Monday, September 2, 2013

Making Fairytales Fresh and Current for Kids

Books based on fairytales always hold a soft spot for me.  I remember the copy my mother bought me of the stories of Hans Christian Anderson.  These were not all happy stories.  I remember The Red Shoes just breaking my heart and I read the real story of The Little Mermaid before Disney ever had a chance to change it (let's not go near how old that makes me.)

But despite all this, I was enchanted by the stories.  They are ones that I remembered well into adulthood, while so many other books were forgotten.  These stories are now part of our collective culture and children remain fascinated by their retelling.

So when I get to read books that bring out these characters and stories in new and interesting ways, I am always intrigued.  These fairytales are compelling and the books I am profiling today keep their rich history alive and well - but they never loose their often funny, sometimes scary beginnings.

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Title:       The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle

Author:   Christopher Healy

Target:    Grades 4-6

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
In this, the second book in the series, The League of Princes bumble their way into another adventure.  For those not familiar with our heroes, The League of Princes is comprised of the Princes Charming from everyones favorite fairytales.    Stepping out of the shadow of their more famous counterparts, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow While and Briar Rose, the princes attempt to keep a stone of great power out of the wrong hands.  However, Gustav is still dealing with his trigger fast temper, Duncan is still giving names to all the animals, Frederick continues his role as head of the grammar police and Liam is questioning his ability to be a hero.  Can these four princes really take on one on the most viscous villains in the kingdom,  the Bandit King, who has just turned eleven?

Why I love this story:
I actually think I enjoyed this second book even more than the first, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.  This book was fast, furious and funny!  I just love the play of the four princes who can’t seem to get anything right, but they all have hearts of gold.

Each of the characters is well written, with a distinct and humorous personality.  Even the villains are wonderful, and the new additions in this book were perfect.  Little Tailor was my favorite, and what he can do with a piece of string is priceless, but he is sadly never really respected by the hard hearted villains.  

The illustrations by Todd Harris bring a lightheartedness and whimsy to the story which is a perfect complement.

Who this book is for:
Boys and girls will love this story.  Any kid who likes to laugh and enjoys a raucous adventure should like this book.  While you don’t have to read them in order, I think kids will enjoy the second more if they have read the first book, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.

Final thoughts:
A fun quote from  The Hero’s Guide to Being a Hero, ”Knowledge is power.  For instance, don’t you feel much more powerful now that you have the knowledge that knowledge is power?” 

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog at no cost to you.

Title:       Half Upon a Time

Author:   James Riley

Target:    Grades 4-8

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
Jack, whose father rose to fame with that nasty beanstalk incident, is taking classes on how to save a princess so that he can escape his life as a peasant.  The problem is he doesn’t seem to be very good at them, and he isn’t too fond of royalty either.  However, when a blue haired girl comes tumbling out of the sky wearing a shirt saying “Punk Princess” he realizes that she needs his help.  There is a huntsman after her and her grandmother has disappeared.  Now if only she would admit she was really a princess, and just where is the kingdom of Punk anyway?

Why I love this book:
This book is great fun.  The interplay of Jack, our punk princess May and a third member of their team, Prince Phillip keep the jokes and quick whited dialogue going at a rapid pace.  There is also action in every chapter and twist and turns galore.  It is impossible to get bored reading this book.

I also love it when authors take the stories we know and love and give us another perspective on the tales.  I think it helps give kids a a more thoughtful understanding of the fact that there is more than one way to look at a situation.  In the case of this book, there are a lot of characters they will know who may not always behave the way they expect!

Who this book is for:
I think that most kids will enjoy this story.  Chapters are not long and each one is packed with action and ends on a bit of cliffhanger, enticing kids to read on.

Final thoughts:
This book definitely ends on a cliffhanger, so be prepared to get all the books in this trilogy.

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: Half Upon a Time  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog at no cost to you.

Title:       In a Glass Grimmly

Author:   Adam Gidwitz

Target:    Grades 4 -8

Series:     Yes

What this book is about:
This is a companion book to Gidwitz’s first book A Tale Dark & Grimm.      I would describe these books as having a central theme, and in the case of this book it is learning to like yourself for who you are.  The themes emerges as our main characters travel through a series of adventures all rooted in the fairytales we know and love.  Our author follows Jack and Jill as they have run ins with goblins, fire breathing amphibians and not so pleasant mermaids.  And of course this wouldn’t be a book by Adam Gidwitz if it didn’t stay true to the bloody and terrifying origin of these fairytales, and if our cheeky narrator didn’t interject himself at just the right moments.

Why I love this book:
I have to say that I enjoyed the foil of the narrator more in Gidwitz’s first book.  The narrator serves to lighten the mood and provide comic relief when the story veers towards the gruesome.  He was strangely absent for more parts of this book and I missed him.  

However, I am always amazed at how clever these books are.  They weave together the stories we know and change them just enough so that they feel familiar, but are full of surprises.  

Who this book is for:
Any kid who gets squeamish will not relish these stories, but for those who like their fairytales to border on the gruesome, with a lot of comic relief, this is the book for you.

Final thoughts:
A book to be relished - if you dare!

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: In a Glass Grimmly  A portion of each purchase goes to support this blog at no cost to you.

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