Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Through the Looking Glass

Twisted fairy tales are nothing new and there are a slew of them.  This fall TV season, however, Once Upon a Time is getting a bit more specific with a special Alice in Wonderland themed spinoff (on ABC).  In case you didn’t know it, there is also a very popular Alice video game called Alice Madness Returns. And there is no lack of Alice in YA lit, either.

Here is a list of 5 fun titles of some twisted takes on the Alice story.  Please add your faves in the comments.

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

Alice. Figthing zombies.  Really, that’s all that needs to be said.  Oh, and I love this series.

Splintered by A. G. Howash

Has Alice fallen into madness like her mother?  Or can Wonderland be real?

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Alyss flees Wonderland and finds herself in Victorian London where she tells her story to a man named Lewis Carrol.  How can she trust him to tell her story so she can be rescued when he can’t even spell her name correctly?

Alice in the Country of Hearts

Alice gets the manga treatment.  2010.  Rated OT: Older Teen 16+

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Okay so may it is not an actual retelling of Alice, but Coraline does go down a sort of rabbit hole – in this case a door.  And she does find an alternate version of her world.  There are whole essays about the correlations on line, they are fascinating.

More Twisted Fairytales at TLT:
Once Upon a Time: 10 Twisted Fairytales
TPiB: Once Upon a Time

MG Review: Whatever After, If the Shoe Fits by Sarah Mlynowski (with a TPIB)

It’s always about the shoe.  The shoe has to fit in order for the Prince to discover Cinderella’s true identity.  But what if Cinderella had an injury and her foot swelled up like a balloon?  And what if the fairy godmother refused to make everything better, insisting instead that Cinderella learn how to make her own way in the world?  Those are the questions asked by Sarah Mlynowski in her second Whatever After tale, If the Shoe Fits.

In Fairest of All, the brother and sister duo of Abby and Jonah discovered a magic mirror in their basement that took them to the land of Zamel where they met Snow White, and perhaps changed her story a little bit.  For three nights in a row now the pair have crept into their basement trying to get the mirror to do its magic swirly thing to take them back, but now it appears to be nothing but a mirror.  Until one night when they are whisked away to a new land, Floom.  At a ball.  There is no way they can mess this story up, right?

Floom is the land of Cinderella, and in this twisted fairy tale Abby and Jonah follow Cinderella home trying to find a way back to their own home when clumsiness strikes and the one remaining glass slipper is broken – on Cindrella’s foot, which has now swollen so large the Prince will never know she is the one he is looking for.  They beg the fairy godmother to help, but the fairy godmother is appalled at Cinderella’s inability to take care of herself, a Princess must be able to lead as you may be aware, and she demands that Cinderella find a way to solve the problem on her own and prove herself worthy of the Prince.  Her path to self-reliance involves getting a job, brownies (called crownies), and realizing that the Prince may not be her only way out of her horrible home life.

It would be easy to mistake the Whatever After series as a simple fun, silly romp through the world of fairy tales – and make no mistakes, it is fun and silly.  But this series provides us with a touching look at siblings while challenging some of the classic fairy tale conventions that sometimes make us all uncomfortable.  Here, Cinderella is challenged to rescue herself; and although she does so with the help of Abby and Jonah, she is forced to look at who she is, what she wants, and what she truly has to offer to the world.  And she does so while making us laugh at polka dot pajamas, made up words (how will she ever get herself out of this “relano” aka problem?), and a discussion as to whether or not we should put nuts in our crownies.  I personally don’t mind a little crunch in my crownie, but you must give me the edges thank you.

Whatever After: Fairest of All is one of my Tween’s favorite reads of 2012 and this sequel, If the Shoe Fits, does not disappoint.  To be completely cliche, it is whimsical and enchanting while challenging middle grade readers to realize that self-reliance is a good goal. It is also a pretty quick and easy read. Perfect for fans of Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Clementine, and the authors Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. 4 out of 5 stars.

This series is a great tie-in with this Teen Program in a Box: Once Upon a Time

Make Crownies

Try putting together this best ever “Crownie” recipe from AllRecipes.com. Bonus points if you have a crown shaped cookie cutter and make crown shaped brownies.  Oh, and you can set up a decorating station or Top Chef like decorating contest by providing a variety of frostings and sprinkles.  Note: There is also a recipe for Baked Alaska Brownies in The Mother Daughter Cookbook: Recipes to Nourish Relationships by Lynette Rohrer Shirk (published by Zest Books).  This series is, in fact, a great read a-loud and great for a mother/daughter bookclub or in the classroom.

If the Shoe Fits Shoe Trivia

Put together a shoe identification contest – Shoes have logos and types and you could put together a fun contest (on paper, in a program, share via your social media) asking tweens to identify the various shoes.  Examples: Who makes Twinkle Toes? What designer shoes are popular for the red bottoms? Converse are famous for what type of shoe?  You can use pictures, word questions, etc. to create a dynamic, interactive contest.

Pajama Jam

Because Abby tends to spend a great deal of time in her pajamas and slippers in this series, you can invite your tweens to come to a pajama party (be specific about what types of pajamas are allowed) – think tea party but with pajamas.  You can play a variety of traditional sleepover games.  Get some pajama color sheets and invite tweens to design their own pajamas.  Decorate eye masks.  Have a slipper relay race.  This is a great book to tie-in with Disney’s Enchanted and other twisted fairy tales, so if you have a license definitely show the movie Enchanted.

Creative Writing Activities

Ask tweens to brainstorm: What fairy tales would they change and how?  Ask tweens to share a story about their siblings.  Siblings often share special, made-up languages, ask tweens to write about that. 

Crownie Recipe Cookbook

Ask tweens to share their favorite brownie (or dessert) recipes and put together a cookbook.  You can do a week where you share recipes online via your social media sites.

Whatever After: If the Shoe Fits by Sarah Mlynowski is published by Scholastic, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-545-50465-2.

Once Upon a Time Top 10: Twisted Fairy Tales

upon a time girls were locked in towers and saved by princes.  Today, sometimes we lock boys in towers and the princess gets to save the day.

Fairy tales are tricky business.  Here we just spent the last week talking about YA lit and how it influences body image, and now we’re talking about fairy tales.  Without a doubt fairy tales can leave readers – girls especially – reeling in gender stereotypes and feeling disempowered.  The original fairy tales usually didn’t even have happy endings.  And now our happy endings are saccharine sweet and gag inducing.  I, personally, get sick of waiting for the girl to wise up, use her brain or just save herself already!!  But today’s fairy tales have a lot of cool twists and turn convention on its side.  I won’t say that twisted fairy tales are always groundbreaking in the way they present women, but at least they put enough of a spin on the classic fairy tales (and just some good ole classics) as to be new, inventive, and a fun read.  So here are 10 of my favorites.

Skinny by Donna Cooner
Okay so technically this is a Cinderella retelling, but Christie hasn’t read it and didn’t put it on her list – so I am putting it on mine.  As I discussed in my review, Skinny takes a contemporary problem (weight issues) and gives it a fairy tale subtext.  There are no fairy godmothers or pumpkin carriages, but there is deception (in this case self-deception about body image), a make-over, and a gradual awakening.  And in this case, Ever herself is the one who chooses the path that will help bring about her awakening by choosing weight loss surgery.  Some people may be offended that she chooses the surgery, but she makes the decision for herself – instigates it even – and that is a message of empowerment.

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross
Cross creates a creative world where real, every people bear the curses of our favorite fairy tales in unique ways.  It is fun to read about the characters and put them together with their fairy tale.  I was frustrated at first with the way our main character immediately falls in love, but then later it all makes sense in very disturbing and haunting ways.  Creative, fun and great contemporary twist on a fairy tale world.  Here are main characters are all trying to find ways to see if they can subvert fate and destiny and make their own life choices.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
This literary retelling of Peter Pan is simply AMAZING.  Read my review, read this book.  Our main character, Tiger Lily, is strong willed and torn between love and duty to her community.  Seriously, this book is good.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
Mermaids seem to be big this year.  I have seen no less than 5 mermaid tales in 2012.  But what about The Little Mermaid?  Jackson Pearce takes this popular tale and gives it her own personal twist.  Pearce has had success with twisted fairy tales (see below) and they are worth a read.  I recently saw Jackson Pearce at the Irving Public Library and she is very fun and would be a great author visit.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
Only slightly relevant story: When I was a child, I had a rag doll that was Little Red Riding Hood and then, when you flipped her dress over, she became the wolf dressed as grandma.  This may help explain my lifelong fascination with the Little Red Riding Hood story.  Or maybe I am drawn to this book because of the amazing cover design.  Whatever drew me to the story, it was the story itself that kept me reading.  Here we have two sisters, one who is falling in love with the woodsman and one who is obsessed with hunting wolves.  One feels they owe a debt to the other, but we all know that love can trump all – even sisters and debts.  I am going to be completely honest with you; this book has received some mixed reviews and there are some definite things you can question about the message it sends regarding victimhood, but it isn’t often that you see Little Red Riding Hood being presented to teens and I am a fan.

Beastly by Alex Flinn
Alex Flinn is one of the original queens of twisted fairy tales (along with Donna Jo Napoli) and you’ll definitely want to make sure and check out this re-telling of Beauty and the Beast.  This is a good title that you can use for a book and movie discussion/comparison.  If I recall correctly, the author isn’t a big fan of the movie adaptation but I don’t really mind it.

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
Briar Rose is a an older but beautiful title in which our main character learns that he grandmother’s story of sleeping beauty is really a way of telling her deepest secret: she was a part of the Nazi concentration camps.  This is such an intelligent concept and a masterful storytelling.  To this day I can still picture scenes with the woods in my mind.

Enchanted by Orson Scott Card
Okay so this one is not technically ya – you got me there.  But I love the way that Card presents woman’s intuition as being this magical force that is just accepted among the land.  This is another take on the Sleeping Beauty tale and, although it doesn’t take the place in my heart of Briar Rose, I find the idea of woman having magic to be such an interesting way to look at what we have always called “woman’s intuition”.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
When a star falls and a promise is made, Tristan goes through the gap in a wall around his town and begins the most unforgettable journey of his life.  Gaiman is a master at fantasy and this is a great introduction to his works.  Of course you’ll definitely want to make sure and share The Graveyard Book with your teens as well.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
This Newbery Honro Book is a great female empowerment story.  Harry is an orphaned girl who discovers magic in herself when she is kidnapped by a mysterious king.  Is it a twisted fairy tale?  I don’t know and I don’t really care – I just really like this book.  And I love it’s sequel, The Hero and the Crown.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman
When a boy stays home from school sick, his grandfather comes and reads him the story of The Princess Bride.  The young boy is sure he doesn’t want to read about princesses, but it turns out to be a pretty awesome story with adventure, pirates and yes – true love.  This fun story mocks everything we love about fairy tales and entertains along the way.  This is an excellent and fun movie to do a book and movie discussion with.  This is my bonus fairy tale (you’ll notice there are actually 11 titles on this list).

Goodreads has a list of 100 Twisted Fairy Tales.  So tell us, what’s your favorite and why.  And which ones do you think send the most empowering messages to readers?

TPIB: Once Upon a Time
Contest: Children’s Stories