The Writer begins with a sparkly good idea for a fabulous fairytale. A girl called Glory is sent to work in the Royal Palace, where the queen is planning a grand ball and a bad-tempered princess is sorting through jewels and tiaras. And, unknown to Glory, the threads of her destiny are coming together. Nova is reading the fairytale.
Fairytales are not usually her thing, but right now she’s feeling a bit messy and lost. Her best friend has gone away and bitchy Dylan is hassling her. Still, Nova is curious to find out why Glory’s mother is scrabbling under the bed for an old magic book. Can the Writer make everything turn out happily ever after? Will the princess find true love? Will Glory escape a secret curse?
And can Nova smooth out the lumps and bumps in her life?
This month our children’s selectors have been enjoying purchasing some wonderfully illustrated titles that they are sure adults will appreciate as much as children will enjoy.
Birds of a feather by Francisco Pittau
Stunning book about birds with interactive guessing games and many lift-the-flaps and pop-ups. Beautifully illustrated and includes interesting facts about each bird this is a book that will bring enjoyment to both the adult and child
The fairy-tale princess : seven classic stories from the enchanted forest by Su Blackwell
This is a stunning book with each fairytale emerging from the page through a series of intricate paper sculptures. Each fairytale has its own particular visual flavour: for example, the story of “Sleeping Beauty” is blue and dreamy, while “The Princess and the Pea” is green and summery.
Grimms fairy tales by Lisbeth Zwerger is very different visually from The fairy- tale princess but still stunning.
So that adults do not feel left out of the wonders of fairy tales, we are pleased that Philip Pullman, the well-known author of the Dark Materials series has chosen his favourite Grimms fairy tales to retell in his own unique voice. Designed to be read by adults, but a reviewer on National Radio said that her child enjoyed the stories as well.
I spend a lot of time poking around the interwebs, reading blogs and reviews, and scanning websites like amazon, angryrobot and fantasticfiction for upcoming titles. (Tough job, I know etc etc). It’s not often that I find a book I want to read that the library selectors haven’t already purchased, and often when I do, and the library buys it on my recommendation, it turns out to be either embarrassingly awful or just like 12 other titles we already own.
Occasionally, though, I get it right, and feel incredibly pleased with myself, and then need to share my triumph with the world. So. Pardon me while I wax lyrical about Adam McOmber’s This New and Poisonous Air.
It’s a bit posh, a bit literary, a bit fairy tale steampunk horror romance adventure; all wrapped up in a slim dark volume (see, now I’M getting all posh) of short stories. Reviewers have used words like fantastical and macabre, and made comparisons to Poe, Angela Carter, even Tim Burton; while Publishers Weekly talks about its “sinuous, antiquated style”.
What it reminds ME most of, however, is a collection of fairy tales that I used to read as a child. Way before the Disneyfication of every old fable and fairy tale, we had a matched set of bound volumes that collected fairy tales and legends from around the world. One in particular that I remember reading over and over was Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale, and this is the story that was constantly in my head as I was reading McOmber’s short stories.
If you’re a fan of magic realism, remember wistfully the grown-up versions of fairy tales before Disney, or just want to step out of this world for a few minutes, grab a copy of This New and Poisonous Air and find a quiet place to read. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
I’ve never been a big one for short stories but when perusing the New Titles last month I was struck by this one – Tales Before Narnia – the roots of modern fantasy and science fiction. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect but having taken a week off to loaf around home I thought some stories that I could pick up and put down would be a good distraction.
And it was. The tales vary in length immensely but most can be read in a short sitting and were mostly fantasy with a couple of early science fiction stories that could almost be classified as steam-punk now. Many of the stories were first published in the 19th century, one or two even older, and the one that I particularly enjoyed, Undine (1811) had the feeling of almost Arthurian literature. There are tales by Longfellow, Hans Christian Andersen (The Snow Queen), William Morris, Robert Louis Stevenson, Tolkien, Dickens, Kipling and some less well known authors.
On reading the introduction I discovered that the editor, Douglas A. Anderson, had previously edited a similar book of Tales Before Tolkien, which the library has a copy of at Akaroa library. But that will have to wait because first I have to read the new Tolkien book The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun. This has just been published and is Tolkien’s version of the Norse sagas of the Volsungs and of the Niflungs, both from the Elder or Poetic Edda. This will be my third version of this story having read it as the Volsung Saga, and also as the 12th century Germanic version The Nibelungenlied – if you want full immersion try Wagner’s Ring Cycle opera, based on the same story.
The new Tolkien version is written as a poem. Translations often lose this element but this is not a translation. These poems, there are two, have never before been published, in fact for a while Tolkien thought he’d lost them. It’s presented with a lot of additional material including the text of a lecture on the Poetic Edda that he gave at Oxford University, a bit of history of the story itself, and commentary.
And if epic heroic poetry interests you let me also recommend Seamus Heaney’s award-winning translation of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf which we have on CD so you can hear the poet (Heaney) reading his own work.
The fairy tale must be one of the most widely known literary forms. Heroes, villians, perilous quests, and magic often form the basis of classic fairy tale stories. Given the enduring appeal of these tales is it any wonder that modern writers have taken these basic ingredients and reworked them into stories to delight and surprise modern audiences?
If you like stories that start with “Once upon a time…” and end with “…happily ever after” but want something with a bit of a twist then you might like to try the following – Continue reading →