Thursday, August 15, 2019

Classroom Connections with Gayle Krause (Giveaway!)

"I believe in once-upon-a-time, I believe in happily ever after."
– Lee Bennett Hopkins, from "Storyteller (For Augusta Baker)"

In his poem "Storyteller (For Augusta Baker)" from Jumping Off Library Shelves (WordSong, 2015), Lee Bennett Hopkins writes about the powerful impact stories can have on a child's life. Whether read at home, in the classroom, or at library storytime, a good fairy tale can engage girls and boys like nothing else! Needless to say, I think Lee would approve of the poetry collection being featured in today's Classroom Connections post—Once Upon a Twisted Tale, by Gayle C. Krause.

I first "met" Gayle in 2013 when I was a newbie blogger making the Poetry Friday rounds. I remember my delight at winning a gift card for a poem I submitted to her blog The Storyteller's Scroll during National Poetry Month. Since then, her work has made a few appearances on Today's Little Ditty and in The Best of Today's Little Ditty, 2014-2015, as well!

Read on to find out more about Gayle and how her madcap collection of fractured fairy tales can be used to liven up any elementary school classroom.


Once Upon a Twisted Tale

Gayle C. Krause, Author
Caroline O'Neal, Illustrator

Clear Fork/Spork (June 18, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1950169047

For grades 1-4

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By the middle grades, children know the storylines of familiar fairy tales, which makes them all the funnier when they veer off in different directions. Good "fractured fairy tales" twist the child reader’s perspective on the story, showing other possibilities. From a frog, who thinks he’s Sleeping Beauty, to a cool-rappin’ fairy godmother who sends Cinderella to a Hip-Hop Ball, to a boy who waits beneath a stone bridge to fool trolls, Once Upon a Twisted Tale is a rollicking, rhyme-filled poetry collection that can be read for sheer amusement or used in a classroom to compare original tales to the twisted tales as per Language Arts requirements.



You've all heard of fairy tales,
that take place in enchanted dales,

or castles on a mountain, high,
or beanstalks climbing to the sky.

But in this book they are unique.
Just turn the page and take a peek.

These characters, right or wrong—
in stories where they don't belong.

A Frog Prince and a cinder maid.
An ogress with a lice-filled braid.

A Hip-Hop Princess at a ball,
Beast's magic mirror on a wall.

A wicked queen in snow-white mist.
Stories of the wrong one kissed.

A cookie charging through the wood,
eaten by Red Riding Hood.

Sleeping princess. Clever elf.
This book won't stay upon your shelf. 

You'll want to read one hundred times
these mixed up stories, told in rhymes.

Giant, witch, and nightingale
in "Once Upon a Twisted Tale."

 Text © 2019 Gayle C. Krause, ONCE UPON A TWISTED TALE, all rights reserved. 

Illustrations © 2019 Caroline O'Neal, ONCE UPON A TWISTED TALE, all rights reserved.


Gayle C. Krause writes rhyming picture books, and historical fiction and fantasy novels for middle grade and young adults. Raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the oldest girl on the block, she led the younger kids in creative dramatics, wilderness expeditions through fields, and fossil hunting in the shale piles left from the heyday of mining. Those early interactions led her to a career teaching preschoolers, young adults, and, as a Master Educator, prospective elementary teachers and early childhood educators at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Gayle is most comfortable in front of students, be they four years old or forty, and loves to teach children’s literature and enhance literacy skills in young readers.


Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?


Children hear the rhythms and rhyme present in poems and reading fluency develops as poems are practiced and repeatedly read. Reading comprehension also results through discussions about meaning, connecting, and visualizing.
The princess acted cranky.
She hadn’t slept a wink.
She felt like she’d been sleeping
in the castle’s kitchen sink.


Poetry often contains words that rhyme for effect. Children can learn about phonics and letter sounds by listening for and locating rhyming words. Poetry builds vocabulary.
Be ye troll or be ye trow;
tell me what you do not know.
I have a question known to none.
The answer? There is only one.
Do not look shocked at my request.
I’m quite sincere. I do not jest.


When teachers break down poems, children learn how to follow a pattern and put words in a certain order. The simple patterns found in some poems are fun to follow and great places for children to start learning to write. Writing poetry is a transferable writing skill.
She'd fallen asleep in her cradle of ice
when a blundering prince woke her up in a trice.

Her eyes flashed open. She narrowed her sight.
She gave the prince a terrible fright.

"Excuse me, my Queen. It seems I now know,
in my confusion I've found the wrong Snow. 


Poetry can have a positive impact on the social and emotional learning of children.
Don’t cry.                          Sister,
I’m here.                           I’ll protect you.
We’ll find the path          as we go home
together,                           hand in hand—


Children have a natural curiosity to foster and encourage with poetry. It creates enchantment and wonder in a child’s mind. (especially if it deals with fantasy/fairytales as the subject matter.)
In this book it’s been told
of princes so bold
and maidens who hope and wait.
Of creatures who spy,
and spells gone awry,
now, you question their fairytale fate

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

As a child, I loved fairytales. My favorite was The Twelve Dancing Princesses. I even owned a version in a Children’s Classics comic book. As a Master Educator, I taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels and encouraged my students to tell little-known fairytales through creative dramatics. As a children’s author, I love rhyme and the challenge of finding unique words that can be used alliteratively, while keeping a strong meter, and telling a story with no forced word, no reverse phrases, and a clever ending.

So, it wasn’t a far stretch to take the challenge of rhyming and my love of fairytales and weave them together in various poetry forms to write Once Upon a Twisted Tale. As a former teacher, I believe that this book is a treasure trove for the elementary classroom. It features a variety of poetry techniques such as: loop poetry, cleave poetry, Ghazal, haiku, couplet, and pantoum. I’ve developed a curriculum guide to accompany it, for those teachers who are interested. Contact me at

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to your book?

1. Pre-reading exercises:
  • What can the child decipher from the cover? 
  • What do the colors and images suggest?
  • Where will this story take place? 
  • How many characters do you see?

2. While marketed for middle-grade children, preschool children are enamored with Caroline O’Neal’s whimsical watercolor illustrations. One three-year-old I met at a book signing loves to reread the book and make up fantastic stories for her mother through the illustrations.

© 2019 Caroline O'Neal, ONCE UPON A TWISTED TALE, all rights reserved.

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

I’d suggest playing RHYME DETECTIVES.
  1. Read a rhyming picture book or a poem to the class.
  2. Have students clap when they hear a rhyming word.
  3. Stop reading and print the rhyming pair on index cards.
  4. Make a rhyme word pile.
  5. When the story or poem is finished, have student volunteers rediscover the rhyming word pairs.
  6. Have students create another rhyming pair from their words, making four.
  7. Print the full list of rhyming words for the class.
  8. Students can use these words to create an original poem.

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

Just recently, as a guest speaker in an Early Childhood Education college class, I introduced the prospective teachers to Once Upon a Twisted Tale and offered them a simple exercise where they chose bits of colored paper from 3 different bags. One listed a fairytale character. The second offered an action. And the third offered a different fairytale character. 

I gave them time to create an “original fractured fairytale” and one of the students wrote a full rhyming text. I’m sure she will use that exercise in her own classroom.


Twitter: @GeeCeeK

Look for Gayle's other rhyming picture book out this year, Daddy, Can You See the Moon? (Clear Fork/Spork, April 2019).

Please join me in thanking Gayle for participating in our Classroom Connections series and for offering a signed copy of Once Upon a Twisted Tale, plus the accompanying curriculum guide, to one lucky Today's Little Ditty reader! (US addresses only.)

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Twisted Tale" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, August 20th. In your comment, Gayle would love to hear your thoughts about the sampling of poems featured in this blog:
Tell me who the main fairytale character is and who you would like to see him/her paired with for a funny, rhyming redux. Maybe we can even come up with enough for a Twisted Tales, Volume II.
The winner will be selected randomly and announced next Friday, August 23rd.

Our padlet collection of song-lyric based poems has grown this week with new additions from Dianne Moritz, Madeleine Kuderick, Sydney O'Neill, Margaret Simon, and Mindy Gars Dolandis. I may even be getting better at guessing the songs... unless you guys are deliberately going easy on me! I haven't "officially" guessed more than a couple on the padlet, because I would love for others to play along too.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup at Wondering and Wandering includes a wonderful assortment of poems inspired by trees. While I had something else scheduled for today, if you're looking for more trees, I invite you to peruse our June 2015 wrap-up celebration of TREEHOUSE poems. Many thanks to Christie Wyman for hosting this week's roundup!


  1. Michelle, what a delightful post this is. I loved reading the fractured fairytales here especially the Snow White one.
    "A wicked queen in snow-white mist.
    Stories of the wrong one kissed."
    The illustration is quite interesting with the ice framing the face.
    I think it would be funny to pair the blundering prince with the ogress who has a lce-filled braid. Will there be a magical kiss?
    The rhyming surely makes the tales fun to read.

    1. I'm so glad you liked the illustration and the words of "Bewildering Snows." :) Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  2. I fell in love with language through fairy tales. Fairy tales hold some of my best memories. I love the teaching tips in this post. I think they would work with some of my middle school students too. Getting students to write is huge in my work. I do what I can to build background knowledge, like fairy tales, as a foundation to jump from. It's really fun! Thanks for the great post, today!

    1. Linda: Hope you can use ONCE UPON A TWISTED Tale in your classroom. It will certainly lead to plenty of class discussion and maybe even inspire some fractured fairytales from your students. :)

  3. Fractured fairy tales are an instant hit with students, and this book would be a great addition to any classroom library. I appreciated the teaching tips as well. Thanks to you and Gayle for a great post!

    1. You are certainly welcome, Molly. As a teacher, myself, I know how valuable teaching tips are to the busy teacher. :)

  4. Congratulations to Gayle on this new book, which, clearly, she had a lot of fun with... and now teachers and students will, too! So many ways poetry, stories, and fairy tales can enrich our lives... happy to know about this, Michelle. Thank you! xo

    1. Thank you for commenting Irene. I so happy you can see the joy I found in creating these fairytale poems. :)

  5. Delightful post. I'd love to try writing these with my students. My favorite fairy tale character is Cinderella. I'd like to see her paired with The Beast from Beauty and the Beast. I feel they have a lot in common.

    1. Great idea, Margaret. Perhaps you can use that as the starting point when using ONCE UPN A TWISTED TALE with your students. THanks for commenting. :)

  6. Thanks for this enchanting journey with Gayle Krause and her new book "Once Upon A Twisted Tale!" I love all the extras it offers and the art is delightful. Congratulations Gayle and thanks Michelle for sharing Gayle with us!

    1. So glad you enjoyed Caroline's artwork and snippets of my poems. THank you for stopping by and commenting. :)

  7. I was lucky enough to take a course with Jack Zipes about fracturing fairytales and learning to think critically. I can hardly wait to get my hands on a copy of this book.

  8. How wonderful that you were able to take a course with Jack Zipes. I hope you enjoy ONCE UPON A TWISTED TALE. :)

  9. Thank you for this. Kids love rhymes so much. I will be getting this book for my sub bag.

    1. Jone: So glad you enjoyed the post. And thank you for adding Once Upon a Twisted Tale to your sub bag. It will surely bring some fun to the classroom. :)

  10. Rocky and Bullwinkle were my introduction to fractured fairy tales. Since then I've done on the spot fractures with my grandkids and played around with them some. They are so much fun. I love the selections from Gayle's book, and the teaching ideas!

    1. Yes, Donna. I watched the "Fractured Fairytales" segment from Rocky and Bullwinkle too. So happy you like the poem selections we've featured on the blog.

  11. First of all...I LOVE Gayle's Once Upon a Twisted Tale...what fun to mash together various fairy tales woven together in rollicking rhyme...Gayle is a master at this! Second, this post is like a mini rhyme workshop, Michelle. A huge thank you to Gayle for laying out how this book can be utilized in the classroom. Well done, ladies!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Vivian. I hope teachers everywhere will use Once Upon a Twisted Tale as an introduction to a fun way to rhyme. Maybe even inspire some student "fractured fairytales." :)

  12. This is a delightful book. Gayle is terrific!

    1. Thank you, David. Glad you enjoyed the "fractured fairytales." :)

  13. Fractured fairy tales are one of my favorite genres! Thanks for featuring Gayle, Michelle. I look forward to using this book with my students in the coming year. =)

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Bridget. I glad I could help you inspire your students to write some fun poetry. :)

  14. Fairy tales are wonderful starting points! So much fun, such a good prompt for thinking imaginatively. I particularly like the cleave poem excerpt.

    1. Tabatha: You are so right. Fairy tales are already familiar to most children, so they are easy starting points for lessons and when you mix them up, fun ensues. Cleave poems are one of the most dificult to write. Glad you liked the sample. :)

  15. This is such a fun concept! I love that you have made these silly pairings into new tales with a twist. I think my favorite main character is the ogress with the lice filled braid and the beast with the mirror in the wall. Thanks for this fun and enchanting post.

  16. Janie: So glad you enjoyed the pairing of fairytale characters in the wrong stories to make new ones. :)