I’m a fairytale fiend. I have an extensive collection of fairy tales, I studied fairy tales in college and wrote my dissertation on fairy tales, I read them all the time, so of course I wanted to stock my child’s bookshelf with fairy tales. However, while I love fairy tales, I don’t love their patriarchal themes. It’s difficult to find a feminist fairytale board book, even though there are many picture books that subvert the misogyny and patriarchy in traditional fairy tales. There’s definitely a gap here! I’ve also noticed a lack of diversity in fairytale board books, with the exception of the Once Upon a World series. This is ridiculous. Fairy tales exist in every single culture. There’s no reason for only blonde, blue-eyed, white little girls to be portrayed. So while this list collects my favorite fairytale board books, I’m overall disappointed that I can’t find any that reflect the diversity of the genre and modern feminist values. So take this list with a grain of salt!
11 Fairytale Board Books for Babies and Toddlers
Once Upon a World Collection by Chloe Perkins and Hannah Eliot
This series is so wonderful! So far there are 5 books: Snow White, Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid We’ve already reviewed many in the series. Each one sets a classic fairy tale in a diverse setting. Snow White takes place in Japan; Cindrella in Mexico; The Princess and the Pea in Russia; Rapunzel in India; and The Little Mermaid in the Caribbean. The only one I haven’t read yet (and don’t own) is The Little Mermaid, the most recently published. My favorite in the series is Rapunzel, which is gorgeously illustrated. I do wish some of them were a little more feminist, but they’re still my favorite board book fairytale series. The publishers now have a Celebrate the World series, about holidays from around the world!
Once Upon a Hairytale Series by Trish Cooke
I found another diverse fairytale board book series! These are published and sold by Tangle Teezer and also come with two hairbrushes! We’ve read Zel, Let Out Your Hair, a retelling of “Rapunzel,” and really enjoyed it. It’s an engaging and fun take on the tale, about a little Black girl named Zel whose mother is styling her hair. Zel becomes bored and imagines her hair getting bigger and bigger. The other books in the series include Jackson and the Hairstalk and The Puppet Who Wanted Hair. As a white family, I can’t comment on how well the hairbrush works on Black hair. It’s amazing with my curly-haired white daughter’s hair though! We brush it right after conditioning, and it brushes all the tangle out and we no longer have to cut the worst tangles out! All proceeds for the box go to Pretty Brown Girl. You can see images from the book on my Instagram.
There are so many books in this series! We own Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty & The Beast, but there are many more in the series. What makes these books so interesting is the design. The board book pages have cutouts so you can see the image behind, and a few lift-the-flaps as well. In Little Red Riding Hood, for instance, there’s a flap to look into grandmother’s house and a flap to peek inside the wolf’s belly and see Grandmother and LRRH inside. Very clever! Once again I wish the retellings were more subversive. I like to see some strong women in fairy tales and, in fact, that shouldn’t be seen as subversive at all!
Les Petits Fairytales by Trixie Belle and Melissa Caruso-Scott, Illustrated by Oliver Lake
These are silly and cute. Much like the Cozy Classics series, they feature one word a page, pairing down each fairy tale into about 10 words. You can fill in the blanks however you want. The illustrations are pastel glittery brightness, and they’re a smaller sized board book making them perfect for the smallest of hands, which is why our copy of Beauty and the Beast has many bite marks in it!
First Stories by Dan Taylor and Miriam Bos
The First Stories series has about a dozen books in it. Each is interactive in a toddler-friendly way, meaning they can’t tear anything. There are little fingerholes that move characters, board book pages that extend out, etc. They also rhyme! You can collect Peter Pan, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, and a whole lot more.
Lift the Flap: Fairy Tales (Can You Find Me?) by Roger Priddy
Some toddlers are great with lift-the-flap books, some are not. You know your child best! If they can handle it, definitely pick up this lovely board book, with fun flaps hiding all sorts of interesting things! It’s a combination of lots of fairy tales.
Each Peach Pear Plum by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
This one is a classic, and such a fun beginner search and find. Each page is a rhyming riddle from fairy tales and nursery rhymes, with something hidden. Marian is strange and likes to read this one by herself!
Three Little Mermaids by Mara Van Fleet
An interactive board book that provides textures, sliding pages, and a couple of lift-the-flaps. It’s a fun book to play with, and it’s also an excellent beginner counting book.
Princess And The Pea by Parragon Books
This is a tab board book that features all the characters. The tab pulls out to reveal more of the story. It’s actually a decent-sized story for a board book!
My Favourite Fairy Tale Board Book by Tony Ross
There are three books in this series: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. I really like the illustrations on these. May I suggest also purchasing these Melissa & Doug Fairy Tale Friends Hand Puppets to go along with the book?
The Sleeping Beauty: My First Ballet Book by Jennifer Adams, Illustrated by Corey Egbert
This is part of the BabyLit series that all English majors with children adore. Did you know that the Disney music for their film Sleeping Beauty comes straight from the Tchaikovsky ballet? It does! It’s gorgeous music, unlike the fairy tale which is very icky. I haven’t read this board book yet, but I love the BabyLit series and I know I’ll end up grabbing this one.
Do you know any diverse fairytale board books?