There’s a fun way for elementary school kids (and parents!) to engage in literary classics: Let the Muppets help.
The Muppets Meet the Classics book series — for kids 9 and up — first launched in 2017 with Kermit and crew starring in a Muppet-y version of the Phantom of the Opera. Now, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Rizzo and more return to take on another literary favorite with Muppets Meet the Classics: Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm (out this week).
The book, written by Erik Forrest Jackson and illustrated by Owen Richardson, features 18 of the Brothers Grimm’s short stories, each with a Muppet-y spin, like Unclestiltskin (after Rumpelstiltskin), Pepe and Polly (after Hansel and Gretel) and The Frog Who Liked to Fish (after The Fisherman and His Wife).
Plus, they’re not just tales with the Muppets layered on top — Jackson wove in fun, and sometimes surprising, pop culture references throughout the book. (Like when Miss Piggy was annoyed to be wearing a dirndl and clogs because her contract “specifically said Prada would design all my outfits.”)
“For five decades, the Muppets have been part of the cultural conversation,” Jackson tells PEOPLE. “It’s natural that, as pop culture icons themselves, they’d interact quite easily with whatever is happening in contemporary life.”
The author — who himself is a pop culture expert as a former editor at InStyle and Entertainment Weekly, both sister publications of PEOPLE — read hundreds of Brothers Grimm tales to narrow it down to the 18 included, then he says he “cast” them all to get the mix just right.
“I actually created an Excel spreadsheet to calculate which Muppets fit best into the 18 selected stories, making sure no Muppet appeared too much or too little,” he explains of how he created the lineup. “Miss Piggy was, of course, very insistent that she had plenty of page time, and you don’t say no to Piggy.”
Indeed, Miss Piggy is the most popular throughout the book — and the wittiest. In Camillarella (after Ashputtel), she plays a social media-obsessed wicked stepmother, who “focused only on her phone, obsessed with her Twitter feed” and bragged about getting retweeted by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. In Unclestiltskin, she has to guess the name of her captor, and throws out the names Bono, Ludacris and Zayn.
“The Muppets always embrace throwaway gags, and I couldn’t resist putting some into the book,” says Jackson.
Our favorite, however, isn’t about Miss Piggy at all. Rather, it’s when the character Miss Mousey in The Eagle, the Mouse, and the Wedge of Cheese (after The Mouse, The Bird, and the Sausage), slacks off by binging the TV show Keeping Up with the Koozebanians. Sound famliar?
“Koozebanians are Muppet aliens from the Planet Koozebane,” explains Jackson. “Sure, they might at first seem to be nothing like the Kardashian crew… until you consider just how much they all live in an entirely different universe from the rest of us.”
See if you catch all of the pop culture references — there are a lot! — in Muppets Meet the Classics: Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm ($12.99), out now.