- Rebecca Purdy
You’re never too old for fairy tales! As proof, “Beastly” and “Red Riding Hood,” two movies aimed at teens, have recently been released.”
“Beastly,” a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” began as a popular young adult novel by Alex Flinn. In the book, Kyle Kingsbury, is turned into the traditional lion-like creature with fangs, claws and too much hair. The only way to undo his curse: find a girl who loves him despite his looks. The book is enjoyable, but this is my favorite fairy tale, and I don’t think it’s one of the best.
Those are both written by Robin McKinley. She wrote “Beauty” and then, twenty years later, “Rose Daughter.” Each is a wonderful rendition capturing what I’ve always loved about this story. Beauty’s transition from fear and horror, both willingly accepted to save her father, into a friendship that gradually develops into love. Teens will enjoy either, but high school students might better appreciate the more sophisticated writing in the second.
As for Little Red, there are two beautiful picture book versions. The first, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, won a Caldecott Honor Medal. The second, by Jerry Pinkney, is unique because, unlike traditional retellings, Red and her family have black skin.
“Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa” by Niki Daly has more of a twist. Returning to grandmother’s house from the market, Salma is so hot she takes a shortcut through the village and encounters a dog who offers to carry her basket. Before long he offers to help her cool off further by wearing her flip flops, her scarf and the ntama she wears around her waist. Once he’s wearing the full Salma disguise he rushes ahead, forcing Salma to save Grandmother before it’s too late.
A new book for upper elementary and middle school students is “A Tale Dark & Grimm” by Adam Gidwitz. Hansel and Gretel are the main characters, but this tale veers greatly from the original. Gidwitz twists their tale, and makes them the stars in stories where previously they made no appearance. This isn’t the sanitized version of Grimm’s fairy tales we are used to; Gidwitz’s book contains all of the gore and grisliness of the originals.
Two additional retellings for teens are more traditional. “Zel” by Donna Jo Napoli is a retelling of “Rapunzel.” The story is told in turns by Zel, the witch and the young man. Zel has always been happy and treated kindly until her mother realizes she might leave and locks her away. Stunned by this new cruelty, Zel shares her bewilderment and her hurt. The witch, tries to justify her actions and figure out how to make things right; it’s a credit to Napoli that she evokes some sympathy. But it is the young man we are rooting for, counting on him to offer escape for all.
“East” by Edith Pattou is a retelling of the lesser known “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” Rose loves her family, but has always felt like an outsider. When an enormous white bear offers to give them wealth and happiness in return for her attention, she agrees. He takes her to a castle and each night she is confronted with a different mystery to solve. Each accomplishment helps her find her place in the world and eventually love. After all, this is a fairy tale