Adventures in Reading

Revisted Reviews: Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked by Orenstein

In my experience of feminist discourse, now and again fairy tales and their influence on people as children and as adults just seem to pop up. Orenstein gives us an entire book on the Little Red Riding Hood tale including the original tale, different versions that have cropped up, a multitude of interpretations that have been viewed, as well as the modern use of the tale. I loved this book right up to the end where I felt Orenstein took an easy cop out through a poorly argued use of women’s empowerment with red riding hood and porn/fantasy.

I definitely want to reread Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked. I picked up this book shortly after concluding a course in children’s literature where a good portion of the course, or at least my involvement in it, was spent looking at the agenda of children’s literature and the influence it has on children versus adults. In retrospect, I think Orenstein did a terrific job building up to a conclusion that poorly dismissed many of the earlier arguments. From what I recall, the final chapter attempts an argument of reclamation and specifically that women can reclaim, redescribe, and reinvent this fairy tale to suit our own needs. I can’t say I completely disagree but after such a well-written and researched book I felt it was presented in a poor manner.

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Revisted: The Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child by Michael Buckley

The third book in the series picks up at the cliffhanger The Unusual Suspect leaves us at. In this book of the series Little Red Riding Hood is a certified loonie and with her “kitten” the Jabberwocky she wreaks havoc on Ferryport. A mysterious and magic using uncle shows up and the girls continue their quest to find their parents. Buckley in some ways has further developed his wit and incorporates an “anti-drug” theme through issues of the eldest Grimm, Sabrina, becoming addicted to magic. As much as I enjoyed this book Buckley has fallen prey to the problems that develop with reintroducing the story: a lot of description is very repetitive and retelling the plot is rather tedious (i.e. Baby Sitter’s Club anyone?) and I found myself scanning through much of this. Otherwise, once again I give kudos to Buckley for intertwining fairy tales, folklore, and myths in an engaging way as well as picking certain themes to specifically target children.

I concur!

Other opinions: Book Nut.

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The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey

When I learned that Mercedes Lackey already had a new book coming out in the Five Hundred Kingdom series, I could not resist adding my name to the list at the library. The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey is a reinterpretation of Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved fairy tale by the same name. In Lackey’s retelling, Godmother Aleksia actually assumes the role of the “terrible” Snow Queen and under this guise helps wayward magic souls nearing the dark side by helping them appreciate the love, bounty, etc. they already have at hand. But when a Traditional Snow Queen starts operation next store and the blame of ever winter and entire villages dying is blamed on Aleksia the real story begins.

The Snow Queen is set apart from the other stories in the series mostly because of Godmother Aleksia: prior to becoming a Godmother Aleksia was unwittingly pursuing a Traditional story where she would kill her sister to marry her brother-in-law. Even when she is rescued from this and set in place as the Snow Queen, Aleksia remains concerned how her isolation and solitude makes the dark side in many ways appealing.

The Snow Queen is an enjoyable summer read and more similar to the first two novels in the series. Oddly enough I keep finding fragments of Terry Pratchett throughout this series, and either Lackey is paying homage to my favorite fantasy writer or I’m looking for him where he doesn’t exist! But the two authors employ some similar ideas when it comes to story telling and tradition.

Revisted: The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley

The first in the addictive and adorable Sisters Grimm series, The Fairy-Tale Detectives provides the “abandoned” background of the sisters, how they wound up with their grandmother, their discovery of the fairy-tale characters, and all playing out while a giant is on the loose. Part of my growing warmth for the series is in response to a children’s book offering some great female leads and particularly within the sci-fi/fantasy genre. An excellent series for anyone who has loved “fairy tales.”

I definitely have a hang up on finding fun, warm, intelligent, though imperfect female characters in children’s and young adult’s books. I was discussing at work yesterday that I think I read less when I was a child than I really thought I did and especially once I hit the junior high years. I don’t think this had anything to do with lack of encouragement (my mother was a librarian for some years). In retrospect, I wonder if I just had a difficult time finding books with protagonists I identified with (something oddly enough I don’t care about in my adult reading). After all, a girl can only read Harriet the Spy so many times.

And also reviewed at Beyond Books and Book Nut.

Revisited: The Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects by Michael Buckley

Mix a bit of Shrek and Harry Potter together, toss in a female lead and you find yourself with the rather addictive Sisters Grimm series. While I started with the second book, Buckley takes a few pages to catch the reader up that the Sisters Grimm are descendants of the Brothers Grimm and as a result of the fairy tale characters being persecuted in Europe, they now live in a small town in the USA; however, a spell has been cast and the Everafters (a.k.a. fairy tale characters) must remain in Ferryport Landing and coincide with humans. Specifically with this volume of the series, strange happenings begin to occur at school when some teachers wind up dead. The valuable lesson in this children’s book (and a good one): don’t allow stereotypes and bigotry to guide your views and opinions. The one annoying aspect about this series from an adult is that Buckley does not differentiate between fairy tales, folklore, myths, legends, fables, nursery rhymes, etc and thus never explains how, for example, a trickster king from mythology lives and is restricted to the town.

The Sisters Grimm series is an okay series. From what I recall some of the early books suffer from series syndrome, the middle ones are somewhat dull, but the latest ones are picking up. I can’t say it’s the best series in the children’s department, but it’s pretty good and a quick and fun read for anyone who loves fairy tales.

Other opinions: Book Nut.

Bookworms Carnival: 12th Edition
June 16, 2008, 12:04 pm
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , ,

If you haven’t been participating in the Bookworms Carnival: Why not? It’s a lot of fun, introduces you to knew bloggers, allows other bloggers to meet your website, and you can win prizes. For the 12th Edition of the Bookworms Carnival hosted by Nymeth the theme was fairy tales. Stop over as there are a lot of good things available and if you have not submitted before to the Carnival the next one is right around the corner in July hosted by Jenn at Mixed Metaphors with the theme of relationships.

Spiderwick Chronicle’s The Seeing Stone by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

After finishing The Field Guide of the Spiderwick Chronicles, I found the next book in the series too tantalizing to miss. (Not to mention that the shortness of the book was an added temptation to my somewhat fried brain.) The Seeing Stone picks up roughly where The Field Guide ended, Mallory, Jared, and Simon have started school and are becoming further acquainted with their ramshackle house. The fairy creatures play a larger roll as a troll, goblins, and a griffon are a part of this book’s cast.

Perhaps the biggest leap into the world of fairy is the idea that without a special sight it is only possible to see these creatures if they want to be seen. The kids soon find an odd machine and through a hag stone lens are able to observe the evil goblins that have appeared assumedly to claim the field guide from the previous book. Thanks to some goblin spit, by the end of this book all three children can see the world of fairy without use of the lens.

Still a fun book but I must say it is not a children’s series that holds adult attention long. While my curiosity is peeked to Netflix the movie, I believe The Seeing Stone will be my final dabble in the literary world of Spiderwick.