Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Fairytale Re-tellings
Been a while since my last TTT, (a weekly meme over at The broke and the bookish) but this one caught my interest so I thought I'd have a go. I haven't read many Fairytale re-tellings, but the ones I have read, I've loved. In fairness, a lot of them are picture books, but who doesn't love a good picture book?
Snow White in New York - Fiona French
Spindle's End - Robin McKinley
A young adult take on Sleeping Beauty, Spindle's End is original and intriguing - although it loses it's way towards the end. Katriona is a young village girl, chosen as the one representative of her village to attend the name day of the kingdom's new princess. But when the celebrations don't go as planned, Kat finds herself taking a much bigger role in the baby's life than she could ever have imagined.
The best thing about this book is the characters. You're drawn into the world of the village they live in and the day to day struggles in their lives, almost forgetting that the story we know has to come into play at some point. I think I'm due a re-read. I used to be able to remember all of the princess's twenty-one names, but now I can only get as far as Casta, Albinia, Allegra, Dove...
Ella's Big Chance - Shirley Hughes
Another Jazz age setting, but with a lot more heart. Ella is the daughter of a tailor who's new glamourous wife makes her slave away in the dress shop. Her Dad is useless and her only friends are her cat and Buttons, the delivery boy. I love the illustrations, especially the dresses and the way that Hughes has made Ella - still pretty - but also slightly plump and ordinary looking, like a real person. Also the ending gave me the warmest, fuzziest feeling possible. I love this book.
Beauty - Robin McKinley
Another one from the author of Spindle's End - not as original, but plotted better. Beauty (real name Honour) is the youngest (and plainest) of three sisters, who struggles with an unfortunate childhood nickname. When their merchant father loses everything, the family re-locate to a little village at the edge of a big forest.
Again, this has engaging characters and an insight into fantasy village life, but what I can't get over, is that Disney didn't have to pay royalties to the author for Beauty and the Beast. Seriously. The Beast in blue velvet? The bookish Beauty? The scene where he shows her the library? The scene where she gets the birds to eat out of his hands? If I was Robin Mckinley I'd take them for all I could get.
A Book of Princesses - Sally Gardner
This gorgeous little book includes straight re-tellings of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Princess and the Frog and The Princess and the Pea (why haven't Disney done that one yet? There's so much room for adding back-story!) The illustrations are definitely the best bit though, especially the clothes. Sally Gardner designed theatre costumes before she turned to children's books, and it shows.
The Poison Apples - Lily Archer
Not strictly a re-telling, but very loosely based on a number of fairy-tales, The Poison Apples is a teen novel about three very different girls, all sent to the same boarding school by their similarly 'wicked' step-mothers. My Mum brought this home from the library once and (not having read it since) I don't remember much about the story. What I do remember, is lying in bed in the early hours of the morning, reading this and crying so much that I had to keep getting out of bed to go and blow my nose. Was I just feeling emotional that day? Maybe. Except my sister says she cried too. I love a book that can make you cry.
The Six Swan Brothers - Adele Geras
For some bizarre reason, I loved this fairytale as a child - but it's very gruesome. When Cora's stepmother poisons her father and turns her six older brothers into swans, she must sew them each a coat out of reeds, and never speak until all six are finished. But when she meets her very own handsome prince, her enforced silence becomes a problem - especially when you throw a malicious mother-in-law into the mix. The Adele Geras retelling (which is the one I liked) is an 'easy-reader' version, but I still don't know if I'd recommend it to young kids. The cannibalism themes might be a bit much...
Shadow Spinner - Susan Fletcher
If you count The Arabian Nights as fairy-tales (or at least folk tales) the story of Shahrazad was always one of my favourites. Shahrazad is the story that frames the 1001 nights: the eponymous heroine marries the crazy, wife-killing Sultan and keeps herself alive by telling him stories, leaving him on a cliffhanger every night. Shadow Spinner is the told from the perspective of Marjan, a crippled servant girl to Shahrazad, who also loves to tell stories. When her mistress finds herself running out of ideas, its up to Marjan to help save her from a terrible fate. I read this book years ago now, and (like Poison Apples) I don't remember much about it - other than that it was good!
The Sleeper and the Spindle - Neil Gaiman
Okay, so I haven't actually read this one yet. But I did get it for Christmas and it looks so pretty on my bookshelf. I'm hoping by including it in this list, I'll shame myself into finally picking it up and reading it. A twist on the tales of both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, this is the story of a young queen who sets out to rescue a sleeping princess from an enchantment. I like Neil Gaiman's other stuff (well, I liked Coraline...) so this should be good. And if not, I least I can look at the pretty pictures.
I couldn't think of a tenth book, so here's some of my favourite screen re-tellings as a cheeky bonus:
Ever After (1998)
Cinderella minus the magic pumpkins, this is nevertheless my favourite ever re-telling of the story. A period setting, gorgeous costumes, a strong, intelligent heroine (although that accent's pretty terrible) and Dougray Scott. What's not to like?
Maid in Manhattan (2002)
I'm assuming that this was the first and last time anyone cast Rafe Fiennes as a romantic lead, but overlooking that, I'm quite fond of this modern Cinderella story. There's nothing very original about it, but I'll always sit and watch if it's on. And it always makes me smile.
I still think it's better than Frozen.
What are your favourite fairy-tale re-tellings? Film, book or picture book, the old stories are still the best.