Will catch some eyes, but this feels like edginess for edginess’s sake, no deeper.

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LIES, KNIVES, AND GIRLS IN RED DRESSES

Short, brisk vignettes flip traditional fairy tales onto their backs.

Twenty-three rewritings disclose dark secrets. Although each ostensibly has its own narrator, a lascivious narrative tone runs throughout. Dezsö matches that tone with black cut-out silhouettes of death and dismemberment, breasts unobscured. Incest recurs, as does kinky sexuality. Red Riding Hood, one example of the latter, reveals, “I was totally looking / forward to that part. With the wolf and all. I’m into danger, / okay?” Kink is rarely acknowledged in teen literature; it’s unfortunate that these tales are too abrupt to address the topic meaningfully. The line-breaks of Koertge’s free verse seem gratuitous. Sexual imagery includes both children (Hansel and Gretel “eat and eat, filling up the moist recesses / of their little bodies”) and projected rape-fantasy (the Beast claims that Beauty “almost wanted / me to break her neck and open her / up like a purse”). Descriptions are incomprehensibly flip (“Oh, her skin is white as Wonder bread, / her little breasts like cupcakes!”) or harsh (“a beautiful girl…not the usual chicken head ho”). The voice dances from incongruous humor (“it’s weird inside a wolf, / all hot and moist but no worse than flying coach to Newark”) to modernity forced into fairy-tale diction (“She’d slept over at their hovels”).

Will catch some eyes, but this feels like edginess for edginess’s sake, no deeper. (Fractured fairy tales. 14 & up)

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4406-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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THE FARM ON NIPPERSINK CREEK

The oral tradition suffers in its translation to print in this flawed collection of raconteur May's stories about his upbringing as a Catholic farmboy in Spring Grove, Illinois. Misunderstandings of papal dogma—a recurrent theme—initially provide some winsome moments. In ``The Age of Reason,'' the young author's fear of death (sparked by the demise of a cow) results in attempts to save dead souls. ``Christmas Eve in the Barn'' ably evokes once-upon-a-time Christian neighborliness (May acts as a good Samaritan to a lonely hobo) while simultaneously depicting the quaint traditions of a country holiday. Thoughtful details coupled with dramatic timing result in May's strongest story, ``The Ten Twenty,'' which shows May and his friends watching the future, in the form of an express train, whiz by the sleepy town. Overwhelmingly, however, the work is marred by rampant sentimentality and overstated wholesomeness. The description of goody-goody May delightedly watching worms reproduce in ``Nightcrawlers'' contains stabs at humor for which ``corny'' and ``doting'' are adjectives far too kind. When speaking, the author's chatty, rambling tone may serve him well, but in book format many of the tales suffer from a lack of clear direction and resolution. ``Republican Picnic,'' which illustrates the good-natured political differences among townspeople, and ``John Henry,'' about the town's one black man, are more accurately labeled anecdotes than stories. Some chapters have resolution forced upon them: ``Mourning Dove'' (about killing animals with a toy gun) gropes awkwardly for its tenuous, hyperdidactic conclusion, while ``A Bell for Shorty'' (about May's father) tugs so hard and desperately at the heartstrings, you can almost hear them ripping. The particulars of the rural past certainly have intrinsic interest, but those searching for tart or fibrous substance should look elsewhere; this is Wonder Bread.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-87483-339-6

Page Count: 204

Publisher: August House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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TREASURE AT THE HEART OF THE TANGLEWOOD

The scent of sorcery is sharp and sweet, like basil, and Hannah knows it well. She hears the voices of the magpie, the badger, and the three foxlets who follow her, but she does not know anything of her past, or why the townsfolk fear her even as they come for her charms and cures, or why the wizard deep in the Tanglewood demands, each month, a draught made from the leaves and flowers that blossom in her hair. When a beauteous young knight comes on a quest, searching for his queen’s greatest treasure, Hannah pins a lily from her hair to his breast and hopes he will survive. She names him Foxkith and later finds him wounded, but the wizard turns him to a fox before her eyes, and robs him of speech. Then Hannah leaves the place she knows, with her companion animals, in search of what will bring her Foxkith back to her. It’s hard for her to notice that once she leaves Tanglewood, lush greenery springs up from what falls from her hair, then the gold of summer, and the russet of harvest, as she travels the land and brings the seasons back. Finely wrought and passionately imagined, it’s a tapestry of words to hold the author’s themes: the awakening of desire; the longing to know one’s origins and one’s place; the cherishing and defense of loved ones. A treasure indeed. (Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89247-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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