Making a Picture Book: Fresh Take on Estonian Fairy Tales for Modern Kids

Making Picture Book work in progress illustration The Goldspinners (Pildiraamatu joonistamine Eesti rahva ennemuistsetest juttudest - Kullaketrajad)

Fairy Tale

I have loved fairy tales since I was a little girl. Fairy tales are a child’s world of imagination and pleasure, but they also provide a source of inspiration and role models. Almost all kids know the basic plot of several folk tales. Plethora of prints retell them. Cartoons reenact them. Movies reimagine them. A child can learn the comforting, time-treasured stories well and quickly. There is an access point for everyone.

And yet, they can be troubling and grim. Many fairy tales deal with characters in their familial roles or gender stereotypes—mother, father, child, princess, prince, orphan, stepsister, witch—but we know very little else about any of these characters. The stories themselves are often symbolic and defy rational analysis. Many fairy tales are based on the concept of achieving married status, royal status, or plain wealth. Many female characters in fairy tales have nothing to commend them but their delicate looks or are weak and vulnerable and only succeed when a man intervenes. Many fairy tales include cruelty and depraved violence.

In contrast, I am taking a fresh take on Estonian classic folk tales for modern kids and retell Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald’s “Old Estonian Fairy Tales”. I will create a picture book that retells these classic stories with strong characters and modern morals, and conveys the same sense of comfort and wonder that a good fairy tale provides, minus the thieving and evil stepparents. These illustrated stories will present characters in a reasoned narration as free autonomous spirits with a unique personality and quirks.

I will start with a folk tale about The Water-Lily, the Gold Spinners. It tells about three stolen princesses who were kept in a cottage hidden among the bushes hard at work from morning to night spinning golden flax into thread. As they did not want to spin gold flax for ever, the youngest of them was turned into a yellow water-lily floating on the surface of the water.

The Goldspinners (Pildiraamatu joonistamine Eesti rahva ennemuistsetest juttudest - Kullaketrajad)Making PictureBook on modern Estonian fairy tales (Pildiraamatu joonistamine Eesti rahva ennemuistsetest juttudest - Kullaketrajad)

Making Picture Book work in progress illustration The Goldspinners (Pildiraamatu joonistamine Eesti rahva ennemuistsetest juttudest - Kullaketrajad)

Most Beautiful Illustrated Book Covers

The Melancholy of Mechagirl, Catherynne M. Valente, art by Yuko Shimizu

The cover of a book is at work long after it catches your eye from a book shelf. It’s at work when you put it down on your bedside table, or stand holding it on a crowded subway car. It extends the story after you turn the last page: when you come to the end of a book you wished would never end, and stare at the cover art as if that was where you’d find more.

These covers are completely magical and unforgettable.

1. Le livre de Contes de mon enfance (The Book of my Childhood Tales), written by Anne Lanoë, art by Júlia Sardà

Book Cover of Le livre de Contes de mon enfance (The Book of my Childhood Tales)
Hansel & Gretel

2. Nightlights, written and illustrated by Lorena Alvarez

Nightlights Book Cover Illustrated by Lorena Alvarez

3. She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein, written by Lynn Fulton, illustrated by Felicita Sala

She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

4. A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Bad Beginning. Written by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Karl James Mountford

Dollcloud blog Lemony Snicket Book Cover.jpg

5. Journey to the Center of the Earth, written by Jules Verne, illustrated by Carlo Giovani

Dollcloud blog Book Covers Journey to the Center of the Earth Carlo Giovani.jpg

6. Beauty Belongs To The Flowers, written by Matthew Sanborn Smith, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

Dollcloud blog Book Covers Beauty Belongs To The Flowers, Matthew Sanborn Smith, art by Yuko Shimizu.jpg

7. The Melancholy of Mechagirl, written by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

Dollcloud blog Book Covers The Melancholy of Mechagirl, Catherynne M. Valente, art by Yuko Shimizu_.jpg

8. You Only Live Twice, written by Ian Fleming, illustration by Michael Gillette

You Only Live Twice art by Michael Gillette

9. Dancing with the Tiger, written by Lili Wright, illustrated by Aitch

Dollcloud blog Book Covers Lili Wright, Dancing with the Tiger, design by Aitch.jpg

10. Nobody is Ever Missing, written by Cteherine Lacey, AD by Charlotte Strick, illustrated by Patrick Leger

Nobody is Ever Missing Book Cover illustration by Patrick Leger

11. Amberlough, written by Lara Elena Donnelly, illustrated by Victo Ngai

Dollcloud blog Book Covers Amberlough Irene Gallo.jpg

12. Stardust (Bụi Sao), written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Bui Tam

Dollcloud blog Book Covers Bui Sao.jpg

Most Beautifully Illustrated Fairy Tale Books

The Swamp Ladies of Estonia Panga-Rehe Jutud, written and illustrated by Jüri Arrak

These are probably the most gorgeous pieces of book-related design and illustration in the fairy tale book universe. You will find yourself squirming with delight and bittersweet confusion.

1. In Powder & Crinoline, written by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, illustrated by Kay Nielsen

In Powder & Crinoline, written by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, illustrated by Kay Nielsen

The Twelve Dancing Princesses from In Powder & Crinoline, written by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, illustrated by Kay Nielsen
Twelve Dancing Princesses – Don’t Drink! I would rather marry a gardener!
The Twelve Dancing Princesses from In Powder & Crinoline, written by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, illustrated by Kay Nielsen
Twelve Princesses on the Way to the Dance
Felicia Curtsied before the Queen
Felicia Curtsied before the Queen
In Powder & Crinoline, written by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, illustrated by Kay Nielsen
A look, a kiss – The Inconstant Prince

Kay Nielsen illustration In Powder and Crinoline

2. East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales From the North, illustrated by Kay Nielsen

East of the Sun and West of the Moon Old Tales from the North Book Cover

East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales From the North, illustrated by Kay Nielsen
At Rest in the Dark Wood
East of the Sun and West of the Moon Old Tales from the North 2
The King went into the Castle, and at first his Queen didn’t know him, he was so wan and thin, through wandering so far and being so woeful.
East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales From the North, illustrated by Kay Nielsen
He took a long, long farewell of the Princess, and when he got out of the Giant’s door, there stood the Wolf waiting for him.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon Old Tales from the North Tell me the way

3. Old French Fairy Tales, written by Comtesse De Segur, illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett

Old French Fairy Tales Book Cover, written by Comtesse De Segur, illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterret
Princess Rosalie
Old French Fairy Tales, written by Comtesse De Segur, illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett
The Forest
Old French Fairy Tales, written by Comtesse De Segur, illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett
They walked side by side
Old French Fairy Tales, written by Comtesse De Segur, illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett
Blondine and the Tortoise
Old French Fairy Tales, written by Comtesse De Segur, illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterrett
Good Little Henry – What are you seeking?

4. Dreamer of Dreams, written by Marie, Queen Marie of Romania, illustrated by Edmund Dulac

Dreamer of Dreams Book Cover, written by the Queen Marie of Romania, illustrated by Edmund Dulac

Dreamer of Dreams, written by the Queen Marie of Romania, illustrated by Edmund Dulac
Dreamer of Dreams: Glistening White
Dreamer of Dreams, written by Marie, Queen Marie of Romania, illustrated by Edmund Dulac
A circle of mist seemed to be settling around them

5. Persephone, written by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Virginia Lee

ersephone Book Cover, Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Virginia Lee

Persephone, written by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Virginia Lee
Persephone is plucked from a flower-filled field, carried off to the Underworld by Hades.
Persephone, written by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Virginia Lee
Persephone’s mother, Demeter, goddess of Earth, is so brokenhearted that she curses the land so nothing can grow.

Persephone, written by Sally Pomme Clayton, illustrated by Virginia Lee

6. The Swamp Ladies of Estonia (Panga-Rehe Jutud), written and illustrated by Jüri Arrak

The Swamp Ladies of Estonia Panga-Rehe Jutud, written and illustrated by Jüri Arrak

The Swamp Ladies of Estonia Panga-Rehe Jutud, written and illustrated by Jüri Arrak

Panga-Rehe Jutud, written and illustrated by Jüri Arrak

The Swamp Ladies of Estonia Panga-Rehe Jutud, written and illustrated by Jüri Arrak

The Swamp Ladies of Estonia Panga-Rehe Jutud, written and illustrated by Jüri Arrak

7. The Snow Queen, written by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Vladyslav Yerko

The Snow Queen Book Cover, written by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Vladyslav Yerko

The Snow Queen, written by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Vladyslav Yerko

The Snow Queen, written by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Vladyslav Yerko

8. Old, Old Fairy Tales, illustrated by Anne Anderson

Old, Old Fairy Tales, illustrated by Anne Anderson
Beauty and the Beast
Old, Old Fairy Tales, illustrated by Anne Anderson
The Frog prince at the Pool
Old, Old Fairy Tales, illustrated by Anne Anderson
Briar Rose

9. The Princess Who Had No Fortune, written by Ursula Jones, illustrated by Sarah Gibbs

the Princess Who Had No Fortune Sarah Gibb Book Cover

The Princess Who Had No Fortune, written by Ursula Jones, illustrated by Sarah Gibbs

The Princess Who Had No Fortune, written by Ursula Jones, illustrated by Sarah Gibbs

Dollcloud blog the Princess Who Had No Fortune Sarah Gibb 3

The Princess Who Had No Fortune, written by Ursula Jones, illustrated by Sarah Gibbs

10. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez

Wizard of Oz Lorena Alvarez Book CoverThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez

Dollcloud blog Wizard of Oz Lorena Alvarez 2

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Lorena Alvarez

11. The Sleeper and The Spindle, written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Ridell

The Sleeper and The Spindle Book Cover, written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Ridell

The Sleeper and The Spindle book illustration

Dollcloud blog Sleeper and Spindle Neil Gaiman0

The Sleeper and The Spindle, art by Chris Ridell

The Sleeper and The Spindle book illustrations

The Sleeper and The Spindle, written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Ridell

Dollcloud blog Sleeper and Spindle Neil Gaiman

The Sleeper and The Spindle, written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Ridell