Tag Archives: fairy tales

A heavenly evening

5 Feb

Marissa Meyer came to Powells yesterday to promote  Stars Above, a Lunar Chronicles story collection.


My teaching partner, Nina, and I had told the kids about the event and announced that we’d be there. Knowing the event would be busy, we arrived about 45 minutes early and it was already packed. One of our students had beat us there. She and her dad were sitting in the second row. The Powells personnel were busily handing out tickets for a drawing and setting up more chairs.Three more of our students arrived. Then a fifth. We caught sight of a sixth in the stacks. By the time Ms. Meyers arrived, all seats were filled and the stacks along the sides of the seating area were packed with fans and their parents. There was an excited buzz in the air.


She began by talking about The Lunar Chronicles and her love for fairy tales. She told the audience about her love for the Disney movie The Little Mermaid. This made Nina and I laugh. We might not have been the oldest people there, but we are a lot older that Meyers, who will turn 32  later this month.

Because of her love for fairy tales, her grandmother gave  her a collection and she had us laughing at how horrified she was when she read Hans Christian Andersen’s original version of her Disney favorite. Then she told us his version, with some funny commentary.

I had my question ready when she opened the floor for questions. I don;t often ask questions in large gatherings like this, but I had a good one and I was thrilled when she called on me. I told her that I thought she’d created a fantastic villain in Levana and how much I disliked that character. So, I told her that because I disliked Levana so much, I didn’t want to read Fairest  and feel sympathy for such an evil queen. So, I asked  her to tell me why I should read it.


She queried the audience to see how many people had read it. Then she asked them how many felt sympathetic for Levana after reading it. Not many hands stayed up. She went on to explain that her intention had not to make readers feel sympathy for Levana, but to explain what happened to her and the bad choices she made, that turned her into the evil queen I hate so much.

The other answer she gave that I really liked was to the young person who asked how to become a writer like her. Yes, she encouraged  them to read and write. What I found most significant was that she also encourage them to let themselves daydream, let their minds wander. She told them to take a walk and not think about what they are writing. She encouraged the to keep with a hobby or activity they enjoy so that, while they are engaged in it, their brain can rest from working on the story,letting the story swirl about in their subconscious so they come back to it with fresh eyes. Amazing!

Finally, it was autograph time. I can hardly wait to read my new book. And yes, I put Fairest on hold at the library. 


Poisoned Apples

17 Nov


Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty  by Christine Heppermann wasn’t quite what I expected. From the little bit I’d read about it, I was under the impression it was a collection of poems based on fairy tales. Well, there are, but not in the way I expected.

Heppermann begins with the premise that all fairy tales are based on a real story. From that point,  she imagines what stories from today might be turned into fairy tales. Voilà!

This is a fantastic collection of  50 poems about modern teenage girls. The cruelties of fairy tales take on new forms.

From the Publisher: Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.

These are not easy poems to read, but this might be the best collection of poetry I’ve read this year.

The Power of a Story

23 Jul


The cover looked scary, so I almost rejected The Night Gardener  by Jonathan Auxier without opening it. When I did, I looked at the subject headings:

1. Ghosts – Fiction

2. Household employees – Fiction

3. Brothers and sisters  – Fiction

4, Orphans  – Fiction

5. Storytelling  – Fiction

6. Blessing and cursing  – Fiction

7. Dwellings  – Fiction

8. Horror stories

Number eight was worrisome because, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I have an aversion to scary stories. I have learned over time, however, many are not as scary as I fear. If you think of this list as you would an ingredients list on a food package, horror is only the 8th ingredient. Ghosts are first, but the things in between are not so bad.

So, I decided to give it a try, and like Mikey, I liked it. Do you remember Mikey?

Back to  The Night Gardener.

Molly and Kip, unaccompanied minors are driving their fish cart, pulled by their horse, Galileo, to a house everyone warns them not to go to. They feel they have no option. They are alone, unskilled, in a foreign country, and are willing to work for room and board. Molly does possess a very useful soil, aside from her willingness to work hard. She is a story-teller. The house they arrive isn’t what it seems. Something mysterious is happening and the family seems to be wasting away. The children encounter a mysterious stranger and an ancient curse. along the way, Molly tells stories and Kip wonders how a story differs from a lie. Molly thinks, “Both lies and stories involved saying things that weren’t true, but somehow the lies inside the stories felt true.” As the story unfolds, and Molly and Kip realize that they must end the curse and save the family, she elaborates:“A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens ‘em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.”

I had a little trouble getting into the story at first. The drama unfolds slowly, but it is worth persevering. By the middle of the book, I was hooked and wanted to see how it would end. I don;t think this is a book I would read aloud in class, but I’d definitely recommend it to some of my students who love middle grade fiction. The book feels as old as a fairy tale and is very well written, aside from the Irish Brogue, which I think Auxier could have left out.


2014 Hub Reading Challenge check-in #5

8 Mar

Between writing for the Slice of Life Story Challenge and knitting to complete a project by the end of the month, I haven;t been reading as much. I only managed two books for the HUB Challenge this week.

I read the graphic novel  Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge. It was OK. Not the best one I’ve read, but OK.


The biggest surprise of the week was that I not only read, but enjoyed  Far Far Away by Tom McNeal, a book I’d vowed to not read because I thought it would be too scary.


The book had eerie moments, but wasn’t scary. In fact, it was very much like the Grimm’s fairy tales it refers to. I figured out the baddy early on, but that didn’t detract from the story. I wanted to know how he would impact the main character and find out his story. I especially like that Jakob Grimm was the narrator. I’m really glad this book was on the list because I was pleasantly surprised.

Of cats, a hero’s quest and temporal paradoxes

6 Aug

A young girl with an idyllic life, no school, a loving aunt and lots of freedom. A story that feels epic and reads well. Beautiful illustrations. These are a few of the things I liked about The Cats of Tanglewood Forest  by Charles de Lint.


Lillian Kindred is a sweet-natured girl who is kind to animals and receives kindness from animals when she is bitten by a snake and on the verge of death. She is turned into a cat and embarks on a journey to become a girl again.

But there was one thing that irritated me, and no, it wasn’t the cats that irritated this dog person.


In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager ( Future’s End, 1996) Captain Janeway says “Time travel. Since my first day on the job as a Starfleet captain I swore I’d never let myself get caught in one of these godforsaken paradoxes – the future is the past, the past is the future, it all gives me a headache.” And that’s what bothered me about this story. One of the mythic characters in The Cats of Tanglewood Forest alters time and it gave me a headache. It seems an easy out after all that  Lillian has to go through. 

Having gotten that off my chest, I think a lot of kids will like this book. It feels like an old tale and has just the right blend of suffering and redemption. I was satisfied with how things ended up, even though I didn’t like all the ways De Lint got us there.

Complementary Characters

24 Jul

I’ve mentioned before that my twin sister has always been far more outgoing than I. Sometimes that was hard.

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Here we are dressed up for Hallowe’en. Despite my smile ( am the groom), I was not that happy about this costume because I wanted to be the bride and the bride always gets more attention My sister was taller & the dress fit her. I think I was too short for it. In spite of my initial feelings about this costume, I remember having a really good time in this costume. I’m a bit curmudgeonly and grumble about doing things or going places, but generally end up having a far better time than I expected.

And so it is with Unicorn & Goat in the fantastic Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea.


Narrated by Goat, we learn how life changes when Unicorn arrives. Anything Goat does, unicorn does better and Goat is not pleased. However, Goat soon learns that it’s not always easy being Unicorn. Nope, it’s not all rainbows and glitter. Together, though, Goat & Unicorn can be an unstoppable team.

This book reminds me of two other books I like to use that show how friends balance each other out:

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There are a lots more out there. Why not share your favorite and then give these a try.

Sasquatch Sightings: Bigfoot in Kidlit

6 May

Funny that 2 books, featuring Bigfoot and boys named Ben, are out this year. The first is by Suzanne Selfors who first came to my attention because of her basset hound-themed series Smells Like Dog. 

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The Sasquatch Escape,the first in a new series The Imaginary Veterinary.


Poor Ben is being shipped off to his quirky grandfather for the summer. On his way into town he spies what appears to be a dragon, flying in the sky. With the help of  his new friend Petal, Ben discovers Dr. Woo’s Worm Hospital, which is actually a secret hospital for imaginary creatures. Because he leaves a door open, the Sasquatch escapes, and Ben & Petal are off on a quest to bring him home. This is a fun romp through a summer vacation full of unexpected wonder. I have chosen this to be our chapter book for my May Read aloud Book Club.

Also out recently is The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot by Scott Magoon.


The story is what you would expect and the premise & pictures are fun. It would certainly lend itself to a unit on rewriting fairy tales & legends, or an end of the year activity creating the film the main character, Ben, makes to prove that Bigfoot exists.

2013 Hub Reading Challenge check-in #13

4 May

Once I’d hit 25 on the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge, I decided to try to read one book a week and concentrate on off-list reading. I failed this week because I finished 3, bringing my total up to 32. I have always been a OCD reader.

First, I finished Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.


Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Mostly because I saw myself in June and my twin sister in Greta. I was the quiet, shy twin & my sister was very out-going. We had our ups and downs and high school was hard because that’s when we really got our own separate sets of friends, just like June & Greta.

Then, my hold on  October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman  arrived at the library.


Also awesome. Newman, who I knew from the elementary school chapter book Hachiko Waits, knocked my socks off. I wish I’d read this during National Poetry Month and I wish I taught older kids because I really wanted to share this with my students. It is beautifully written and made me feel real, anger, sadness and hope. Newman personifies inanimate objects and uses the actual words real people said in love and in anger, while she explores a variety of kinds of poetry.  Very well done.

Finally, just yesterday, I finished listening to the audio versions of  Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama.


I probably would not have picked this one up, but for the Challenge. And it was really good, too. At first I was skeptical of a mermaid story, but this is not Disney’s Little Mermaid. It is dark and horrific (without being scary or graphic enough to make me gag) in places but the reading was riveting. Because the chapters alternate between the present and 1872/3, I kept listening to find out what happened next. I’m glad I listened to this one!


Jane Yolen, Jane Yolen

10 Apr

Jane Yolen has been around a long time. According to her official website,  http://janeyolen.com , she has written over 300 books, of which 214 are still in print. Yowza! Even more amazing is the fact that, although she is 74 and has earned a break, she is still writing and shares her knowledge and experience by collaborating with others. She has 2 collaborations out right now, both of which are reading.

Because it is National Poetry Month, I absolutely must mention Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist, written in collaboration with Rebecca Kai Dottlich.


As the title indicates, all the poems in this book begin in a fairy-tale and re-tell the story from opposing perspectives. I’m going to use this book for today’s NaPoWri Mo prompt.  Not every kid knows every fairy-tale, but they all know some, and summaries of each tale are provided at the back, just in case. The book is beautifully illustrated by Matt Mahurin, who imbues a dreamy (or nightmarish) quality into his art. 

My second Jane Yolen book of the week is  Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, murderesses, Thieves & Other Female Villains written in collaboration with Yolen’s daughter, Heidi E. Y. Stemple and illustrated by Rebecca Guay.


This book is a combination straightforward history  and graphic novel.  Each chapter tells of one naughty female in prose and ends with a graphic representation of  Jane & Heidi discussing each personality.The book provides a detailed bibliography and I know of a few people who were dismayed to see Wikipedia referenced. But here’s my 2 cents on that: everybody uses it so it is good to see it used in conjunction with other resources so kids can see how to make Wikipedia work for them.

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