Provocative fare for students of the themes and tropes of literary and traditional folk literature.

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FEATHERS, PAWS, FINS, AND CLAWS

FAIRY-TALE BEASTS

Ten “vintage tales” chosen to challenge assumptions that fairy stories offer cut-and-dried values and life lessons for, specifically, children.

Reaching for an audience that is, as the editors put it, “beyond childhood,” the collection is introduced with an eye-opening analysis of “Little Red Riding Hood” (Perrault’s actual wording, it seems, hints that Little Red and the wolf weren’t exactly strangers) as part of a broad claim that fairy tales are often transgressive. The ensuing mix of original and traditional stories, all either written or first translated into English in the Victorian era, includes tales both familiar and un-. There’s “East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon”; “Ballad of the Bird-Bride,” which is a selkie variant featuring a sea gull; a “Puss-in-Boots” antecedent (“Costantino Fortunato”) from 16th-century Italy; and a Punjabi tale about a rat who almost parlays a bit of found root into marriage to a princess. For younger readers, the highlight is likely to be Joseph Jacobs' rendition of “The Story of the Three Bears,” as the home invader is not Goldilocks but a foulmouthed old homeless woman. But the selections are held up more for analysis than enjoyment, even Madame d’Aulnoy’s “Babiole,” which makes for labored reading despite an eponymous princess who spends most of the tale as a monkey. Kusaite’s visual jumbles of patterns and textures are as mannered as the 19th-century prose.

Provocative fare for students of the themes and tropes of literary and traditional folk literature. (source notes) (Fairy tales. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8143-4069-1

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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THE RING OF SOLOMON

From the Bartimaeus series , Vol. 4

The entertainingly cocky djinni scraps his way through a 950 BCE escapade mostly unrelated to his series (The Bartimaeus Trilogy) but in that same metaphysical world. Any competent magician can summon Bartimaeus to Earth and enslave him, though none can suppress his amusingly snide commentary (complete with witty footnotes). Assigned to chase bandits outside a corrupt Jerusalem, he meets Asmira, a young woman whose third-person-limited narrative sections are told in a reserved, pragmatic voice. She treks to Jerusalem on a mission to assassinate King Solomon, who threatens her country of Sheba. Magical detonations enhance the tension as Asmira creeps closer to King Solomon and his world-controlling ring. Semi-success in her quest raises new questions, expanding her worldview and making her think in new ways. Despite Asmira’s likability, copious action and suspense, the text’s sharp elegance and Bartimaeus’s funny panache under duress, the prose moves slowly throughout, partly due to over-description. Best for worshippers of popular Bartimaeus and fantasy readers who don’t require a quick pace. (Fantasy. YA)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4231-2372-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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A thoughtful selection of exquisite literary amuse-bouches; it will take a little work to connect teens with it, though.

RAGS & BONES

NEW TWISTS ON TIMELESS TALES

Twelve popular speculative fiction authors riff on classic literature, but for an ill-defined audience.

Inspired by sources as old as Edmund Spenser and as recent as William Seabrook, from authors entrenched in the literary canon and those considerably more obscure, this collection is an eclectic mix of sequels, retellings, homages, pastiches and even responses with only tenuous connections to the originals. While the tone varies from witty to poignant, from lush and sensual to dry and didactic, the stories share a darkly fantastic sensibility, often with a horrific undercurrent. Though told mostly from a male—and usually adult—perspective, they also exhibit a common concern with the limited choices available to women and minorities in patriarchal, Eurocentric cultures. Standouts include Neil Gaiman’s clever, biting crossover between “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White”; Holly Black’s reshaping of the lesbian subtext in Carmilla into the intense friendship of pre-adolescent girls; co-editor Marr’s savage and heart-rending updating of selkie legends; and Saladin Ahmed’s impassioned defense of the nameless Other so often caricatured as a fantasy villain. It seems likely that adults will be the most appreciative audience, as few teens will be familiar enough with the originals to catch the subtle resonances, and most of the themes and language are as mature as the characters.

A thoughtful selection of exquisite literary amuse-bouches; it will take a little work to connect teens with it, though. (finished illustrations not seen) (Fantasy/short stories. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-21294-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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