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Recently I picked up The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust. It’s one that’s probably been hanging out on my bookshelf for at least five years, waiting for me to dive into its pages. At just 210 pages, I don’t know why I’ve never read it. To-be-read-shelf-shock, I suppose.
I’ve always liked fairy tales, from the Disney movies to Shelly Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre. (THE BEST!) In college, Mr. V and I took our only class together (since otherwise he ONLY took Math, Science, and Computer Science courses): Children’s Literature. It was taught by one of my favorite professors and is a highlight of college for me. Not only was Mr. V in there, but also three of our other good friends. We sat in a corner and were perhaps a little bit of trouble. Oh, and four of us were English majors who didn’t need the class at all.
We read Little Women, Harry Potter, Where the Wild Things Are, The Snowy Day, and other wonderful children’s classics. A study on pictures in books using this Molly Bang book is really memorable, too. But I think my favorite section of the course was when we studied fairy tales. We looked at the originals: Perrault, Grimm, Andersen, Madame D’Aulnoy. Some of these tales are truly horrific compared to the mild, Disney-fied versions we see today. It was simply fascinating.
I love reading fairy tale adaptations, too, and maybe someday I’ll actually write that children’s book from the viewpoint of the pumpkin in Cinderella. Here are some of my very favorite ones. (The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars does not fall into this category. It was OK, but not awesome.)
Tam Lin by Pamela Dean – Maybe around the same time as that Children’s Lit class, my roommate Erin gave me a copy of Tam Lin to read. Now I don’t know the fairy tale of Tam Lin at all – and maybe the ending of the book would make better sense if I did. But the story of Janet, a bona fide English major nerd in college in the 70s, is a wonderful read, especially for any fellow bibliophiles. She and her friends are so smart they probably couldn’t exist, but I am sure those people are somewhere, right? The ending, again, is weird. But I think it ties in with the actual fairy tale.
The Lunar Chronicles Series – Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, and (to come) Winter – I think I only gave this series a try because it was based on fairy tales; I am not a sci-fi reader. But the combination of a fun future setting, the fairy-tale elements, romance, adventure, and some brainy heroines makes this series killer. I didn’t love Fairest, but the other ones are phenomenal and I can’t wait to read Winter in November.
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen – I love that Jane Yolen writes stuff like How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and also this, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty set in the Holocaust. It’s been quite a few years since I read it, but I remember really loving the tale.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire – What would this list be without Wicked? Unlike the musical, Maguire’s book is heavily laced with Oz-ian politics and animal/Animal rights. It is long, dense, and fascinating. I’ve also read Maguire’s Mirror Mirror and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. They were good, but not great in my memory.
I guess Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama is kind of a Little Mermaid retelling. I’ll admit I know nothing about The Little Mermaid except the Disney movie. It is an amazing book with mermaids and other fantasy elements and I adored it (and read it in one sitting).
This site seems to have a pretty extensive list of fairy tale retellings, although I don’t agree with all the mini-reviews. It does make me feel like I am not the only person who loves these adaptations.
Do you have a favorite fairy tale or retelling?