Tag Archives: genre: fairy tales

The Princess Curse Review

the_princess_curseThe Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. 978-0062008152

Synopsis: In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Sylvania, the prince offers a fabulous reward to anyone who cures the curse that forces the princesses to spend each night dancing to the point of exhaustion. Everyone who tries disappears or falls into an enchanted sleep. Thirteen-year-old Reveka, a smart, courageous herbalist’s apprentice, decides to attempt to break the curse despite the danger. Unravelling the mystery behind the curse leads Reveka to the Underworld, and to save the princesses, Reveka will have to risk her soul. from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: The title caught my attention while I was browsing for books in the library.

Why I finished it: Those of us who know anything about fairy tales know that they usually involve a curse of some sort that a brave hero or heroine must break before the all-important happily ever after ending. What piqued my curiosity about this particular book was the nature of the curse. Did the author choose to retell a fairy tale? Did Haskell take an existing plotline and add a few new twists and turns of her own? What is the curse and is it something I’ve read about before? The answer to all of these ended up being that yes, this is a retelling of a fairy tale with some new twists – including a variation on the traditional curse. It’s a clever mash-up between Twelve Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast that takes an almost mythological turn as Reveka reveals the true consequences of breaking the curse. Reveka has been labeled a liar and a troublemaker by the nuns who raised her, but it’s clear to the reader that though her actions at the outset seem somewhat devious and selfish (the reward is enough for her to pay the admission dowry to a nunnery where Reveka wishes to start her own herbary), she begins to see the selflessness that comes from freeing the princesses from their obligations to dance. It’s a fantastical read that fans of Gail Carson Levine, Karen Cushman, and Megan Morrison will devour.

Other related materials: The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell; Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell; Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison; Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison; Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale; illustrated by Nathan Hale; Princess Academy series by Shannon Hale; The Chronicles of Claudette by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado; Princeless series by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by M. Goodwin; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrations by Ana Juan


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The Wrinkled Crown Review

winkled_crownThe Wrinkled Crown by Anne Nesbet

HarperCollins, 2015. 978-0062104298

Synopsis: In a land embattled over science and magic held together by tradition, Linny does something terribly taboo: she makes her own lourka before the designated age of twelve. So when her best friend is whisked off to Away as a result of Linny’s mischief, she and her father’s apprentice Elias set out to find a way to Away so that their friend doesn’t fade away (quite literally) forever.

Why I picked it up: I’m always on the hunt for a good middle-grade fantasy (among other things).

Why I finished it: The dichotomy between science and magic is a unique aspect of fantasy, exploring the line between what is and what could be. Nesbet’s world is one in which the more a story is told, the more truth it begins to hold, and the more likely it is to become fact. It is a world the deeply believes in the notion of fate and happenstance, no matter if one is from the more magical parts of the realm or the more technological. Linny may be considered an adult at twelve, but to many of the other characters she encounters, she is still seen as a child. However, over the course of the book, she proves to her town, those in the Plain (the non-magic portion of the world), and even her companion Elias that she is much wiser than her twelve years. She struggles with her desire to do what she wants, and to balance this with her desire to do the right thing. So when she becomes caught in the middle of a conflict between the Wrinkled and the Plain and it is revealed that perhaps she is the one to marry the two worlds, Linny begins to realize that there is much more to the balance of the world that she initially thought. A strong heroine, a delightfully and imaginatively crafted world, and a thrilling plot make this book a definite must-read for fantasy lovers of all ages.

Other related materials: The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet; A Box of Gargoyles by Anne Nesbet; The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 1) by Lloyd Alexander; The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 2) by Lloyd Alexander; The Castle of Llyr (The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 3) by Lloyd Alexander; Taran Wanderer (The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 4) by Lloyd Alexander; The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain¸ Book 5) by Lloyd Alexander; My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson; The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands; Saavy by Ingrid Law; Scumble by Ingrid Law; Switch by Ingrid Law; Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood; A Dash of Magic by Kathryn Littlewood; Bite-Sized Magic by Kathryn Littlewood; A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder

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Inkdeath Review

inkdeathInkdeath by Cornelia Funke Chicken House, 2008. 978-0439866286. Synopsis: The Adderhead–his immortality bound in a book by Meggie’s father, Mo–has ordered his henchmen to plunder the villages. The peasants’ only defense is a band of outlaws led by the Bluejay–Mo’s fictitious double, whose identity he has reluctantly adopted. But the Book of Immortality is unraveling, and the Adderhead again fears the White Women of Death. To bring the renegade Bluejay back to repair the book, the Adderhead kidnaps all the children in the kingdom, dooming them to slavery in his silver mines unless Mo surrenders. First Dustfinger, now Mo: Can anyone save this cursed story? – from Amazon.com Why I picked it up: After the end of Inkspell, I NEEDED to know what happens to Meggie, Resa, Mo, Elinor, and everyone else. Why I finished it: I was a little intimidated by the thickness of the book, despite the fact that I am a big fan of thick books. There is so much going on in this final book, so many different threads that Funke needs to wrap up before the last page, and while it manages to get done, there’s still a sense of loss when one reaches the final chapter. Meggie, unfortunately, doesn’t have much of a starring role this time around. We see her separating herself a little bit from Farid as she begins to think more about what she wants and what the future holds, but there’s not a whole lot going on with her character otherwise. Mo, on the other hand, is struggling with his identity now that he has taken on the persona of the Bluejay. He wants to be able to remain the bookbinder that he was in our world. But the story seems to have a mind of its own, partially fueled by competing words from Fenoglio and Orpheus, both of whom are trying to tame the world and its inhabitants. The reader is also seeing more of the Adderhead, the fearsome ruler who was more of a secondary character in the first two books, though he has now become much more feared now that he is immortal. We’re exploring more of the idea of free will, fate, and the power of words, as particularly evidenced in the climax. We’re tackling the idea that we have the freedom to control our own decisions, despite the fact that all of the odds seem not to be in our favor. The book will be best enjoyed if you have read the previous two, but there is a helpful summary at the onset that will refresh the reader’s memory. Overall, engrossing and thought provoking, even if the focus has strayed since the original work. Other related materials: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke; Inkheart (movie); Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke; Ingraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke; The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke; Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke; Mirrorworld books by Cornelia Funke; Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer; Princess Academy books by Shannon Hale; The Inheritance Cycle books by Christopher Paolini; Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull; The Last Dragon Chronicles books by Chris d’Lacey; The Bartimaeus Trilogy books by Jonathan Stroud; The Chronicles of Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander; Tuesdays at the Castle books by Jessica Day George; The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

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Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy Tale Voices with a Twist Review

grumbles_from_the_forestGrumbles from the Forest: Fairy Tale Voices with a Twist by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrations by Matt Mahurin

Wordsong, 2013. 978-1590788677.

Synopsis: What were all those fairy-tale characters thinking? Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich answer this question in paired poems, with sometimes startling results. Grumbles from the Forest is a bewitching brew of voices—grumbling, pleading, bragging, reminiscing, confiding—that bubbles with magic and wonder. The spectacular paintings that tie the poems together are full of surprise and intrigue. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I love Yolen and I love twisted fairy tales.

Why I finished it: This is a fun romp through many of the fairy tales we know, love, and grew up with that takes a different view of the events with which we are so familiar. Granted, the stories have changed since their first tellings and the plots continue to change as time goes on, but the characters largely stay the same. The poems that were my favorite were told by the characters from ‘The Princess and the Pea’ (who asserts that it was the mattresses that kept her awake, not the pea), ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’ (the troll tells about how much he loves goat and his frustration with being outwitted), and ‘The Three Bears’ (in which a police bear assesses the scene of the crime and Goldilocks leaves a note of apology). It’s different insight into what happened in each of these classic tales and Yolen and Dotlich encourage the reader to take their own favorite fairy tale and write a poem about it from a different perspective. Mahurin’s illustrations help to bring the poems to life with vibrant colors and a whimsical use of lines to create the fairy tale world. There’s also a handy little index in the back that gives some background on the fairy tales in this book: where they came from, how they evolved, and even different versions of the same story. It’s a surprising, dazzling, and wonder-filled journey through the woods of our favorite fables.

Other related materials: Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi Y. Stemple, illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin; When Riddles Come Rumbling: Poems to Ponder by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Karen Dugan; Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse  by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse; Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse; Forest Has a Song: Poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Robin Gourley; The Other Side of the Story books by Trisha Speed Shaskan and Nancy Loewen; Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin; Your Skeleton is Showing: Rhymes of Blunder from Six Feet Under by Kurt Cyrus, illustrated by Crab Scrambly; BookSpeak!: Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josee Bisallion; Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine, illustrated by Matthew Cordell; World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Anna Raff

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Searching for Dragons Review

SearchingforDragonsSearching for Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book 2) by Patricia C. Wrede

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2002. 978-0152045654

Synopsis: Mendanbar, King of the Enchanted Forest, seems to be having an issue: someone is laying waste to the forest and it appears that wizards may be behind it. At the suggestion of the witch Morwen, he goes to see Kazul, King of the Dragons. But what he finds instead is Princess Cimorene, who tells him that Kazul has been missing for some time. The two royals decide to join forces to find Kazul and put a stop to the misdeeds of the wizards.

Why I picked it up: Well, we knew the wizards weren’t going to settle down and just live with the dragons in harmony after what happened at the end of the first book….

Why I finished it: Mendanbar is just about as un-kingly as Cimorene is un-princess like and the two together make for a perfect pair. The King is clearly a little bit bored with his post and having done away with all of the balls and festivals that are such a bore to begin with, adventuring is clearly the only option left for him to keep him from going stir crazy. Like Cimorene, he’s not that fond of the idea of marriage, but as Morwen points out, perhaps he doesn’t need a wife so much as someone who will talk with him. The wizards are still working to start some sort of war in the Enchanted Forest, but it is still not clear to the reader what the point and purpose behind the war would be. True, they would get access to more magic, but the fact that their staffs absorb it voluntarily anyhow makes this a somewhat strange goal, though I am sure there is much more to their plot that will be revealed as the story goes on. Wrede has taken us to a different portion of her magical world, moving the reader to the mysterious Enchanted Forest where magic is almost literally in the air all around them. The descriptions of the forest paint a clear picture in the reader’s mind of the beauty of nature and the mystery of the natural world around us. One might go as far as to suggest that there are some naturalist and conservationist undertones in this book. I say that it’s just another part of the fantasy genre to give the reader a clear picture of the how and the why of the magical worlds to which we are transported. Though Wrede’s second installment focuses on a lead male character, he’s not so greedy as to take over the whole spotlight and gives the lead female character a chance to have her say as well. I’m eager to find out what the next chapter of the series has in store.

Other related materials: Dealing with Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book 1) by Patricia C. Wrede; Calling on Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book 3) by Patricia C. Wrede; Talking to Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book 4) by Patricia C. Wrede; Book of Enchantments by Patricia C. Wrede; Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede;  Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville; Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George; Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George; Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George; Half Magic by Edward Eager; Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin; The Earthsea Cycle books by Ursula K. LeGuin; Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones; Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke; Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke; The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke; The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley; The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley; The Chronicles of Prydain books by Lloyd Alexander; Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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Feature Presentation: Frozen

frozenFrozen starring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, and Alan Tudyk

Walt Disney Animation Studios, 2013. Rated PG

Synopsis: Growing up, Anna and her sister Elsa were very close. Then after Elsa hurts Anna while they are playing, she is kept away from her sister so that her ability to create ice and snow can remain a secret. But when Elsa turns her little kingdom of Arendelle into a winter wonderland, Anna must enlist the help of Iceman Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and a snowman named Olaf to convince Elsa to melt the snow and come home.

Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Snow Queen, Frozen draws from its original source materials to create a distinctly Bavarian feel to the scenery and harkens back to its Disney predecessors and turns the story into a charming musical about selfless love and doing the right thing. There is a certain spell cast by this movie even before it begins, and if it were to be solely judged on the animation, it would be getting high marks. The setting is both beautiful and dangerous, as the viewer comes to understand what Elsa can do when her powers are out of control. The image of a glowing ice castle set into the side of a mountain and the idyllic scenes of snowy woods and isolated chateaus give the setting and scenery a bit of a tourist-in-the-frozen-North sort of image and in some scenes adds to the humor of the story. The relationship between Anna and Elsa is special, as we can tell from the first scenes, but when Elsa is whisked out of Anna’s life, it is her pleas for company (“Do you want to build a snowman?”) that are the most heartbreaking. Anna is a very determined young lady, willing to do anything for her sister and to understand why she has been kept at arm’s length. Elsa lives in fear of becoming the monster she believes she is, and this fear is what drives her character for most of the film. She is so afraid of hurting people that she can’t seem to let in the one person – Anna – that she needs to help curb the fierceness of her powers. Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf are a great comic team: Kristoff might be kind of a weirdo (he has conversations with Sven, who it would appear can ‘talk’ back), but he shares Anna’s spirit and desire to do the right thing; Olaf is a snowman that likes warm hugs who wishes for summer and is adorably clueless as to what can happen when something cold is exposed to heat. It’s a sweet story that is fun for the whole family.

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The Grimm Conclusion Review

grimm-conclusionThe Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hugh D’Andrade

Dutton Children’s Books, 2013. 978-0525426158

Synopsis: In the third book of retold fairy tales, we follow Jorinda and Joringel, twin siblings who flee through the woods, a castle where everyone sleeps, and even through Hell while facing monsters, ogres, and demons to find their way home.

Why I picked it up: Gidwitz retold some more awesome fairy tales? YES PLEASE.

Why I finished it: This is probably the bloodiest and most horror-filled of the three books so far, and also the most heartbreaking. Jorinda (Your-Inga) and Joringel (Your-Ingle), like Hansel and Gretel and Jack and Jill before them, seem to lead a somewhat cursed life even before they are even born, and their lives are full of so many horrors that one can only imagine how they manage to come out at the end of the stories as wiser and more caring individuals. Gidwitz pays homage to a number of classic stories, namely Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, and uses humor to break up the horror and keep the reader on their toes. He also makes reference to A Tale Dark & Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly to the amusement of the reader and to help tie in everything with a common thread. The re-workings are undeniably fresh, funny, humane, and ultimately remind the reader that fairy tales are indeed awesome.

Other related materials: A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz; The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson; Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi; Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff; The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver; The Missing books by Margaret Peterson Haddix; Lockwood & Co. books by Jonathan Stroud; Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire; The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire; Storybound by Marissa Burt; Story’s End by Marissa Burt; The Apothecary by Maile Meloy; The Apprentices by Maile Meloy; The Familiars books by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson; Doll Bones by Holly Black; Guys Read: Thriller edited by John Scieszka; Guys Read: Other Worlds edited by John Scieszka

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