Review Blog

Sep 20 2018

Fairytales for feisty girls by Susannah McFarlane

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760523541
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fairy tales. Fractured fairy tales. Women and girls. Old stories rewritten for a modern age, these tales will have younger listeners laughing out loud as they recognise stories they have heard but with a difference, making them more palatable for modern children, and undermining the stereotypes that persist. The recent spate of pink books have met their match in these funny, up-to-date stories of girls taking their situation in hand and improving their lot. Living 'happily ever after' is much more fun when the girls manage their futures for themselves.
Not a Rapunzel serenely waiting for a handsome prince to ride by but a Rapunzel who loves building things, longs to see what is outside her tower and makes a plait from her hair which she cuts off and has a passing lad tie to the tree, using her lute to sail down the hair to freedom. And not a Red Riding Hood, screaming for help from the axe-man, but a strong-willed girl using her knowledge of the flowers in the wood to give the wolf a tainted cup of tea, enough to make him drowsy, enabling her to rescue her Gran. Cinderella goes to the ball, dropping her glass slipper. All is well. But she does not go home and wait for the prince to try it on her slender foot, she goes in the other direction and sells the remaining slipper giving her the financial independence to achieve her dream. And Thumbelina freeing herself from the various small animals that beset her, had me scrambling for a fairytale book to see how the 'original' developed.
The four stories in this wonderful book, "Red Riding Hood", "Rapunzel", "Thumbelina" and "Cinderella" are rewritten by Susannah McFarlane, well known for her stories in the "EJ12 Girl Hero", "EJ12Spy School", "D Bot" series, as well as being involved with the highly acclaimed "Go Girl" and "Zac Power" series.
Each of the stories in this book is illustrated by a different Australian artist, giving a differing perspective of life in these fairy stories to watch out for as they are read. Seeing Rapunzel using her saw and hammer, or Cinderella tending to her rescued animals or Red finding the axe for the woodsman who has misplaced it, or Thumbelina taking her self in hand, shows a feisty side to these girls which will enliven, fascinate and entertain all readers.
Fran Knight

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