I always found the classic fairy tale of the gingerbread man to be a little boring growing up. It felt like just another story with a moral. Then I discovered a captivating version of the classic tale with adorable illustrations and the story written in verse. The tale became a fun one to tell and I even turned the "catch me if you can" verse repeated throughout the story into a little song. The children and I loved it and we read it weekly for several months and continue to read it at least once every couple of months two years later. I began looking for other well done variations on the tale. Not all of them were great, but I highly recommend these four. We have been reading and re-reading these four in our household for several years. The children liked them as toddlers and still love them as preschoolers.
These are listed in no particular order of preference. They are all short, simple, and sweet.
1. The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth. It's all in the telling. This is the classic story of the gingerbread man, but the rhyme and rhythm make it a pleasure to read and so much more engaging for the little ones. You'll want a great telling of the classic story for several reasons. First, you need something to compare the others to if you're doing a unit on how fairy tales are often retold in different variations. Also, the Gingerbread Girl stories I'll be talking about shortly set themselves up as direct sequels to the Gingerbread Man story often referring to what happened to the original Gingerbread Boy.
2. The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray. This variation of the gingerbread man takes place in a school. He is baked by a class of children who leave for recess while they wait for him to cool. He thinks he's been abandoned and searches the school to find his class only to discover at the end that they've been searching for him as well. The illustrations are done in a comic panel format which usually irritates me, but it isn't overdone in this book. In fact there is a lot of detail and humor to be found in the illustrations and it really does add layers to the story to take the time to fully examine the illustrations. Some of the common core standards involve using illustrations to add information so this is an added bonus in the book. Like all the other gingerbread man tales I'm featuring, this one is written in rhyme and is a pleasure to read. My kids love this one too.
3. The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst. This book is so much fun. One year later, the little old man and little old woman decide to try again but this time they bake a gingerbread girl. As she bakes she overhears the old man and woman discussing what happened to her brother and she decided that she will not meet the same fate. Later in the story she ends up face to face with that fox and I still clearly remember the anticipation the children felt when they didn't know if the fox would get her. It is fun to read and sing (if you like, just make up a tune) and is a delightful twist on the gingerbread man tale. (One small caveot. The fox uses the words "airhead" and "dumber" in reference to the gingerbread girl. You could either read as is and take the opportunity to discuss why using those words is unkind, or you can simply substitute something less offensive like "silly" while reading.)
4. The Gingerbread Girl Goes Animal Crackers is a sequel to The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst. This sequel is at least as awesome as the original, possibly better although you wouldn't enjoy it as much if you hadn't read the first one. This time the gingerbread girl has been with the little old man and little old woman for a year and they give her a present - a box of animal crackers. She loves it because she's always wanted friends like her, but then the noisy mob of animal crackers runs away. The overall story structure is familiar, but the individual pages are so well done. Each page features a different animal cracker rhyme. "My legs move so fast, I'm practically flyin'. You can't catch me, I'm the wild cracker lion!" You can pause before the last word and treat it like a riddle and ask the children if they know which animal cracker the verse is about. There's an excellent balance of tension in the scene with the fox and a great resolution at the end. Outstanding book.
If you liked these children's book suggestions, I have several others ranging from board books through early chapter books. Check them out. As soon as I get a chance, I'll share 4 fun books for halloween.