Folklore Reimagined: Fairy Tales with a Modern Twist

A picturesque village with quaint, moss-covered houses and stone paths, set in a lush, green forest.

Once upon a time, fairy tales were all about damsels in distress, knights in shining armor, with a couple of evil witches and dragons thrown in for good measure. We still love those traditional stories and are sure they will continue to enchant children all around the world for years to come. 

But today, these wonderful fairy tales are being reimagined, and we are thoroughly enjoying the modern twists, diverse characters, and themes that reflect our contemporary world. These modern fairy tales are captivating tweens with everything from multicultural influences to stories that challenge the norm.

So, sit back, relax, and get comfortable while we look at a few of our favorite modern fairy tales.

Modern Fairy Tales: Our Top 5

The "Alliana Girl of Dragons" book box featuring the book, coloring pages, and various themed gifts wrapped in decorative paper.

Alliana, Girl of Dragons by Julie Abe

We have to start with this one, which was featured in our popular “Of Dust and Dragons” box. As you know, our book boxes are always filled with fabulous surprise gifts, and this one was no different! It is perfect for fans of Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine, and we know you will love this retelling of the Japanese Cinderella story, set in the magical world of Eva Evergreen. 

Once upon a time, Alliana believed in dreams and fairy tales as sweet as spun-sugar clouds. She wished on shooting stars, sure that someday she and her grandmother would be able to travel to the capital city to see the queen. Then her grandmother passed away, and those dreams disappeared in a disenchanted puff.

Now, Alliana is forced to attend to the whims of her wicked stepmother until she meets two beings who change her life forever—the first is a young night-dragon whom Alliana discovers she can magically talk to, and the second is Nela, a young witch.

Nela needs Alliana’s help navigating the mysterious abyss, filled with dangerous beasts, a place Alliana knows by heart. Alliana sees Nela’s request as a chance to break free of her stepmother’s shadow and to seize a chance at a life she’s barely dared to hope for—but there’s a risk. If caught, Alliana will be stuck working for her stepmother for the rest of her life. Can Alliana truly make wisps of dreams into her own, better-than-a-fairy-tale happily ever after?

The cover of "The Lost Wonderland Diaries" depicting two children and whimsical creatures interacting with floating books in a magical forest.

The Lost Wonderland Diaries by J. Scott Savage

The Lost Wonderland Diaries is simply brilliant and immediately catches your imagination. The story follows Celia and Tyrus, who discovered Lewis Caroll’s diaries. These aren’t just any old diaries; they are the ones where he secretly recorded the true story of his travels into Wonderland. 

The adventures begin as they fall into a portal that takes them to Wonderland. But Wonderland has changed, and some of the old characters we remember have been transformed into monsters! Your tween is guaranteed to love joining the pair along with the Cheshire Cat and a new character, Sylvan, a young rabbit, as they desperately work to solve puzzles and riddles, looking for a way out of Wonderland.

But remember the Queen of Hearts? Some things don’t change, and she is desperate to capture them, believing they hold the key to opening multiple portals to multiple worlds. Can Celia and Tyrus stop the monsters and save both worlds? Or will they be trapped in Wonderland forever?

The cover of "Peter and the Starcatchers" showing a dramatic scene of a boy and girl on a ship at night with a glowing treasure chest.

Peter and the Starcatchers by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry

Have you wondered about the story before Peter Pan? How did he get there? How did he go from being an orphan to the leader of The Lost Boys? Well, all will be revealed as we are taken back in time with this exciting adventure from the dirty and crime-ridden port of old England to the high seas and a faraway island. 

Get ready to join Peter and his mysterious new friend Molly on an adventure of a lifetime. It’s all about battles at sea, overcoming bands of pirates and thieves in their quest to keep a marvelous secret safe and save the world from evil. Keep an eye out for the trunk aboard the Never Land that holds a somewhat familiar substance—a little sprinkle can heal your wounds, or dusting will have you flying in no time! 

Peter and the Starcatchers is guaranteed to keep your tween turning the pages as they get caught up in the adventure of excitement!

The "Winston Chu vs The Whimsies" book box featuring the book, a coloring page, and various themed gifts wrapped in colorful paper.

Winston Chu vs.The Whimsies by Stacey Lee

Winston Chu vs.The Whimsies is inspired by a classic Chinese folktale with a delightful dose of magic and mayhem. The story follows Winston Chu, a curious boy who discovers a mystical shop and accidentally sets off a chain of whimsical and dangerous events. As Winston navigates this new world, he learns valuable lessons about family, friendship, and resourcefulness.

Twelve-year-old Winston Chu is supposed to learn impulse control at the cooking academy his mom enrolled him in. But learning to think before he acts won’t happen overnight.

While skateboarding home with a pie in hand, Winston inadvertently stops a robbery at Mr. Pang’s Whimsies, an oddities shop in Chinatown. As a reward, Mr. Pang invites Winston to choose any item in the store. But the strange old man warns Winston to browse carefully, for the first thing Winston touches will be the thing he gets. Before Winston can decide, a magpie flies under a shelf, and he impulsively grabs an old broom to sweep it out.

Mr. Pang hands him the broom, along with a dustpan. “Two for one. Congratulations.”

Deflated, Winston returns home, determined to put the broom incident behind him. Or at least in the closet. But when some of his most beloved possessions go missing, all Winston can think about are the broom and dustpan. Did they somehow take his stuff? And what—or who—will they dispose of next?

It’s time to break into Mr. Pang’s Whimsies, where clearly there’s more going on than meets the far-seeing eyeball. It’s time to fight magic with magic. And this time, Winston better have a plan.

The cover of "A Wish in the Dark" showing a boy holding a lantern in a vibrant, illuminated city at night.

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

A Wish in the Dark is the classic tale of Les Misérables reimagined in a Thai-inspired world. Pong, a boy born in prison, dreams of freedom and sets out on a journey equal to Jean Valjean’s struggle. We loved how issues like privilege, protest, law and justice are brought to life in such a compelling way.

In Chattana, all light is created by the Governor, and for Pong, who was born in prison, the lights have become a symbol of freedom, and he dreams of walking among them. When he finally escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one he had behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under the bright light while the poor remain in the darkness. 

But his escape has brought shame, and Nok, the prison warden’s daughter, is determined to find him and restore her family’s good name. As she searches for Pong, Nok uncovers secrets that make her question her own beliefs. Can one child shine a light in the dark?

Conclusion

With these new reimagined fairy tales, our love for the magical and mystical will continue. It's the modern twist that makes them special and so much easier for tweens to identify with. Let these books whisk your tween away into worlds both familiar and new. After all, there is magic in every story—no matter how many times it's told.

Here at Once Upon a Book Club, we are all about the experience and bringing books to life, and we have just the bookish products to make your tween’s day. Turn their reading nook into something special with the beautiful Untold Story sequin pillow or a Mermaid Tail Blanket, which is bound to make anyone feel special. Why not make sure your tween never misses out on the excitement with one of our fabulous subscriptions? Happy Reading!

Encourage your tween to start writing their own adventures—check out our blog on Unleashing Creativity: Fun Writing Prompts for Tweens!

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