From Puss in Boots’ swaggering descendant “Puss-in-Trainers” to the titular break-and-enter artist caught on security cameras, Agard lays urban-inflected modern twists on 29 folkloric characters.
Written in rhyme or free verse with hip-hop cadences, the poems are nearly all in first person and range in tone from funny or acid (“Bring on your shining armour, dude. / I’ll be your damsel in distress with attitude”), to dark, even threatening. Many offer fresh approaches to the familiar, such as quick portraits of Cinderella in biker leathers and Iron Jack as an emotionally vulnerable Gulf War vet. An apple and a magic mirror provide unusual points of view about their assigned roles, as do “Two Ugly Sisters” who defiantly declare that they “won’t be face-down in no make-up kit / We give the thumbs-up to hair in the armpit,” but end with a sobering “Never mind the eye, we enchant the ear / From our ugly mouths come song, come prayer.” The poems are printed in a variety of typefaces, and Kitamura’s heavily inked black-and-white cartoons or silhouettes likewise change looks while adding appropriately dark, angular, energetic visual notes.
Considerably more edgy satire than Happily Ever After here; a bracing take for teens. (Poetry. 12-16)