BRAVE RED, SMART FROG by Emily Jenkins


A New Book of Old Tales
by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 5 - 10
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Folk and fairy tales intersect in tiny ways.

Loosely organized in and around a frozen forest where “the streams were iced, the bushes bare” come seven classical tales. There are witches here, “some with cold hearts, and others with hot ovens and ugly appetites”; there is “beauty like an icicle—sharp and slippery.” Parents die, and children either turn “bitter as walnuts” or stay “sweet as cherries.” Each tale keeps mostly to itself, holding its integrity and recognizability—but they whisper to one another. A “sunny forest populated by bunnies and bluebirds” shows up more than once in contrast to the frozen one; the huntsman who slits open Red Riding Hood’s wolf is “returning from a terrible errand,” which hauntingly reveals that he’s Snow White’s huntsman too. Red’s wolf inquires whether her grandmother lives “in the sugar house,” a reference to "Hansel and Gretel." A dry, repeated lesson about beauty in character whisks past. Jenkins experiments with modern moral complexity by afflicting Red’s wolf with painful hunger and self-hatred for how he sates it and by painting the Frog Prince’s princess—who never gets to throw her frog against a wall—as problematically girly and spoiled. An old trope of blindness connoting evil remains. Humans are ostensibly white; a tree sprite is brown. Eason’s illustrations seem consciously to evoke the work of Trina Schart Hyman.

Subtly untraditional, with lovely prose. (author’s note) (Fairy tales. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6558-6
Page count: 104pp
Publisher: Candlewick
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2017


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