Basic Plot Summary: Seven fairies are invited to the christening of a princess and a fairy who was not invited shows up and curses the princess to someday prick her finger on a spindle and die. One of the fairies is able to change the curse so that the princess will only sleep and wake to the kiss of a prince. The king and queen try to destroy all of the spinning wheels so the curse will never come to pass, but of course, it happens anyway. The fairy puts the whole kingdom to sleep so that the princess will not be alone when she wakes. One hundred years later, a prince kisses her and when she wakes, they are married.
This story has lots of pedigrees. The Brothers Grimm published it in their first collection of fairy tales after hearing a version of it written by Charles Perrault, who based his version on an Italian poem from the 17th century that had its roots in poetry composed in the 14th century. So it’s been around a while, with lots of changes in all those versions, including the princess’ name, which has been Briar Rose, Aurora, Talia, Rosamond and Rosebud. The Italian version gets really dark, with the prince raping the sleeping princess and her newborn baby actually saving her from the curse by sucking the splinter from her finger. The story has been adapted many times, most notably as Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet and Disney’s 1959 animated version, which inspired a successful live action film in 2014, focusing on the backstory of Maleficent, the sorceress who curses Aurora at the beginning.
Sleeping Beauty – Author Mahlon F. Craft adapts the story in this version and his wife, Kinuko Y. Craft provides the artwork. This version follows the original story pretty closely, with the Brothers Grimm alternate opening of a frog foreseeing the birth of the princess. It’s written at a higher reading level, making it a good choice for older kids. Ms. Craft’s oil paintings are gallery-quality, with a remarkable use of light to give some of the illustrations an ethereal glow. This is the type of book you think of when you imagine classic fairy tales. (Chronicle Books, 2002)
My Side of the Story – This was the fourth book in the My Side of the Story series, which cleverly matches good guys & bad guys from Disney films and lets them each tell their version of their stories. Author Kiki Thorpe wrote the story; the artwork is credited to the Disney Storybook Artists and mimics the classic Disney film art. Holding the book one way, it features Princess Aurora on the cover and when you flip it upside down, it features Maleficent telling a very different version of the story, in which she was always acting for the royal family’s own good. Together, the two stories are very funny and play off of each other well. (Disney Enterprises, 2004)
Sleeping Bobby – Spinning off of the Brothers Grimm version of the story, husband and wife team Will and Mary Pope Osborne make a gender switch in this version of the story, making the royal baby a boy named Bob. Everything else pretty much happens as in the original story and Bob is saved by a kiss from an adventurous princess who wanted to see the famous sleeping prince. Giselle Potter’s illustrations, in pencil, ink, gouache, gesso and watercolor, are done in pretty spring colors and feature some very funny imagery with the castle’s hedge full of women who tried to get into the castle to see Bob. A cute book, but I kind of wanted more from it. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005)
Waking Beauty – In rhyming couplets, author Leah Wilcox puts a comedic spin on this story by giving us a somewhat clueless prince with no idea how to wake up the snoring princess he finds in the castle where he went looking for a dragon. Although the fairies try to guide him, he tries shouting, jumping on the bed, pouring water on her and even shooting her out of a cannon before finally giving her the all-important kiss. Lydia Monks’ mixed media illustrations add to the humorous appeal of the story and give us even more to enjoy, right up to the funny and unexpected ending. Highly recommended for those who like their fairy tales a little on the lighter side. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008)
And what did we learn? What I take away from Sleeping Beauty is that just because something bad seems fated to happen doesn’t mean it’s beyond all hope.