Review: The Language Of Thorns By Leigh Barudgo

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The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo is a collection of reimagined fairy tales. And can I just say it’s the best fairy tale collection I’ve ever read?! It was beautiful beautiful and clever and feminist. This aren’t stories where the princess is just waiting for a prince! They’re full of plot twists but with a darkness that nods to traditional Grimm tales. You might recognise threads of traditional fairy tales (like the Nutcracker and The Little Mermaid) but they’re so different and unique I didn’t want it to end!

There are six tales! They do fit into the Grishaverse, which is a fantasy world created by Leigh Bardugo that began with the Shadow & Bone trilogy and continued in the spin-off duology Six of Crows. However if you haven’t ever read a Grisha book, you would still love these six fairy tales and they’d make perfect sense. The only thing that doesn’t make sense is why you haven’t read them yet. Come on now.

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

I honestly felt like I fell into the dark witch’s wood of magic! I am literally bursting with love and appreciation for the clever writing, the beautiful characters, and the magical depths. It feels like a midnight snack of fairy tales, the kind you can’t possibly put down. And often the characters in the stories also told stories, so the book-within-a-book feeling was strong here.

I did love picking out the threads of the traditional fairy tales amongst these reimagined ones! I could see Little Mermaid influences and the Nutcracker and Hansel and Gretel. But these are actually very different and quite dark. I really enjoyed the darker twists with monsters under castles and mermaids doing magic and evil men getting comeuppance for their horrible ways. And the best part? They were full of plot twists. No irritating or tedious fairy tale tropes here with damsels or falling for the first prince you meet or every step-mother being evil. Beauty isn’t everything. Princes suck. The beast is actually kind. Here is the sea witch’s origin story. The dark woods are not the only problem here. And on it goes!

It captivated me on every page with how amazing it was. The writing was detailed and clever too.

The actual physical book itself is also a pure delight to look at. The pages are illustrated and they add such depth to the story. There are some panels in the borders that change as the book goes on, so if you flip the pages really fast, it’s a stop-motion image of darkness covering a princess! Some of the double-page spreads were just so amazing and the style is simple but so emotional and lovely.

The Language of Thorns is full of fairy tales as they should be. They’re dark and feminist and empowering and filled with women who can be good or evil or morally grey or just seriously complex. There are monsters and wooden dolls with identity crises and queer girls and endless endless magic that just inspires me. You’ll fill so full of magic when you finish this!

List of YA Alice in Wonderland Retellings

If there’s one thing I absolutely adore it’s: fairy tale retellings. And what could be better than an entire list of Alice in Wonderland retellings?! Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland is such a classic and it’s inspired so many writers to work madly at their own versions, from prequels to sequels to reinventions of the original tale completely. I love it! I can’t get enough! And just in case you can’t get enough either, I have compiled a list for you.

May we all think of six impossible things before breakfast and fight our daily Jabberwockies.

(Also see my list of Peter Pan retellings!)

 

ALICE IN WONDERLAND RETELLINGS


9781925479478HEARTLESS

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Written by the NYT bestselling author of the Lunar Chronicles — this is a prequel story from the point of view of the Queen of Hearts! You know that lovely lady who says “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS” frequently throughout the Alice tales? Yup. Here she is. But before she was a head chopping queen, she was called Cath and loved to bake. This is one of the most delicious books in existence basically since it’s loaded with delicious foodie descriptions. Expect desserts, mad tea parties, and a Victorian setting with balls and talking cats and a swoon-worthy Joker that might just steal a girl’s heart.


9781419706271SPLINTERED

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This is an “after Alice” sort of story and centres around one of Alice’s descendants, a girl named Alyssa who is visited each night by a wickedly charming moth named Morpheus who means to lure her into Wonderland to fight evil and return Wonderland to its former glory. Except her magical moth boy guide isn’t being honest and Wonderland is out to, well, kill all the things. This is a retelling worthy of Tim Burton’s dark and twisted Alice movies. It’s beyond brilliant and the descriptions are so lush and entrancing!


9780008175399QUEEN OF HEARTS

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Another tale that starts with the origin story of the Queen of Hearts before she was into lopping off heads. (This is a popular point of view it seems.) It follows the story of Dinah, an unloved and neglected princess who must suffer with her royal father’s maliciousness and try to stay ahead of enemies that want to kill her, all the while vying for the throne. Life ain’t easy when your royalty apparently.


25926238MAD ABOUT THE HATTER

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This one takes a sequel sort of approach and follows the brother of the original Alice as he too loses his way into Wonderland. Henry isn’t exactly fond of nonsense and magical worlds, but he accidentally gets caught up in Wonderland and ends up being taken to the Red Queen by none other than the Mad Hatter. The two hate each other as they journey through Wonderland until they gradually find hate turning to love. It features a lovely whimsical Wonderland and grand character development and a romance to fall for.


9780142409411THE LOOKING GLASS WARS

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What if Alice wasn’t really a girl falling through a rabbit hole into Wonderland? What if she was a princess and on the run from her evil aunt (the Red Queen) before she’s murdered for her crown?! This is a very imaginative approach to the original tale and completely changes everything. It features wars and conspiracies and Alice trying to convince a writer of her tale and reclaim her kingdom.

Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

9780765380548Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter is a completely magical and bizarre retelling of Russian folklore. Seriously, it was just about the weirdest thing ever. But in a good way! Just toss out your black-and-white-logical-brain because when it comes to fairy tales you need to be prepared for the weird and wacky. Especially for Russian folklore! We have houses on chicken legs and talking dolls and body-less-hands gallivanting around. It’s magical realism at its finest!

I’m a big fan of Russian folklore and I recently read Deathless which definitely prepared me for what Vassa in the Night would be like. Although this book isn’t actually set in Russia. It’s set in Brooklyn, USA, which was a teeny bit disappointing because I love being transported overseas. But the amazingness of the story definitely made up for this failed expectation.

Basically it’s the story of Vassa who is living with her step-sisters and feels very alone in the world. She lives in a city where people know there’s magic, but don’t always acknowledge it. The nights are getting longer (which means a minute might actually be…a day) and there is an insanely creepy stare run by Babs who beheads shoplifters. Vassa accidentally ends up being hired by the witchy Babs and must survive the next 3 days working in the store where body-less hands patrol and the money tries to run away — or else DEATH.

I quite enjoyed reading about Vassa! She was pretty snarky but still kind of adorable and venerable which is a winning combination and made it easy to root for her. Most of the time she just rolled with it when the world was going insane. She also has a magical talking doll that was gifted to her by her mother right before she died. The talking doll, Erg, eats and eats and eats and is also a kleptomaniac. But she’s the only true friend Vassa has.

The magical realism element is definitely my favourite. I love magic and I loved how it fit seamlessly into this world. I mean we have a shop that beheads shoplifters and people turning into swans and, oh, don’t let me forget that the Night got trapped inside a motorcyclist. And the crazy elements of the magic totally made my day. Particularly the stretching of time! And how people could appear covered in scales and everyone just went with it.

Chelsea snorts with disbelief, clamps an arm around my shoulders, and starts hustling me towards the street. “Tomorrow you can send the owner a note explaining everything. Say that you’re terribly sorry but your family refuses to let you work for a serial killer. Blame me if you want. Oh, my sister’s so overprotective! She just wouldn’t listen when I told her dismembering people doesn’t bother me!”

The Russian retelling element is definitely a big reason why I wanted to read it. It’s specifically a retelling of Vasilisa the Beautiful who, in the original, gets stuck in the witch Baba Yaga’s home and must complete three impossible tasks (with the help of her magic doll) before she’s allowed to go free. I loved seeing how the original elements were woven into this. So clever! And so unique!

Plus the story also has some severely creeptastic moments, which should make your skin crawl. Truly delightful.

This is definitely an ethereal, bizarre specimen of a fairy tale retelling and I totally recommend it! I half wish had been a little darker all the way through, instead of piling the creepy moments up at the end. But it was beautifully written, exciting, and totally unique. Also you can take away the very important message that: SHOPPING KILLS. We should all just stay home and order things online, honestly. Less risk of being beheaded by a witch or turned into a swan.

 

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List of YA Peter Pan Retellings

Do you find yourself mildly terrified of being an adult? I think you and I need to have a talk about Peter Pan. YES! The immortal, ageless classic fairy-child created by J.M. Barrie in the 1900s. And considering Peter Pan is still popular even to this day, I think he’s successfully achieved that “ageless” genius.

But if you’ve already read the original Peter Pan and don’t want to re-read it 78 times…NEVER FEAR. I have a list of retellings that might interest you! Now you can read Peter Pan retold in different, delectable styles and satisfy your inner child.

PETER PAN RETELLINGS


9780062003263TIGER LILY

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Tiger Lily is a seriously whimsical retelling of Peter Pan, that focuses on…TIGER LILY HERSELF! (Surprise!) It’s more about her people and their culture, including her mentor, Tik Tok, and the shame and hardship the villagers put him and Tiger Lily through because they’re different and quite odd. Plus it’s narrated by Tinkerbell. Which is quite enlightening because Tink can’t speak.


9781481432047UNHOOKED

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This one features two girls who are kidnapped by rougish pirates and taken to a deathly island of evil creatures and freaktastic beasts. It blurs the line of “good vs evil” in this new, vicious Neverland. If you’re looking for a dark side to Neverland, I think this is it.


9781940716954WENDY DARLING

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Here we have a more classic approach to the tale, where Peter Pan comes for Wendy Darling in nursery one evening. But Neverland has a bloody, dark side here too, and all the frolicking with the Lost Boys isn’t going to cover that up. Did Wendy fall into a wonderland or a nightmare? Let’s ask the tough questions here.


9781634221351NORA & KETTLE

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Despite sounding like a packet of potato chips, this is actually a retelling! It’s set in the 1950s and takes a more historical fiction approach to the old tale. Kettle is an orphaned Japanese-American trying to live on the streets in the aftermath of WWII when the world is basically against him.


9781633920392NEVER NEVER

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Forget Peter Pan, let’s talk about Captain James Hook! This one is from his perspective and rather views Peter as an impish little demon. (Fair enough, I suppose. They did have quite the rivalry there.) At first James wants to be in Neverland, but then he decides growing up doesn’t sound so bad…except Peter won’t take him back home. #awkward Thus ensues the beginning of James Hook being in a world that pretty much hates his guts. Not fun.


9780451475763NEVER EVER

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A slightly more contemporary retelling approach to the classic Peter Pan story! This features Wylie who gets entranced by the mysterious Phinn and ends up following him to an island of fun times and parties and no responsibility. Except things aren’t what they seem. (I mean, are they ever when it comes to the slightly devious, slightly evil Peter Pan?? Hmm?)


9780545836944EVERLAND

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It’s about time things got steampunky! This one is set in London after the WWII blitzes and there’s an evil German scientist snatching children from the streets and experimenting on them. Gwen and a impish hellion named Pete set out to rescue the kids. The story promises sharp-shooting and blood promises and gangs.

Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler

9781481401272The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler was a) my first read by this author, b) one of my new favourite contemporaries of 2016, and c) an entirely adorable sea cucumber of goodness. I so thoroughly approve of this book! It had everything a summery contemporary needs: excellent characters; lots of boating and beachy scenes; teenagers eating half a universe worth of seafood; and people standing up for what they believe in and using their voice.

I absolutely loved the theme of “use your voice”. Especially since the narrator, Elyse, was mute after an accident. But the book just went onto to underline and prove that there are SO MANY WAYS of speaking up for yourself. And no one ever deserves to be voiceless.

Also this is a modernised retelling of The Little Mermaid! HOW COOL IS THAT, RIGHT?! I’m such a huge fan of retellings and I particularly love this kind — it can stand on its own, or you can look for the little nods to the original. (Like Elyse’s aunt was named Ursula and the love-interest’s little brother was Sebastian. I love it!)

It absolutely wins for the diversity representation too!! Elyse is from Trinidad & Tobago and mute. Also her cousin is half T&T. It’s so refreshing to have characters of colour and books that discuss physical disabilities. HUZZAH. MORE OF IT.

There’s a definite air of mystery about the “accident” too. Since Elyse WILL NOT GIVE DETAILS. I busted half and eyebrow wondering. All we get to know is that a) Elyse nearly drowned, b) she lost her voice forever, and c) it involves her sister which is why Elyse has left T&T and is living with her aunt in the USA. I want aaaaanswers. (Also the reveal was pretty devastating and gloriously written.)

Plus the book discussed equality. Which fills me with GREAT JOY because equality is a big deal and I loved the theme of “speaking up for yourself and others who can’t”. Like Elyse faced prejudice for wanting to sail in the “boys’ pirate regatta”. Sebastian (the love interest’s little 6-year-old brother) wanted to march in the “girls’ mermaid parade”. And the adults were so condescending about refuting them. AGH. It made me so proud to see the teens of the story just PUNCH those rules and keep speaking up for equality. Even if they couldn’t actually speak.

I also really adored Elyse as a character. There’s still plenty of dialogue, of course, and she communicates through writing — but mostly we have her interior thoughts and monologues. And…I just feel like I really know Elyse. She is definitely the kind of person you’d want to be friends with. Elyse was complicated and suffering and trying to piece herself back together after the accident and AHHH I JUST ADMIRE HER BRAVERY SO SO MUCH. Also her relationship with Christian was adorable and so shippable.

Plus the book has just a gorgeous setting. Mostly beachy and slightly witchy (because Elyse’s aunt is all into herbs and tarot cards and organic tea or whatnot). Also excellent writing. Excellent! I just want to go find more by this author and devour it.

Obviously I am a rather rabid fan of this story! I awed at how many characters there were and how they were ALL so dimensional and well-written. But I also crave fish and chips, so thanks for nothing, book. I totally think this book is underrated and deserves more love! It’s empowering and special and full of seaweed. Definitely recommend!

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Review: Ophelia And the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

9781471403361Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee was an entirely marvellous book. YES. Pun intended. (I couldn’t resist, okay?!) It was magical and adorable and I ate it as fast as I possibly could and enjoyed every second of this incredibly written tale.

It’s basically the story of 12-year-old Ophelia who moves with her family to a gothic museum and there she finds magical (and dangerous) things. Aka — a boy locked in a room for 300+ years by an evil queen. Ergo Ophelia must rescue the boy and defeat the queen! All the while trying to get her family to believe that weird things are going on in the museum. It has a bit of a Snow Queen fairy tale feel to it, which is amazing. I love retellings!

I was also very excited going into reading this because a) I love Karen Foxlee (Aussie authors FTW!) and b) like I said, I’m a sucker for retellings, and c) the cover is just beautifully magical. Also Karen Foxlee sort of broke my heart in The Midnight Dress…so I wanted to see what her Middle Grade/Junior Fiction style was.

I announce that it is FABULOUS. I finished this book as a rather happy snowman. (Not that I’ve seen snow?? But there is snow in this book and that calls for Frozen references, okay?! Okay.)

The writing style is very simple and clear. Perfect for youngish bookworms, but still wonderful enough that I (as an adult reading it) adored it to pieces. Also the book is tiny (just over 200-pages) so I finished it in a few hours.

I also appreciated how the writing was interesting and quirky! And I loved the story and the plot! It deals with a few sad and heavy issues (such as Ophelia’s mother is dead when the book starts and she’s reeling from that) and the grief and being alone and feeling ignored and forgotten. It’s handled beautifully.

It’s definitely not a horror story…but it does have creepy parts! It reminded me slightly of Coraline? Minus the intense Tim Burton-esque freaktastic fest.

Ophelia narrates (in 3rd person) and she is basically a tiny world-saving mite who needs no hugs and can handle this. I loved her! She’s not confident, she has asthma, and her glasses are always smudgy. She constantly thinks, “What would Mum say?” which was so bittersweet considering she’s just lost her mother but is still trying to live by what she’d like. Ophelia wasn’t brave, she was curious. It’s nice having slightly unconfident characters — it gives us weakling smudgy-glasses nerds the belief we can face enchanted statues and wield swords and help magical boys someday. This book is immensely relatable.

Definitely a solidly wonderful read that I can’t recommend enough! If you like magical adventures, curious characters, swords, evil queens, and the word “marvellous” (which is such a stupendous word I might add) then Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is FOR YOU. It also might tug at your heart strings. Just warning you.

 

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Review: Untamed (Splintered #3.5) by AG Howard

I am an extremely huge fan of AG Howard’s Splintered series! It all wrapped up last year with Ensnared and left me to wilt quietly and sadly with nooooo more delicious Wonderland retellings in my life. UNTIL UNTAMED WAS ANNOUNCED! HURRAH! Untamed is a companion book: basically short stories about Wonderland. It’s only a small book (200-pages) but it was perfectly delicious to return to Wonderland and catch up with Morpheus, Alyssa, and Jeb. I am a wild wonderlandish fan.

 

25105196Alyssa Gardner went down the rabbit hole and took control of her destiny. She survived the battle for Wonderland and the battle for her heart. In this collection of three novellas, join Alyssa and her family as they look back at their favourite memories of Wonderland. In Untamed, Alyssa recalls the most precious moments of her human life with Jeb and her immortal life with Morpheus. Alyssa’s mother reminisces about her own time in Wonderland and how she gave up the crown to rescue the man who would become her husband in The Boy in the Web. And Morpheus delves into Jeb’s memories of the events of Splintered in The Moth in the Mirror, available in print for the first time.

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I’ll go through each story although: WARNING! They may contain slight spoilers from previous books in the series! Obviously no spoilers about Untamed itself though!

Morpheus takes the jacket…”I’m going to miss your bumbling attempts at wordplay.”
Jeb forces a smile. “Not as much as I’ll miss your pompous-ass condescension.”
“You two want to be alone?” I ask.

 

THE BOY IN THE WEB:
This one is Alyssa’s mother’s story. It’s from her POV and it gives backstory on how she went “crazy” and when she rescued Thomas from the spider’s lair and her first forays into Wonderland. It was intensely interesting to see Morpheus teasing her and luring her deeper into magical worlds and I loved the backstory!

THE MOTH IN THE MIRROR:
Although this, like all of AG Howard’s works, was perfectly written — I’m kind of disappointed it’s not about Morpheus!! I mean, he is the moth right?! But it’s actually Morpheus looking through some memories of Jeb. It fills in questions I had from Splintered (!! yay !!) but I was marginally put out that it wasn’t 100% about my dear precious Morph the Moth. And, I admit, I’m #TeamMorpheus all the way…but I still enjoyed knowing more about Jeb’s motivations behind his sacrifices and seeing him floundering alone in Wonderland.

SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS:
Okay this is the story I was waiting for. Basically desperately longing for. WEDDINGS TIME. The ending(s) I wanted in Ensnared are shared right here! Although Jeb’s story was longer than Morpheus’? I feel like the author has a preference here…(I joke! I joke!) But I couldn’t ask for a more perfect ending. The last 100 pages were my absolute favourite. The glorious beauty and rabidness of Wonderland was out in FULL FORCE and basically all the happy feels and dreams coming true. The scenery and vivid description were breath taking as always. The best conclusion ever.

 

“You’re exquisite. You’re transcendent. And you are mine.”

Overall it was a solidly good set of novellas. It could’ve been a bit more? I would’ve loved more backstory on Morpheus, actually, instead of Alyssa’s mother…but we can’t have everything I suppose. I’m going to miss Wonderland, but thank goodness AG Howard is writing more books (Phantom of the Opera retelling, apparently!) because her writing is divinely delicious. Also Untamed is rather sexy and steamy (while still keeping to YA of course) so all the romantics-at-heart will be pleased.

 

Note: You need to read the trilogy BEFORE these novellas!

YA Fairy Tale Retellings: Where Do You Start?

YA is basically built on wild crazes that burn bright for a year or so — and than melt into a puddle. It used to be vampires, then hello dystopian, how we love you. And now? Fairy tale retellings! I find retellings particularly addictive because they rekindle childhood obsessions. And who can really grow out of Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood?! AM I RIGHT? (I am right.)

But where do you start? There are so many retellings out there now! SO I AM HERE TO HELP. I have made a list to help you navigate the magical world of retellings.

 

CINDERELLA

9780312641894 9780330426060 9780006755487

  • CINDER: NYT bestseller and part of a quartet, starring a cyborg and a sassy robot. MUST READ.
  • SIX IMPOSSIBLE THINGS: This is a contemporary! Also gender-swapped, if you wish to see Cinderella as an awkward teenage boy. (You totally do.)
  • ELLA ENCHANTED: Medieval fantasy where the main character is cursed to do everything she’s told? Go read this now. (Also, this was around before the retelling trend! It’s hipster.)

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

9780061998669 9780062224743 9780399171611

  • BEASTLY: In a contemporary setting, a teenage boy gets his comeuppance for being a regular jerk. The romance is creepy in this book but…hey. The original tale is kind of creepy if you think about it.
  • CRUEL BEAUTY: How about the old classic tale with a spoonful of Greek Mythology? YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
  • THE WRATH AND THE DAWN: Technically it’s an Arabian night retelling, buuuut…it has the famous beast/monster AND many mentions of roses. Also it’s downright brilliant.

 

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

9781419704284 9781743565087 9781782396543

  • SPLINTERED: This one is like Tim Burton’s 2010 “Alice in Wonderland” movie — absolutely creeptastic and addictive.
  • ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND: Alice + zombies = a book you don’t want to miss.
  • LOOKING GLASS HOUSE: This is written by the great-granddaughter of the Alice who inspired the original tale. How cool is that?! It’s basically a prequel.

 

LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD

9780062224767 9781250007216 9781444900606

  • CRIMSON BOUND: I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s by the same author of Cruel Beauty (which I adored) so I’ve no doubts it’s spectacular. And just look at that cover! SO BEAUTIFUL.
  • SCARLET: This is the sequel to Cinder (mentioned above) and my favourite book in the series. Sci-fi! Human wolves! And Scarlet is French!
  • SISTERS RED: So forget about Little Red Riding Hood being an innocent sweetie…this one is about sisters who hunt and kill werewolves. They’re awesome.

 

LITTLE MERMAID

9780061255656 9781481401272 9781444915556

  • SEPTEMBER GIRLS: This one is about mysterious blonde girls and beaches and secrets.
  • THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS: I haven’t read this one yet but everyone I know swears by it’s brilliance. It features a mute girl!
  • FATHOMLESS: Another epic retelling from the Fairy Tale Queen, Jackson Pearce, and while this is actually a sequel, from the two other Pearce books I’ve read, I think you can tackle it on its own.

 

SNOW QUEEN

9780763648442 9781471403361 9781444921373

  • STORK: Apparently inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s original tale, and Norse folklore.
  • OPHELIA AND THE MARVELLOUS BOY: This is written by an Australian! It’s more middle-grade, but the story is still kind of creepy and entirely winning. It’s set in a museum, and, um, there is a magical marvellous boy involved.
  • COLD SPELL: This is the finale of Jackson Pearce’s quartet and it looks shiveringly delicious.

 

PETER PAN

9781250062987 9781408330449 9781417734429

  • SECOND STAR: This is a modernised Peter Pan story with SURFING. Surfing is awesome.
  • TIGER LILY: So whimsical and magical…set in a fantasy world and narrated by Tinkerbell.
  • PETER AND THE STARCATCHERS: I haven’t read this one yet, but it apparently is about pirates and adventures and evil kings, so what more could you want?

 

-~-

These are a mere morsel to get you started! The publishing world is literally ripe with retellings. I only hope they start exploring ballets and classic literature and more history-turned-fantasy novels too. WE CAN HOPE.

The Myth of the Children’s Book (Part 2)

“Some day, you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” -C.S. Lewis.

You might (or might not) be surprised to learn that the beloved fairy tale was originally meant for adults as well as kidlets.

Storytellers such as Perrault had Rapunzel pregnant by her hair-climbing paramore; the story of Snow White is said to be the historical real-life story of a girl poisoned by the Queen when the poor girl caught the eye of the King. Truly delightful stuff.

My love affair with the fairy tale goes further back than my swiss-cheese memory can account for. I can’t remember the first time I read Grimms’ version of Cinderella, where her ugly stepsisters cut their heels and toes off to fit the famed glass slipper, or when I first learned that the price to pay for loving a prince is your tongue cut out and an eventual suicide (a la Anderson’s The Little Mermaid).

Eventually I graduated to that masterpiece Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, but it wasn’t until Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, by Jamie Rix, that I was taught some valuable and thoroughly modern lessons in life. Thrills and chills ran down my spine at the mere thought of The Spaghetti Man, who would turn children into macaroni, penne, or even the dreaded linguine! If children’s picture books help us to identify colours and language, fairy tales further develop a burgeoning imagination and a sense of reason. At the time, I lost countless nights of sleep to that burgeoning imagination, but it did have some positive effects for my parents: I forever after gobbled my spaghetti to the last limp noodle, for fear I should hear the scrape of those uncooked spaghetti fingers dragging along the floor towards me…

As for modern fairytales that are less ‘child’s play’, more ‘adults only’:

The Book of Lost Things, by John Connelly, is similar in story to Guillermo Del Toro’s gorgeous film, Pan’s Labyrinth and it’s a truly chilling read. After reading this book I needed some serious Disney movie therapy, to stop me thinking about Little Red Riding Hood spawning werewolves after laying with the Wolf. Nice. And if you haven’t read Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels (a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red) then you are missing out on some seriously beautifully-crafted language.

To finish off – a Mr. Chesterton (poet, essayist, novelist) once said:

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

So you’ve had a rough day at work – your boss has been an absolute dragon, and your mother-in-law can’t resist telling you (for the thirtieth time) how to raise your kids. Now imagine slaying that dragon, or watching a witch with your mother-in-law’s face dancing over red-hot coals – ouch! I don’t know about you, but when I perform that cathartic little exercise, my day feels a helluva lot brighter.

[Disclaimer: In no way am I condoning real-life violence… but gosh, when you really need it to get through a crappy day, isn’t the imagination a marvellous thing?]