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Something Old, Something New: The Magic of Reimagining Fairytales, a guest post by Leslie Vedder

A glass slipper abandoned on a flight of stairs. A handful of magic beans for an old cow. A poison apple. A sleeping curse. A rope of golden hair…

Each one of these images is almost a story by itself—a key that unlocks a torrent of memories and feelings with a single twist. That’s the power of fairytales to me. You know them intimately, even if you don’t quite know from where.

Fairytales are all around us, like a language we learn to speak from very young. They’re in bedtime stories, movies, ballets, children’s plays, and picture books. A fairytale isn’t a singular, static story, but a rich tapestry of interwoven strands.

Maybe your first Cinderella was the Disney version, or maybe she was Gail Carson Levine’s delightful Ella Enchanted. Maybe she was Brandy with Whitney Houston as her epic fairy godmother, or Drew Barrymore meeting Leonardo da Vinci. Or maybe she was the quirky Cinder Edna as imagined by Ellen Jackson.

Maybe she went Into the Woods, or tried out high school, or found herself living with a whole host of other characters in the town of Storybrooke. Cinderella is all these things and more.

When I’m coming up with a retelling, it often starts for me with a question. How did Robin Hood get started with all that thieving? Could there ever be a practical use for a glass slipper? Or in the case of my Sleeping Beauty retelling, The Bone Spindle, how do you fall in love with someone who’s fast asleep?

That last question was the source of quite a bit of amusement for me and my wife. She is my editor, my first reader, my biggest fan, and the person I drag out on walks to talk out all my ideas. It was during one of our many, many laps around the park that the idea to genderflip the Sleeping Beauty story came up and the first seeds of The Bone Spindle were born.

A prince who had been sleeping for a hundred years would practically be ancient history, a relic—and who better to dig that up than a pair of girl treasure hunters? Right away, I loved the idea of one of the girls, Fi, being a bookish, intrepid historian who doesn’t believe in anything as impractical as true love. I couldn’t see her kissing some prince without ever holding a single conversation with him…so my new question became, how do you meet some guy who’s going to be asleep for most of the story?

This is where the fun of fractured fairytales really kicks in. In a world of magic and curses and witches, anything is possible. Fi pricks her finger on a bone spindle and finds herself stuck with the spirit of the sleeping prince Briar Rose, whom only she can see. Meanwhile her partner, Shane, styles herself the huntsman for hire and gets tangled up with a girl in a red cloak. You know there’s going to be a wolf in that story!

Inevitably, there’s always some part of the original fairytale that doesn’t fit. In my Sleeping Beauty story, one of the tricky elements was the three fairies—they seemed a little too whimsical for the darker world I was creating, full of treasure hunters and mercenaries and vicious Witch Hunters. Still, I didn’t want to lose the idea of these women of great power. So instead of fairies, I ended up with the Three Great Witches, who felt more at home in this story of a fallen kingdom rich with magic and lore.

Something old, something new. That’s half the fun of a retelling, I think—the recognizable elements draw you in, while the new elements keep it fresh and surprising. Fairytales are old friends, and I can’t wait to meet them over and over again!

Here are a few my favorite fairytale and folklore retellings!

ASH by Malinda Lo is a gorgeous f/f Cinderella retelling that follows a young girl, Ash, who gets tangled up with dark fairy magic and must escape both her evil stepmother and the dangerous fairy who’s laid a claim on her—all while falling hard for the King’s Huntress. Full of determination, magic bargains, and an entrancing love story!

CINDERELLA IS DEAD by Kalynn Bayron is a stunning dark retelling set in a world where the original Cinderella is long dead and the annual ball is no dream, but a nightmare. Sophia is a fierce, queer heroine who sees how broken and painful her world is and rises up to change it. Mortal peril, f/f love, and a fierce heroine in a ball gown!

GIRLS MADE OF SNOW AND GLASS by Melissa Bashardoust is a Snow White retelling that entwines the stories of Snow White and the evil queen, unspooling them to reveal the haunting truth of how power, control, and grief are often at the heart of tragedies. Princess Lynet (our Snow White) is also in an f/f love story full of heart!

LEGENDBORN by Tracy Deonn is a thrilling take on the Arthurian legend that completely reimagines the Knights of the Round Table as a modern-day secret society descended from the figures of legend. It follows Bree, a young Black girl with a hidden connection to these Legendborn, as she fights for a place in this ancient rigid order in a book full of bold, powerful, expressions of love and grief.  

THESE FEATHERED FLAMES by Alexandra Overy is a queer reimagining of the Russian firebird myth, retold from the perspective of two sisters whose long separation ends when they’re brought together by the mystery of their mother’s death. Asya is the fiery, passionate incarnation of the mystic Firebird who must uphold the balance of magic. Her sister Izaveta, who is next in line for the throne, is brilliant, powerful, and caught in a tangled web of intrigue and schemes.

DAUGHTER OF SPARTA by Claire M. Andrews takes on the Greek myth of Daphne and Apollo but turns it completely on its head, making Daphne into a warrior of Sparta on a journey with Apollo to stop a calamity—while also twisting in few more Greek myths along the way. Daphne takes the lead in an adventure full of heart-pounding danger and equally heart-pounding love scenes!

Finally, one that should definitely be on your list for later this year: ONE FOR ALL by Lillie Lainoff is a genderbent Musketeers retelling with ownvoices disability rep that follows Tania, a fierce heroine with POTS, on her journey to become a musketeer and uncover the truth of her father’s death. I was lucky enough to read an advance copy, and this is a sisterhood to die for!

Meet the author

 Leslie Vedder is a YA author who loves girl heroes and adventurers. She grew up on fantasy books, anime, fanfiction, and the Lord of the Rings movies, and met her true love in high school choir. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in creative writing, and currently lives in Colorado with her wife and two spoiled house cats. Learn more at https://www.leslievedder.com.  

About The Bone Spindle

Sleeping Beauty meets Indiana Jones in this thrilling fairytale retelling for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and The Cruel Prince.

Fi is a bookish treasure hunter with a knack for ruins and riddles, who definitely doesn’t believe in true love.

Shane is a tough-as-dirt girl warrior from the north who likes cracking skulls, pretty girls, and doing things her own way.

Briar Rose is a prince under a sleeping curse, who’s been waiting a hundred years for the kiss that will wake him.

Cursed princes are nothing but ancient history to Fi—until she pricks her finger on a bone spindle while exploring a long-lost ruin. Now she’s stuck with the spirit of Briar Rose until she and Shane can break the century-old curse on his kingdom.

Dark magic, Witch Hunters, and bad exes all stand in her way—not to mention a mysterious witch who might wind up stealing Shane’s heart, along with whatever else she’s after. But nothing scares Fi more than the possibility of falling in love with Briar Rose.

Set in a lush world inspired by beloved fairytales, The Bone Spindle is a fast-paced young adult fantasy full of adventure, romance, found family, and snark.

ISBN-13: 9780593325827
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 01/11/2022
Age Range: 12 – 17 Years

Wild Swans and a Hymn to Anger, a guest post by Laura Weymouth

As a child, I was given a book on cassette tape, which consisted of four fairytales: The Snow Queen, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Thumbelina, and The Wild Swans. The stories were beautifully narrated, and the illustrations in the accompanying book were captivating. I was especially taken by The Wild Swans—or rather, by the central figure, mute and self-sacrificing Eliza. The entirety of the story rests on her shoulders, and yet the title makes no mention of her. She is, in so many ways, voiceless throughout her own tale, treated as a pawn or a tool through which male characters receive rewards or achieve their destinies.

Eliza’s labor breaks curses. Eliza’s loveliness sways the heart of princes. Eliza, simply minding her own business, simply seeking to undo an evil that is not of her making, is found guilty of witchcraft. And she does it all without a word, because Eliza has lost her voice.

As a young writer, I tried to retell The Wild Swans—or Eliza’s Story, as I usually thought of it—a number of times. But I always came up short, dead-ended by the brick wall of Eliza’s nature. Because the Eliza of the original story is no different with or without her voice. Whether she can speak or not has almost no bearing on the plot—more important is how the male characters around Eliza perceive her. She is a blank slate for them to write their own desires and needs upon.

As I got older, I grew angrier. I was angry as a teenaged writer, to be sure, but it was a fierce, surface-level, sharp sort of thing. The way I am angry now is bone-deep. It is relentless. It never leaves me. We live in a world of injustice and inequity, which many of us are powerless to do much about, and those who can no longer seem to care. Once that first spark of rage hits, tinder is everywhere. You never stop burning, and that fire within only gains power and heat.

So I got older, and angrier, and I came back to Eliza, and she was still a problem. She was a problem. And I thought to myself, why not make her really a problem? No girl is that saintly. No girl is that silent and pure. Deep down, we all burn. Deep down, we all harbor some form of rage.

That was how I found myself able to write Eliza. Giving her my own anger demolished the brick wall of her voiceless perfection, untangled the riddle of her, and turned her into an imperfect, furious, eminently human girl. In my novel A Rush of Wings, I gave Eliza a fresh start—a new name, a new homeland, and a more manageable number of brothers. She’s no longer the daughter of a king, but of a humble fisherman. It’s no longer a prince whose attention she courts, but a pair of boys—one a shipwrecked stray with a deadly secret, the other an upstart tyrant with a lust for power.

And yet for Rowenna, as I called my version of Eliza, the troubles of the boys and men in her life are secondary to a greater, consuming difficulty: she’s made a friend and an ally of her anger, and it’s led her own mother to distrust her. Because of her anger, Rowenna is considered undisciplined and unfit to wield any sort of power. She’s kept unschooled regarding an integral aspect of her being, because anger in a girl is considered unseemly, untrustworthy, inappropriate. We are not supposed to be angry. And if we are, we certainly shouldn’t show it.

Rowenna is brave. She wears her heart on her sleeve, pinned there with the badge of her own outrage. With or without her voice, anger lends her strength and courage, though she’s at her best when she can speak of the flame that burns at her core. Everyone she encounters has their own opinion of her anger and her power. We understand each other in that regard, because to this day, everyone has an opinion of my anger too. So many people want to chide a girl or a woman for being angry. So few want to ask her what she’s angry about.

I think for Rowenna, the answer to that question would be everything. For me, it certainly is. And so, A Rush of Wings is a hymn to anger. A recognition of the good and the beauty and the power of it. Of it how it can buoy us up and lend us courage. Of how it can get us through the unbearable and seemingly impossible, when no other emotion is enough.

There is no wickedness or wrongness inherent in anger. It is—like the other magic Rowenna learns to wield—just one gift among many. A strength or a weakness, depending on how you look at it. For Rowenna and me, anger is strength. I hope A Rush of Wings convinces others that it can be for them, too.

Meet the author

Laura Weymouth is a Canadian living in America, and the sixth consecutive generation of her family to immigrate from one country to another. She writes critically acclaimed historical fantasy for teen readers, including The Light Between Worlds, A Treason of Thorns, and the forthcoming A Rush of Wings.

Website and Socials:

WEB: www.lauraeweymouth.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/lauraeweymouth
Instagram: www.instagram.com/lauraeweymouth
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/lauraeweymouth

About A Rush of Wings

For fans of Serpent & Dove and A House of Salt and Sorrows comes a darkly atmospheric and romantic fantasy about an untrained witch who must unlock her power to free her brothers from a terrible curse and save her home.

Rowenna Winthrop has always known there’s magic within her. But though she hears voices on the wind and possesses unusual talents, her mother Mairead believes Rowenna lacks discipline, and refuses to teach her the craft that keeps their Scottish village safe. And when Mairead dies a sinister death, it seems Rowenna’s only chance to grow into her power has died with her. Then, on a fateful, storm-tossed night, Rowenna rescues a handsome stranger named Gawen from a shipwreck, and her mother miraculously returns from the dead. Or so it appears.

The resurrected Mairead is nothing like the old one. To hide her new monstrous nature, she turns Rowenna’s brothers and Gawen into swans and robs Rowenna of her voice. Forced to flee, Rowenna travels to the city of Inverness to find a way to break the curse. But monsters take many forms, and in Inverness, Rowenna is soon caught in a web of strangers who want to use her raw magic for their own gain. If she wishes to save herself and the people she loves most, Rowenna will have to take her fate into her own hands and unlock the power that has evaded her for so long.

ISBN-13: 9781534493087
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 11/02/2021
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

Tale as Old as Time: Fairy Tales, Mythology and Folktales Retold – a booklist for the 2020 SRP reading theme

In preparation for the upcoming summer reading program theme Imagine Your Story, I recently spent some time working on a comprehensive booklist of fairy tale, folktale and mythology retellings. I used as my starting point this great post from Epic Reads, the source of the graphic below. I had help from my friends and fellow librarians Rachel Strolle, who blogs at Rec it Rachel ,and Mary Hinson, who blogs at Mary Had a Little Book Blog. The original Epic Reads post appeared in 2014, so together the three of us worked to add new MG and YA titles posted since that date.

Image Source: Epic Reads

For the purposes of this post I looked at MG (Middle Grade) and YA (Young Adult) titles. This is probably not a complete list so if you have titles to add, please leave a comment and let us know what age group and category the title you are mentioning would fall under. Thank you!

Various Popular Series that Cover Multiple Fairy Tales

Disney’s Twisted Fairy Tales by Liz Braswell

  • Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid)
  • As Old as Time (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Once Upon a Dream (Sleeping Beauty)
  • A Whole New World (Aladdin)
  • Straight on ‘Til Morning (Peter Pan)

Disney Villain series by Serena Valentino

  • Fairest of All (Snow White)
  • The Beast Within (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Poor Unfortunate Soul (The Little Mermaid)
  • Mistress of Evil (Sleeping Beauty)
  • Mother Knows Best (Rapunzel)
  • The Odd Sisters

Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski (Middle Grade)

  • Fairest of All (Snow White)
  • If the Shoe Fits (Cinderella)
  • Sink or Swim
  • Dream On
  • Bad Hair Day
  • Cold as Ice
  • Beauty Queen
  • Once Upon a Frog
  • Genie in a Bottle
  • Sugar and Spice
  • Two Peas in a Pod
  • Seeing Red
  • Spill the Beans

The Grimm Series by Adam Gidwitz (Middle Grade)

  • A Tale Dark and Grimm
  • In a Glass Grimmly
  • The Grimm Conclusion

Descendants by Melissa De La Cruz* (Middle Grade)

  • The Islde of the Lost
  • Return to the Isle of the Lost
  • Rise of the Isle of the Lost
  • Escape from the Isle of the Lost

The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson (Middle Grade)

  • Disney After Dark
  • Disney at Dawn
  • Disney in Shadow
  • Power Play
  • Shell Game
  • Dark Passage
  • The Insider

Various Fairytale Retellings and Series by Fairy Tale

Aladdin

  • The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury – Aladdin

Beauty & the Beast

  • East by Edith Pattou
  • Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
  • Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
  • Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
  • Spirited by Nancy Holder
  • Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
  • The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
  • Stung by Bethany Wiggins
  • The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • Beast by Brie Spangler
  • A Cruse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
  • Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon (this book comes out in 2020)
  • Everlost (The Skinjacker series) by Neal Shusterman
  • Beastkeeper by Cat Hellison
  • Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin) by Robin LaFevers
  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  • Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston
  • Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston
  • The Queen’s Council by Emma Theriault

Cinderella

The Frog Prince (The Princess and the Frog)

Goose Girl

  • Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith
  • Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  • Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Hansel and Gretel

The Little Mermaid

Little Red Riding Hood

Rapunzel

Rumpelstiltskin

  • A Curse As Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
  • Spinners by Donna Jo Napoli
  • Rump by Leisl Shurtliff (MG)
  • The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn
  • The Wishgranter (Ravenspire #2) by C. J. Redwine

Sleeping Beauty

The Snow Queen

  • Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce
  • Winter’s Child by Cameron Dokey
  • Stork by Wendy Delsol
  • The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine
  • Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (MG)
  • The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
  • The Snow Queen series by K. M. Shea
  • Stealing Snow by Daniella Page

Snow White

Snow White and Rose Red

  • Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
  • Circuse Rose by Betsy Cornwell

 Twelve Dancing Princesses

Other Series related to Fairy Tales or Fairy Tale Like

  • Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris (MG)
  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (MG)
  • Hamster Princess by Ursula Vernon (MG)
  • Septimus Heap by Angie Sage (MG)
  • Twice Upon a Time by Wendy Mass (MG)
  • Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke (MG)
  • The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer (MG)
  • The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani (MG, not recommended by several people for the way it discusses body image and racism)
  • The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdeah – 1,001 Nights
  • Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh – Shahrazad story
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – Grimm’s Fairy Tale (MG)
  • The Princess and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (graphic novel)
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – General fairy tale themes
  • The Girl who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (MG)
  • The Ever Afters series by Shelby Bach (MG)
  • Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu (this book comes out in 2020)

Books about Fairies in General

  • The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
  • The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa
  • Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
  • Need series by Carrie Jones
  • Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
  • The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
  • Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins
  • The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
  • The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black
  • Mirrorworld series by Cornelia Funke
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles by Ton DiTerlizzi (MG)
  • Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull
  • Betwixt by Tara Bray Smith
  • The Faerie Path series by Allan Frewin Jones
  • Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paoini
  • The Falconer series by Elizabeth May

Books about Dragons

  • Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle) by Christopher Paolini
  • Seraphina by Rachel Harman
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  • Firelight by Sophie Jordan
  • Talon by Julie Kagawa
  • The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
  • Scorched by Mari Mancusi
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris d’Lacey
  • Fallen Isle series by Jodi Meadows
  • Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Aurelian Cycle (Fireborne is book #1) by Rosaria Munda
  • Spark by Sarah Beth Durst (MG)
  • The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill (MG, GN)
  • Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (MG)
  • Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells
  • Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Books about Mermaids in General

  • The Syrena Legacy (Of Poisedon is book #1) by Anna Banks
  • Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs
  • Tempest by Tracy Deebs
  • Waterson by Amanda Hocking
  • The Siren by Kiera Cass
  • Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli
  • Waterfire Saga (Deep Blue is book #1) by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler (MG)
  • Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman
  • The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova
  • Undertow series by Michael Buckley
  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
  • Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

Books about Unicorns in General

  • The Unicorn Rescue Society by Adam Gidwitz
  • Beasts of Olympus: The Unicorn Emergency by Lucy Coats
  • The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
  • Here There Be Unicorns by Jane Yolen
  • Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst
  • Rampant (Killer Unicorns) by Diana Peterfreund
  • Unicorn Chronicles by Bruce Coville (MG)
  • Mirrorworld series by Cornelia Funke
  • The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horowitz (MG)
  • Zombies vs. Unicorns

Classic Literature and Folktale Retellings

Alice in Wonderland

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

  • East by Edith Pattou
  • Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Mulan

  • Reflection by Elizabeth Lim – Mulan
  • Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars #1)  by Elizabeth Lim (Mulan)
  • The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

Peter Pan

The Prince and the Pauper

  • Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

Robin Hood

  • Hood by Jenny Elder Moke (this book comes out in 2020)
  • Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Other Classic Lit Retellings

  • Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige –– Retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  • The Great Hunt by Wendy Higgins –– Retelling of The Singing Bone by the Brothers Grimm

Folktale Retellings

  • Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste – Haitian folktale “the Magic Orange Tree” (MG)
  • Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Mexican folklore, 2020 publication date)

MG and YA Retellings: MYTHOLOGY

African Mythology Retellings

  • Zorah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
  • Children of Blood and Boneod and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (African gods) (MG)

Asian Mythology Retellings

  • Eon by Alison Goodman
  • Prophecy by Ellen Oh
  • Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
  • The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee (The Monkey King)
  • The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan by Sherry Thomas
  • A Thousand Beginning and Endings short story collection edited by Ellen Oh
  • The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
  • Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

Egyptian Mythology Retellings

Norse Mythology Retellings

Greek / Roman Mythology Retellings

Hades and Persephone Retellings

Cupid / Psyche Myth Retellings

  • Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block
  • Destined by Jessie Harrell
  • Lovestruck by Kate Watson
  • Only Everything (True Love #1) by Kerian Scott
  • Cupidity by Caroline Goode
  • Thwonk by Joan Bauer

Helen of Troy Retellings

Rick Riordan Books

Percy Jackson & the Olympians

  1. The Lightning Thief (2005)
  2. The Sea of Monsters (2006)
  3. The Titan’s Curse (2007)
  4. The Battle of the Labyrinth (2008)
  5. The Last Olympian (2009)

The Heroes of Olympus

  1. The Lost Hero (2010)
  2. The Son of Neptune (2011)
  3. The Mark of Athena (2012)
  4. The House of Hades (2013)
  5. The Blood of Olympus (2014)

Rick Riordan Presents

  • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
  • The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes (Mayan gods)
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (Fox spirit)
  • Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez (Cuban science fiction)
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (African gods)
  • Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (Navajo gods, not recommended by Dr. Debbie Reese)

As I mentioned above, although we put a lot of time and effort into researching this list, I’m sure we are missing titles and if you would like to add to the list please feel free to do so in the comments. Also, if you find any books that may be in the wrong category or that should not be on this list for one reason or the other, please let me know in the comments. You’ll note that there are a few titles on the list that have a note that they are not recommended, I chose to include this note rather then just leave the titles off of the list so that those who may not be aware of the concerns may investigate those concerns.

Book Review: Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff

Publisher’s description

grumpFrom the New York Times bestselling author of Rump, comes the true story behind another unlikely hero: a grumpy dwarf who gets tangled up in Snow White’s feud with the wicked queen.

Ever since he was a dwarfling, Borlen (nicknamed “Grump”) has dreamed of visiting The Surface, so when opportunity knocks, he leaves his cavern home behind.
At first, life aboveground is a dream come true. Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore (E.V.I.L.) is the best friend Grump always wanted, feeding him all the rubies he can eat and allowing him to rule at her side in exchange for magic and information. But as time goes on, Grump starts to suspect that Queen E.V.I.L. may not be as nice as she seems. . . .
When the queen commands him to carry out a horrible task against her stepdaughter Snow White, Grump is in over his head. He’s bound by magic to help the queen, but also to protect Snow White. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the queen keeps bugging him for updates through her magic mirror! He’ll have to dig deep to find a way out of this pickle, and that’s enough to make any dwarf Grumpy indeed.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

Confession: I’ve never read any of Shurtliff’s books before. Rump, one of her previous books, is really popular in our library. A student noticed I was carrying Grump on the way to lunch one day and practically ripped it out of my hands. And now, having read this book, I totally get the easy appeal of these books: familiar worlds turned on their heads and great world-building. Looks like I have some backlist to read this summer.

 

Most dwarves are born deep underground, but Borlen (later nicknamed “Grump”) was born just under The Surface. As a result, he was always interested in The Surface and the ways of the mysterious world up there. What he wouldn’t give to escape to that world and not have to suffer his fate—being the Seventh in a mining crew. Mining crews have six dwarves; the Seventh is a slot reserved for those considered “a troublemaker or an idiot.” When he joins his crew, he mines his Fate Stone. It’s a rare reflecting stone that works like a magic mirror. To Borlen, it’s just another thing that makes him different. As he gets settled in his new crew, his differences really stand out. The depths make him dizzy and sick. He doesn’t sing while he works. The other dwarves peg him as a grump. There’s not much to like about his new life (or his old life, for that matter), so when he discovers a chance to escape to The Surface, he takes it. He’s quickly “befriended” by the Queen (who, of course, has no real friends and has nefarious reasons for wanting Borlen around) and is supposed to do her bidding—a command that becomes more complicated when he meets Snow White and then has to protect her and do her bidding. Their adventures together lead them to reconnecting with Grump’s mining crew, who are all forced to escape to The Surface and hide out with Grump and Snow White (whom Grump calls “Spoiled Brat”). It’s up to Grump, the allegedly useless Seventh, to figure out how to outwit the Queen and save Snow White.

 

There’s something so satisfying about reading a story where you know the characters and the world, then seeing it turned on its head. This fast-paced story will have readers mentally chiding Grump for going along with the Queen’s plans and cheering for him once he connects with Snow White. A fun look at friendship and belonging. If, like me, this book is readers’ first introduction to the author, they will surely be scrambling to go back and read her older titles. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781524717018
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 05/29/2018

Book Review: Beast in the Mirror by Laura Bradley Rede

In Beast in the Mirror, a novella by Laura Bradley Rede, the story of Beauty and the Beast is reimagined with an interesting twist—Beast is a girl.

 

17-year-old Bella, a model, is just out of rehab for anorexia. She flies to Ireland to meet up with her cousin James, a photographer. Bella explains that she’s always felt close to James, not just because he got her into modeling, but because out of all the members of their large family, she and James are the only queer ones. Their photo shoot takes place on the grounds of the crumbling and creepy Blackston estate, a place her cab driver tells her is full of dark magic. While there, Bella and James discover a lavish flower garden and climb the wall to take some pictures in it. The Beast appears and initially tries to capture James, but Bella offers to trade places with him. Bella describes the Beast: “Its face is like a lion, with a lion’s mane, but two huge ram’s horns curl from its head. Its back is hunched like a buffalo’s, but it walks on two feet—hooves, really. Mismatched hooves, one like a Clydsedale and one like a goat.”

 

Once inside the estate, Bella realizes the interior of the house doesn’t match the outside—it’s gorgeous. She’s tossed into a small, dank room, where she overhears a woman chiding the Beast to remember that Bella is a guest, not a prisoner. She also overhears this woman telling Beast that Bella will need to eat to keep her strength up for what is to come.

 

Once out of her dungeon-like room, Bella is set up in a lavish bedroom of her own. In the dining room, she learns she only has to think about a food and it will appear in front of her. For someone with the issues Bella has with food, this is frightening. She learns more about the house and about Beast as they grow closer. Despite their appearances, the two have a lot in common and can understand each other in unique ways. At one point Bella says, “I’m not under a curse or anything,” and Beast says, “Aren’t you?” Bella is surprised to find being at Beast’s house is kind of like a strange rehab—one where there are no mirrors and essentially no one else to see her or judge her.

 

When Bella learns more about how the Beast’s curse works and the terms in which it will be lifted (Beast is free to leave the house when a man give’s her true love’s first kiss), she’s intrigued. The Beast makes it clear that she doesn’t want a kiss or anything else from any man. Bella comes up with a plan—a very surprising and complicated/risky plan—that will break the curse, but is it something she can pull off? Is it even something she should attempt?

 

The parallels between Beast and Bella being trapped in their bodies in different ways, and their issues with how they perceive themselves and are viewed by others, are interesting. They are both complicated characters—stubborn, determined, sometimes foolish, and brave. Bella thinks about her anorexia, her body, and her recovery a lot. We see in great detail how she felt about her thin body, the issues she still has. She never minces words, so we get a very visceral and at times disturbing look at her thoughts. The twist at the end (Bella’s plan) completely threw me for a loop. The themes of transformation and insides/outsides and identities are taken to the extreme in the final pages. I think there’s a lot of fodder for discussion from this brief novella. What does having a female Beast do to the story? Can we forget Bella is still a captive as time goes on (and what does it mean if we do?)? Are they as similar as it might seem? What do we think of Bella’s risky and surprising plan? Does it change how we view her? Do we like or agree with her choice? I love Rede’s vivid writing and the details she infuses this world with. Readers looking for a unique Beauty and the Beast tale with a lot to think about won’t be disappointed. 

Laura Bradley Rede’s novella is available as an ebook from Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. For an excerpt of the story, see our cover reveal post from earlier this year. 

 

Interested in more thoughts on the Beauty and the Beast story? Check out these previous posts on TLT: 

The Beauty and the Beast Effect in YA Literature by Karen Jensen

 The Beauty and the Beast Effect in YA Literature part II: A Discussion on Rape/Abduction Fantasies by author Christa Desir