Cover of Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen

Sleeping Ugly

This is the book I always use when I do storytelling concerts. It’s fun to tell and always gets listeners–young and old–in a good mood. Princess Miserella is the ugly sleeper of the title. The heroine is Plain Jane. She is ably assisted by the old fairy and Prince Jojo, the youngest son of a youngest son who has no gold or jewels or property to speak of. Everyone loves the moral at the end of the story but I won’t spoil it by reciting it out of sequence! Diane Stanley’s pictures are wonderfully cranky and original though–to be honest–she says she doesn’t like them. However, she’s the only one who feels that way! There are many editions of this book, including a Scholastic Book Club edition and something called a Paperback Plus, which includes Sleeping Ugly, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty,(not by me), and other material. Note in the photo credit for that edition, both Jason’s name (Stample) and my name (Yolan) are mis-spelled.


  • Junior Literary Guild Seection 1981
  • A New York Public Library Children’s Books: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing Selection


  • Griffin Theater performances of Sleeping Ugly in Chicago 2006 and Florida.
  • Idaho State University’s Summer Theater “Hot Dog Theater” 1992
  • Michale Gabriel did a storytelling version of SLEEPING UGLY on her tape “Word Dreams”

What reviewers have said:

  • “This irreverant look at fairy tales still has the prince saving the damsel in distress, but love is no longer based on beauty or status. Stanley’s playful illustrations heighten the humor of the book and give it a distinctly modern setting in the end.”—Children’s Literature
  • “Clever turn on a traditional tale…Diane Stanley’s expressive illustrations. . .add an intriguing perspective to the tale’s witty text and humorous play with fairy tale conventions.”—School Library Journal
  • “Yolen’s light, bright twist on the romantic tale . . .Though Yolen’s revision doesn’t touch the non-feminist heart of this out-of-favor tale, her spoofy tone and mildly acidic asides on the princess make sprightly reading.”—Kirkus
  • “Yolen pokes fun at the patterned Sleeping-princess story in a tale that’s written with brisk simplicity and humor. . .it’s amusing, it has plenty of action, and it’s easy to read.”–Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
  • “Clever send-up of the Sleeping Beauty story. . .”—Book Links
  • Of the Musical Theater production:

    Griffin Theater, Chicago: “Happily ever after” takes on new meaning in Griffin Theatre’s world premiere of “Sleeping Ugly: The Musical.” Adapted by William Massolia from Jane Yolen’s popular children’s picture book, it is a funny, engaging and subversive retelling of a classic fairy tale. The production works on all levels. Director Richard Barletta allows his six-actor cast to embrace this band of quirky characters with a whimsical greed; George Howe’s smart songs have a touch of satire that add layers to the storytelling. May/June 2005 “All in all, “Sleeping Ugly” is a fine package for theatergoers of all ages.”—Chicago Sun Times