Saturday, June 16, 2012

What We're Reading: Fairy Tales

by Alethea Kontis
305 pages
Fairy tale/fantasy
Stand-alone novel (for now)
Any age—a good read-aloud!

Reviewed by: Anarda

Oh ho! So, this is what happens when you mix dozens of fairy tale motifs and tropes into one big bowl, bake it under a master baker’s care, and deliver it festooned with flowers, bells, and gold filigree! This is what happens when a seventh daughter and a seventh son bring forth into the world a seventh daughter. This is what happens when said daughter, named Sunday Woodcutter (blithe, and bonny and good and gay—care to guess what her six older sisters are named?), is “doomed to a happy life,” albeit tinged with the sadness we all find in our own imagined fairy tale lives.

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

Jack, Sunday’s brother, is long gone, cursed to be a dog by little Prince Rumbold's fairy godmother when Jack accidentally killed the prince's brand-new puppy. (The Woodcutter family are not big fans of Prince Rumbold henceforth.) Wednesday, quite beautiful, is indeed full of woe, and recites mournful poetry, and perhaps prophecy. Fair Monday was swept away by a prince and is never heard from, while Tuesday, graceful as the wind, danced herself to death in a lovely pair of red shoes. Thursday is far away, sailing the seven seas as the bride of a Pirate King, and having the time of her life! Kind Sister Friday sews like a dream, and spends her time doing charity work, and Saturday is always “all work, and no play,” no matter how much her mother scolds her. Their father ("the" Woodcutter) mourns the loss of his son Jack, and manages his affairs with his second son, Peter; and everyone watches over Trix, the mischievous youthful stepbrother whom poor Saturday is always trying to disentangle from scrapes. Sunday’s mother rarely speaks but to command a task done or a chore completed. As she constantly reminds the dreamy Sunday, words have power!

So when Sunday finds a Frog who will listen to her stories (for, like the rest of her family, she loves to spin tales), a smart but strangely forgetful Frog who likes her for herself, how could she not like the creature back? And when he asks her to kiss him, how could she not remember the tales of princesses kissing frogs, who then promptly turn into royal hotties? And when he does NOT turn into a prince, how could she not be charmed by his still wanting to listen to her stories—and ask for kisses? So she lives for the times when she can run to the woods and continue her blossoming friendship with the Frog. He grows into his memory with every visit, making Sunday feel new and unexpected feelings when he tells her how wonderful he finds her and her tales. Could love be growing here? And then what happens? HA! Read it and find out!

Did I like this book? Yes, it was a pleasure to figure out the references to all the various fairy and folk tales Kontis used--and there were several I couldn't quite identify, but KNEW came from some story I'd heard, long ago and faraway! Of the many fairy tale reworkings I've read, I'm reminded most of the Levine books--Ella Enchanted, etc.--and I'm looking forward to her next books, which will follow the adventures of her other sisters.

The book boasts a pretty cover, although we’ve seen its look-alikes on the YA shelves.
Rating: 4.5

Alethea Kontis says next up are Saturday's and Friday's novels in the Woodcutter Sisters series. She wrote this original book as a challenge from her writer's group--she was supposed to pick a particular fairy tale "seed" for her story, but instead decided to incorporate them all. She says, "I liked the idea that every fairy tale we know (and some we don't) originated from only one family (The Woodcutters) a very long time ago."

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