Fairytale Re-Imaginings Up the Ante
Gregory Maguire was my introduction into fairytale re-imaginings. From The Wizard of Oz to Cinderella, those book re-envisioned how these well known stories came about while keeping the events and beats mostly the same. But where those books felt a little touch to digest, there have been a slew of middle grade and young adults books over the last few years that have gone a different route. These more approachable, fun-spirited tales keep the heart of the well-known tales and completely reimagine how they play out.
Here are the 5 fairytale re-imaginings that offer the most creative, exciting reads:
1. The Ever Afters series by Shelby Bach
Rory Landon thinks she is different because she’s the daughter of movie stars, but this is nothing compared to what she discovers at her after-school program: fairytales are real and recurring. Rory will one day have to play out one of the famous fairytales she thought were fictional, and if the disasters she must survive are any clue (giants, dragons, and evil queens to name a few), her story is likely to be one of the most dangerous and life-changing of them all. The characters are real and engaging; it is easy to root for Rory and her friends. Their personal problems never feel small compared to the bigger challenges they are facing, a balance that is rarely successfully met, and the blending of fairytale and modern day is seamless.
2. Half Upon a Time trilogy by James Riley
Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk is an often overlooked fairytale. It isn’t romantic, there are no princesses or knights in shining armor. But though this seems like a small tale compared to some of the more popular tales, there is nothing small about this story. Jack isn’t looking for action and adventure, but that is what he gets when a “princess” falls out of the sky. May, who is from our world, is searching for her grandmother and Jack gets roped into helping her. James Riley has quickly become one of my favorite middle grade authors.He’s not afraid to be fun and creative and you can feel his love of the craft in every book.
3. Fairy Tale Reform School series by Jen Calonita
In most fairytales, the hero is the innocent, brave victims, but Fairy Tale Reform School switches things up. Gilly is the daughter of a cobbler (the one who created Cinderella’s glass slipper). As one of six children, she knows what it means to live a life of poverty-she blames the royal princesses for not crediting her father with the glass slipper-and she is not willing to let her siblings suffer. So she steals food for them to eat and trinkets for them to have nice things. But when she is caught, she is sent to reform school, run by the reformed Evil Stepmother and other fairytale villains, in order to learn how to become a productive member of society. There she uncovers a plot to hurt the royal princesses and must decide if she can truly reform and come to their aid. It’s fun to have a character who isn’t perfectly pure of heart, even though she means well. Throughout the series, we are forced to reconsider our assumptions of good and evil, no easy fete when the base-story is so black and white.
4. A Tale of the Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker
Princess Annie has always been something of a social pariah. It isn’t her fault. Most princesses are blessed with beauty, charm, and talent, but Annie’s blessing was of a different nature: magic can’t touch her. When those with magical enhancements come near, the effects of their blessings fade, so everyone stays as far away from her as possible. But when her sister’s wedding day is disrupted by a sleeping curse, it is up to Annie to save the day. This tale is the ultimate triumph of the underdog. The things that has made her an outcast, shunned even by her family, is the one things that can allow her to break the curse. But while out in the world, Annie realizes that she is stronger and braver than she ever imagined.
5. The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer
Twins Alex and Bailey find themselves in the land of stories when their grandmother gives them a book of fairytales. But the stories they grew up on are not quite reality-Little Red Riding Hood is the spoiled head of a kingdom, Goldilocks is a wanted fugitive, and their grandmother is the Fairy Godmother. Colfer’s Land of Stories tale was a pleasant surprise and it stands out from the pack because it delves into a theme common in fairytales but rarely explored: the loss of a parent. Alex and Bailey are dealing with the death of their father and that pain plays a central role in the twins’ journey of self-discovery.