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The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls

The Restless Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Restless Girls

Jessie Burton

Angela Barrett

Bloomsbury, 2018

160pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781408886915

 

For her twelve daughters, Queen Laurelia’s death in a motor car accident is a disaster beyond losing a mother. Their father, King Alberto, cannot bear the idea of the princesses ever being in danger and decides his daughters must be kept safe at all costs. Each girl – Frida, Polina, lorna, Ariosta, Chessa, Bellina, Vita, Mariella, Delilah, Flora, Emelia  and the youngest, Agnes – has her own special talents and interests, talents and interests that had been encouraged by their mother but of which King Alberto knew nothing.  To him, girls were of little value, useful for getting married and bringing further wealth to his kingdom of Kalia and so as they grew up, he knew nothing about rearing girls and certainly didn’t approve of them being educated – “a girl may as well have been a sunflower or a trumpet”. So deep in grief at his wife’s death and afraid his daughters will suffer a similar fate because their mother had encouraged their independence and freedom, he removes all the things they love – their lessons, their possessions and, most importantly, their freedom. When Princess Frida defies him, as in the traditional tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses from the Brothers Grimm that the story mirrors, the girls are locked in a small room where they spend all their days and nights, except for one hour a day in the garden “to stretch their legs”.

When they find an escape from their cell-like room, sneaking off through a hidden door to a different world 503 steps down underneath the palace, life becomes a bit more bearable but Frida is made aware that there is always a price to pay for such freedom.  And, just as in the original, it is the girls’ worn out dancing shoes that give them away and Frida finds she has to use all her intelligence and ingenuity to keep her sisters safe and eventually free them…

This is a modern day version of that old German tale and by expanding on it, describing the settings, giving the girls personalities and emotions,  breathing life into characters that are usually one-dimensional, although it is somewhat disappointing that when the pilot arrives to try to solve the mystery of the worn out dancing shoes, that each is struck by his looks at first.

This is a story for independent readers who like a bit of meat in their fairy tales, while setting up the question, “Is freedom free?

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin, 2018

128pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760523541

Fairytales have a history much older than the sanitised Walt Disney versions that our young readers are familiar with; even older than the 19th century collections of the Brothers Grimm or Perrault in the 17th century- they delve right back into the history of oral storytelling, many based on true events that were brutal and terrifying, too horrific to record in print even for  Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. However, they were determined to preserve the old stories that told of their Central European heritage  and so using the folklore as a basis, they created stories that were solidly rooted in good versus evil and didactic.

Their stories and those of others like Hans Christian Andersen have become part of our children’s literary heritage princesses are pretty, princes handsome, where good always triumphs usually at the hand of some man, and everyone lives happily ever after.  But society changes and so must the stories, particularly as the call for non-traditional princesses who save themselves grows ever louder.  So this collection of retellings of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina is a welcome and timely addition to a long line of reinterpretations.

Still using the original premise and plot, Susannah McFarlane has expanded the stories and woven endings that are completely plausible and palatable for those looking for strong, independent, resourceful and resilient female characters.  The heroes are as feisty as their readers. Written by the editor of Stuff Happens  one of my favourite series for boys, and beautifully illustrated by a number of female Australian illustrators, this is a book for the slightly older independent reader who is familiar with the Disney versions and can appreciate the twists that McFarlane has included.

Thirty years ago when we were just beginning to teach children about protecting themselves through programs like Protective Behaviours, Try Again Red Riding Hood was a preferred resource because it shone a spotlight on the actions of familiar characters and how they could have done things differently.  Fairytales for Feisty Girls takes this concept to the nth degree, perhaps becoming the latest evolution of stories that are almost as old as Methuselah! Students might like to try re-writing one of the other traditional tales in a similar vein.

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Little Mermaid

Alex Field

Owen Swan

New Frontier, 2018

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925059816

In 1837, Hans Christian Andersen gave the world his classic story of Ariel, the little mermaid who falls in love with a human prince and in exchange for legs so she can walk on earth with him, she gives up her voice. It is very much a tale of “Be careful what you wish for.”

Retold many times and in many formats, probably the most-well-known version being that of Disney, this is a new retelling that goes back to the original without all the “trimmings”.  For younger readers who are emerging as independent readers, it is retold simply in a straight-forward manner with beautiful new illustrations in water colour and coloured pencils. 

While teachers’ notes are available, it could be used as one of a number of versions of this story to compare and contrast additions, alterations and omissions that the various retellers have chosen to make.  

Others in this series include The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast.

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts - Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts – Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods

Craig Phillips

Allen & Unwin, 2017

192pp., pbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760113261

Ever since there have been children there has been children’s literature and having children learn lessons about life through this literature has been a constant thread in every culture across the globe.  Since the earliest days of mankind, stories have been created and told from generation to generation not just to explain the unknown but also to inspire better, more mature and moral behaviour in children with dire consequences inflicted by fearful creatures if boundaries were breached.  Didacticism was alive and well with stories featuring giants, trolls, witches, beasts and other fantastic figures achieving amazing things, wreaking havoc, surviving disasters or decreeing punishments so that adults as well as children lived in fear of retribution for misdeeds.

Now, with modern communication and science, while such creatures do not have the power of fear they once had, nevertheless they are still a central part of today’s literature with stories like the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones commanding huge audiences as well as a continuing fascination for those stories in which the modern have their origins.  But until now, these have been retold and republished in formats that tend to scream “younger readers” and from which those who see themselves as more mature than the “picture book brigade” shy away from regardless of the quality of the content.  So to have ten traditional tales from ten countries brought together in graphic novel format as creator Craig Phillips has done is going to create a buzz of excitement.  Here, in one superbly illustrated volume, are stories featuring giants, trolls, witches and beasts with all their magical powers and chilling feats and universal messages of courage and obedience. that will appeal to those who are fascinated by this genre in a format that will support and sustain their reading.

Phillips has kept his audience in mind as he has drawn – the imaginary creatures are all sufficiently gruesome and grisly so their characters are clear but not so much that they will inspire nightmares. The mix of familiar and unfamiliar characters offers something for each reader to explore and perhaps think about why stories from such diverse origins have such similar themes.  Is there indeed, a moral and ethical code that links humans regardless of their beliefs and circumstance?

One that will appeal to a wide range of readers and deserving of its place among the 2018 CBCA Notables.

 

The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

The Sleeping Beauty

The Sleeping Beauty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sleeping Beauty – The Australian Ballet

David McAllister

Gabriela Tylesova

Little Hare, 2017

40pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781760129934

“From the stage to the page”.

Based on the Australian Ballet’s 2015 production of this iconic ballet in which Creative Director David McAllister wanted to preserve the original choreography by Pepita “while introducing modern pacing and narrative logic” this is a ballet lover’s must-have. 

Following the traditional story with no Disney additions in sight,  the story of Aurora, Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy and the handsome prince is told in simple narrative,  accompanied by the most exquisite illustrations created by Gabriela Tylesova who was also the designer of the stage production. In all the shades of grey and pink all the characters have a magical quality filled with intricate detail that makes their balletic movements jump off the page. You can see the ballet and hear the music, even in the silence of awe.

 

A peek inside...

A peek inside…

 

From the intriguing front cover to the stunning back one, this is a book that will needs to be in the ballet-lover’s collection as well as that of anyone who just likes beautiful things.  It thoroughly deserves its CBCA 2018 Notables nomination.

Cinderella

Cinderella

Cinderella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinderella

Susanna Davidson

Sara Gianassi

Usborne Pop-Up Fairy Tales, 2017

10pp., pop-up, RRP$A14.99

9781474939553

What do you get when you combine one of the world’s most popular stories – there is a version in almost every culture with 345 of them being documented in 1893 – and the popular format of pop-up pictures?  You get this new version of this age-old tale recreated using the core of Perrault’s text and the most stunning paper engineering that will absolutely delight young readers.  

While maybe not suitable for general circulation through the library, it has its place in a collection of versions of the story that could be compared and contrasted with other versions both those we know and those from other cultures to identify the core elements which appear in each one as well as the central meaning. 

A new look for an old favourite.

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once Upon an ABC

Sophie Masson

Christopher Nielsen

Little Hare, 2017

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760128432

A is for Anansi, both clever and neat,

B is for Brer Rabbit with tar-sticky feet…”

This is a clever romp-in-rhyme through the characters of familiar fairy tales and folktales that will bring back memories of loved stories as well as suggest new ones to explore. Who is Herd Boy?  Why was the Nymph protecting her tree? And why is ‘ugly’ just a disguise?  Perfect for extending children’s reading into traditional tales from a range of countries as they try to match character with story.

But while the illustrations are quirky, I’m not so sure that the target audience is attracted to these muted, retro colours that seem to be so prominent in children’s books at the moment. My experience of 45 years with littlies is that children will view the cover as quite dull and pass it over in favour of something more eye-catching, so that while the text is brilliant it will take an adult’s encouragement to entice the child to explore it.  

Concept is great, presentation not so.

Gris Grimly’s Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Gris Grimly's Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Gris Grimly’s Tales from the Brothers Grimm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gris Grimly’s Tales from the Brothers Grimm

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Margaret Hunt

Gris Grimly

Balzer & Bray, 2016

288pp., hbk., RRP $A14.99

9780062352354

Way back when, fairy tales involving all sorts of terrifying, evil creatures that were all eventually defeated by the powers of good were told to children as a way of exhorting them to make the right choices and stay on the straight and narrow.  

In 1812 German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm began gathering and publishing the tales in a collection that eventually spanned seven volumes.  Right from the beginning there was criticism of their content because even though they were marketed as ‘children’s tales’ they were deemed too gruesome for children and changes were made so that some of the scarier elements were softened, such as making the wicked mothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel in stepmothers (an image which modern stepmothers still battle.) Over the years, more and more changes have been made with the myriad of interpretations and reprints until we have the more acceptable versions we have today.

But in this collection Gris Grimly, (an apt name) has faithfully reproduced the original text of forty one tales, some familiar and some not-so, and adorned them with his own inimitable artwork. “The result is a Grimm collection unlike any other, set in a world that is whimsically sinister, darkly vivid, and completely unforgettable.”

This is probably not a collection  that you would pick up and read to a Kindy kid as an introduction to fairy tales or a before-the-bell time-filler but it could be one to give a slightly older child who is craving the horror stories being read by older siblings or peers. It might also be the collection that you share if you are doing a comparison of versions of the same tale and how they have changed or been changed or if you are investigating childhood of different eras and want to look at the literature of the times and the purpose for it.  

Scary for some, sweet for others.

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

The Everything Princess Book

Barbara Beery

Brooke Jorden

Michele Robbins

David Miles

Rebecca Sorge

Bloomsbury, 2016

160pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9781942934653

This book is exactly what the title says – it is all to do with princesses and royalty from stories to recipes, games and activities, things to make and how to be a princess. Richly illustrated,  it begins with half a dozen traditional stories of princesses from around the world and then moves on to a section bursting with all sorts of recipes fir for a secret garden tea party, a cottage picnic and a pink princess party .  There are tips for serving the food, correct table manners and etiquette including how to wave and curtsey and even a guide to the members of the Royal household.  In fact there is little about being a princess that is not covered.

Going through a ‘princess stage’ is almost a rite of passage for little girls, enhanced by Disney’s adaptations of many of the traditional fairy tales, and there was always a big demand for anything of this nature in the school I was in last year, particularly with those girls who were learning English as another language and who saw this as a way into the language of the playground.  This would be like a bible for them as the stories and concepts are already familiar so as well as speaking the ‘same language’ they can now read it too.

With is lavish hardcover protecting its spiral bound contents, it is attractive and would be one to recommend to grandparents looking for something special for the Christmas stocking.

Cinderella’s Sister and the Big Bad Wolf

Cinderella's Sister and the Big Bad Wolf

Cinderella’s Sister and the Big Bad Wolf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinderella’s Sister and the Big Bad Wolf

Lorraine Carey

Migy Blanco

Nosy Crow, 2015

32pp., hbk., RRP $A22.99

9780857633132

 

Once upon a time (although quite recently in this version), Cinderella lived with her stepmother Mrs Ugly and her three stepsisters.  But this isn’t a story about Cinderella.  It’s about the youngest Ugly sister, Gertie.  Unlike her mother and sisters who lived up to their name, Gertie was kind and gentle and very hard-working.  While Cinderella lazed around and did nothing, Gertie did all the chores of the original story.

Gertie’s niceness was the cause of great shame and despair in the Ugly family and so she was hidden away, not allowed to go anywhere with them.  So when an invitation comes to attend the Grand Ball, there is no question of Gertie going – unless she can prove that she can be bad and mean. But to be bad and mean will take lessons so she is sent to the Wicked Queen who is on her way to deliver a poisoned apple to Snow White.  But unable to help herself, just as Snow White is about to accept the apple, Gertie warns her that it is poisoned.  The Wicked Queen is furious and immediately sends Gertie home to her very angry mother.  Gertie’s pleas for a second chance see her protecting Hansel and Gretel from the Wicked Witch and again, sent home in disgrace. It is not until she meets the Big Bad Wolf who is determined to eat Little Red Riding Hood that her chances of going to the ball improve.

This is an hilarious twist on a range of familiar fairytales with a most delicious ending.  The bright, trendy illustrations bring it into the 21st century and into the world of today’s young reader.  They will delight in revisiting characters they’ve already met and seeing a whole new side of the Cinderella they know and love.

Apart from being fun to read for its own sake, this would be an ideal story to use as part of an investigation into perspective because not only is the story told from a different character’s point of view, bringing it into modern times offers a range of new possibilities too. Thus it will have a broader appeal than just the very young who are fairytale fans

If you are looking for a new fairytale for the Share-A-Story guide, this might be the one.