I love fairy tale retellings. I like it when author takes a fairy tale and gives it a new twist. It’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of Shannon Hale’s Goose Girl.
But what I love even more is when an author takes elements from traditional fairy tales and creates an entire new one. So, my for my Fun Books You Might Have Missed this week, I’m going to talk about 2 fabulous new takes on the classic fairy tale.
The Robe of Skulls
By Vivian French
When the Lady Lamorna (evil sorceress extraordinaire) doesn’t have enough money to pay for the divine robe of skulls she has ordered from the Three Crones, she hatches a diabolical plan to kidnap some royal princes, turn them into frogs, and ransom them back to their parents.
The book has all the elements of a classic fairy tale: evil witch, evil stepsister, good (but downtrodden) heroine, trolls, and frog princes. With that kind of mixture, how could the book not be good?
Howl’s Moving Castle
By Dianna Wynne Jones
Sophie is the oldest of three sisters, and everyone knows that the oldest child will always have the least amount of luck if she goes out to seek her fortune. So, Sophie is content to sit and make hats in her family’s hat shop while her two sisters are apprenticed to more interesting careers. At least she’s content until the Witch of the Waste curses her into an old lady. Sophie flees her home and joins the Wizard Howl’s household with the hope that he’ll be able to break the curse. Along the way she’s forced to put up with Howl’s crazy antics, his fire demon, and avoiding her family. It’s hard work for a 15 year old trapped in an 80 year old body.
Jones takes all the traditional fairy tale conventions and subverts them for her own entertaining purposes. (And if you don’t believe me, I wrote a highly compelling, if rather boring, 15 page paper on this very topic in grad school.) The writing is witty, and the story sweeps you away. It’s the kind of book that you read in one sitting that only seems to take a minute, but actually consumes your whole afternoon. It’s that one of those books.
(As a side note, Studio Ghibli made a movie version of the book back in 2004. However, as beautiful and entertaining as the movie is, the characters (and especially the plot) are only loosely based on the book. Even if you’ve seen the movie, you can still enjoy the charm and plot twists of the book.)