Goats Buenos by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Miguel Ordóñez

Three little cabritos (goats) wonder why the troll under the bridge is so grumpy in this modern retelling of the classic fairy tale. Kindness, humor, and unconventional ideas result in an ending that leaves everyone happy. Kids will enjoy the colorful illustrations and Spanish words sprinkled throughout the story.
(Ages 4 – 8)

9780698116269 The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon

This is a Cinderella-inspired tale set amongst the Algonquin Indian tribes of North America. Instead of a fairy godmother to help, the Rough-Face Girl relies upon herself. A powerful retelling with a great message for young readers: Beauty lies within.
(Ages 4 – 8)

9780142300169 Brothers of the Knight by Debbie Allen, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This contemporary retelling of the classic tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses takes place in Harlem, where an African American reverend tries to discover why the shoes of his 12 sons are worn out every morning.
(Ages 4 – 8)

9780698113824 Lon Po Po by Ed Young

This Chinese retelling of Little Red Riding Hood has become a classic. Winner of the Caldecott Medal, this version centers on three sisters and Lon Po Po, the Granny Wolf, who pretends to be their grandmother. A bit darker than the original version, the wolf’s cunning and girls’ smarts are on full display through Young’s stunning artwork and story.
(Ages 4 – 8)

9780803706194 The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

This beautifully illustrated and wonderfully written Creole folktale is full of expressive language that brings each scene to life. Little readers will venture to Louisiana in the American South and meet two sisters, cruel Rose and kind-hearted Blanche. Blanche’s aunty gives her a chicken house full of talking eggs with treasures for good, obedient girls: Silver and jewels, dresses, shoes, and even a splendid carriage.
(Ages 4 – 8)

9781580896535 Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Grace Zong

When Goldy Luck wakes up on Chinese New Year, her mother sends her next door to bring turnip cakes and good tidings to their panda neighbors, the Chans. The story progresses as one might expect, ending with Goldy Luck asleep on Little Chan’s futon — but it takes a delightful turn when, embracing the spirit of the holiday, Goldy Luck takes responsibility and makes amends with her neighbors.
(Ages 4 – 8)

9780142401873 Adelita by Tomie dePaola

Rather than leave behind a glass slipper at the ball, Adelita misplaces her rebozo — a shawl — which Javier uses to find the woman who stole his heart. There are even more twists in this Cinderella story, as well as Spanish vocabulary and paintings that capture the folk art of Mexico.
(Ages 4 – 8)

9781580897181 Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes

Set in the mid-1950’s in Charleston County, South Carolina, this book features a vibrant African American community and themes of love, family, and of course — food and cooking. John’s mother, Ma Sally, cooks the best black-eyed peas in town. When John tells his mother he wants to get married, three women vie for his hand in marriage. The caveat? The lucky woman chosen must be able to cook black-eyed peas as well as Ma Sally.
(Ages 5 – 8)

9780142500705 Petite Rouge by Mike Artell, illustrated by Jim Harris

Head to the bayou for a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood with a distinct Cajun flair! Petite Rouge and her cat climb into a pirogue (a wooden canoe) with a pot of gumbo for her sick grand-mère. Before long, they run into a swamp gator named Claude, who wants nothing more than to gobble up the delicious-looking Petite Rouge. Check out the author’s other Cajun fairy tale retellings, Three Little Cajun Pigs and Jacques and de Beanstalk.
(Ages 5 – 8)

9780399174438 The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ana Aranda

If it wasn’t abundantly clear from the title, this one is full to the brim of playful language and hilarity, making it a quick reader favorite. Three brave (if misguided) goats are tired of waiting around for the dreaded Chupacabra to make a snack out of them, so they head out into the dark to scare off the Chupacabra with a candelabra. Chaos — and humor — ensues.
(Ages 5 – 8)

9780593533055 Ra Pu Zel and the Stinky Tofu by Ying Chang Compestine, illustrated by Crystal Kung

Ra Pu Zel is a Chinese princess with long, long hair and zero interest in princes. Her heart belongs entirely to her food, and she locks herself in a tower to eat in peace. The only person who can convince her to come out is a chef with tasty new food to sample. This delicious retelling of Rapunzel is a delightful reimagining of the beloved fairy tale.
(Ages 5 – 8)

9780823415137 The Golden Sandal by Rebecca Hickox, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

When her mother dies, Maha begs her father to marry their neighbor, with no inkling that the woman will treat Maha unfairly. This Middle Eastern version of Cinderella features a magical fish, who helps Maha attend the grand henna — a wedding celebration — after she saves its life. A lovely entry point into a rich culture.
(Ages 5 – 8)

9780399250286 Hansel and Gretel by Rachel Isadora

Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora writes and illustrates this colorful retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale using the lush African jungle as the setting.
(Ages 6 – 8)

9780744096972 Peter and the Wolf by Gavin Friday, illustrated by Bono

Grief, loss, and Irish punk rock culture take center stage in this stunning retelling of the Ukrainian fairy tale by the same name. After losing a parent, Peter leaves the safety of his grandfather’s home and heads into the woods to conquer his sadness. Award-winning musicians Gavin Friday and Bono created a heartfelt story about finding hope after grief.
(Ages 7 – 9)

9780593121696 The Song of the Swan by Karah Sutton, illustrated by Pauliina Hannuniemi

Orphans, a secluded castle, and enchanted swans combine in this magical retelling of Swan Lake steeped in Eastern European folklore. Olga and Pavel plan to steal a jewel from a remote castle but uncover a mystery instead. Soon, the kids become entangled in an adventure filled with dark magic and swans that turn into people every night. This gorgeous fairy tale is a must-read!
(Ages 8 – 12)

9781536229608 The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar

This modern fairy tale set in France is about a girl named Duck who becomes a baker’s apprentice. She plans to collect her salary and steal enough bread to feed the hungry street urchins she grew up with. However, the baker’s kindness soon causes Duck to question her loyalties. A magical gargoyle in a nearby cathedral and themes of belonging and identity make this story perfect for fans of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
(Ages 8 – 12)

9780593300992 Her Radiant Curse by Elizabeth Lim

Elizabeth Lim has written several YA novels that blend Asian folklore with fairy tales. This unique spin on Beauty and the Beast will keep young adult readers glued to the page. It’s about two sisters — one monstrous and one beautiful — who will do anything for each other. An arranged marriage, forbidden romance, and an unexpected war collide into a breathtaking fantasy novel you won’t want to set down.
(Young Adult)

9780593120972 Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

African folklore meets The Little Mermaid in this under-the-sea YA fantasy. Simi saves a human boy from drowning, which angers the gods. To earn back their trust, she must travel across the perilous ocean and face dangers, mystery, and forbidden romance along the way. This action-packed story continues in the second book in the series, Soul of the Deep.
(Young Adult)

9781682634837 A Warning About Swans by R. M. Romero

German folklore meets Swan Lake in this ethereal YA fantasy novel. Hilde has a magical cloak that can turn her into a swan. However, when she meets a handsome baron, she follows him to the human realm and unwittingly becomes a prisoner in his home. When her swan cloak goes missing, Hilde seeks help from a non-binary Jewish artist who can paint the true nature of souls and is her only hope for escape.
(Young Adult)

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2020 and updated in 2024.

The post Happily Ever After: 21 Multicultural Fairy Tales To Delight Every <br>Child and Teen appeared first on Brightly.

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