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Straw into Gold

Fairy Tales Re-spun

Illustrated by Sarah Gibb

“Ten old yarns cleverly ‘re-spun.’” —The Wall Street Journal
“Abundantly magical.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Award-winning author Hilary McKay reimagines classic fairy tales with humorous and heartfelt twists in this illustrated collection of short stories that Booklist calls “a real delight.”

Imagine Hansel and Gretel’s story from their teacher’s point of view, when Gretel submits her report of, “What I Did in the Holidays, and Why Hansel’s Jacket Is So Tight.” Learn the story of how Rumpelstiltskin was used by a greedy girl who wanted to marry a prince in “Straw into Gold.” Find out what was really underneath all those mattresses the unlucky princess had to sleep on—and who the prince was really in love with—in “The Prince and the Problem.”

Award-winning author Hilary McKay brings a modern sensibility and inventive quirkiness to this beautiful collection of ten classic fairy tales, reimagining them with emotional depth and lighthearted humor. Each story is also accompanied by delicate black and white illustrations.

This sure-to-be treasured collection includes:
The Princess and the Pea
The Pied Piper
The Swan Brothers
Snow White
Red Riding Hood
The Twelve Dancing Princesses
Hansel and Gretel

Straw into Gold

The Tower and the Bird or Rapunzel

The tower stood on a small rise in the middle of the forest. It looked a little like a squat, dark windmill without its sails, or the monstrous chimney of some cold furnace. It was built of dark stone; reddish black and smelling of iron. Even on the brightest of days it was a menacing presence. And at night it loomed like a deliberate insult inked against the stars.

Grass and thornbushes grew at the base of the tower, but the deer from the forest did not graze there. Nothing ever moved on the tower mound except for the scuttling witch.

The forest lapped all around, a green ocean of trees. Great carved oaks and airy maples. Tall, sweet-scented pines. Rust-red streaks of hurrying squirrels. Many bright birds.

Jess and Leo always noticed birds because their mother loved them so much. “They are so brave,” she said, “and so fragile, and so quick and bright.”

Jess and Leo preferred dogs for company. Dogs who would come on adventures all day, and sleep on your bed all night. Their father, the Prince, loved his old white horse.

“But birds suit Mother,” Jess and Leo agreed, and so they looked out for the first swallow and counted the storks’ nests on the rooftops in the village, and they saw the bird in the cottage window.

It was a small thing, green with a yellow head, hunched on its perch in a miniature cage. Three cats sat underneath, watching. The sight made Jess boil with indignation.

“We should steal it,” she said, “and set it free. It’s cruel!”

“We don’t have to steal it,” said Leo, reasonably. “There’s other ways of getting things. Perhaps they would sell it.”

“We haven’t any spare money. I suppose we could ask at home.”
Photograph by Bella McKay

Hilary McKay is the award-winning author of The Time of Green Magic (which received five starred reviews), The Skylarks’ War (which was a Boston Globe Best Book, and received three starred reviews), Binny Bewitched (which was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year and received two starred reviews), Binny in Secret (which received three starred reviews), Binny for Short (which received four starred reviews), and six novels about the Casson family: Saffy’s AngelIndigo’s Star, Permanent RoseCaddy Ever AfterForever Rose, and Caddy’s World. She is also the author of Wishing for Tomorrow, the sequel to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, and The Swallows’ Flight. Hilary lives with her family in Derbyshire, England. Visit her at

Sarah Gibb studied at Saint Martin’s School of Art (now Central Saint Martins) before completing her MA in illustration at Brighton College of Art. She illustrated Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole series, many classic children’s fairy tales and even the Harrods Christmas window display. She lives in Wandsworth, London.

“This book is a real delight…A thought-provoking take on familiar, well-loved stories, ideal for anyone who can't get enough fairy tales.” 

– Booklist

* "Abundantly magical"

– Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Within the context of varied tellers and points of view, the gist of the classic stories remains largely intact, but McKay brings her own warm, insightful humor into the magical world.” 

– Horn Book

“Ten familiar Western tales are buffed up, inventively recast, and infused with tenderness and warm good humor.”

– Kirkus

“Ten old yarns cleverly ‘re-spun.'"

– The Wall Street Journal

More books from this author: Hilary McKay