Vasilisa the wise, and other tales of brave young women retold by Kate Forsyth
Ill. by Lorena Carrington. Serenity Press, 2017. ISBN
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Themes: Folklore. Short stories. Read aloud. Beautifully retold by Kate Forsyth and illustrated by Lorena Carrington, this collection of old tales had me fascinated from the first story and I was compelled to finish the whole book in one sitting. What a contrast to the Disney retelling of popular fairytales and certainly one for young women who are beginning their journey to adulthood.
The first story, "Vasilisa the wise", introduces the reader to the terrifying witch Baba-Yaga, and helped by her little doll, Vasilisa manages to use her wits to overcome her and escape from captivity. Another tale that stands out was "The toy princess" who was replaced by an automaton with limited vocabulary and who always was docile and did the right thing, leaving the reader to ponder whether it is better to be a free and happy peasant girl than a passive princess.
All the stories have brave, strong and intelligent young women who are also kind and helpful. Flora is prepared to marry a giant serpent to save her friend the prince in "A bride for me before a bride for you", while Katie Crackernuts saves her sister from a terrible spell, and Rosemary, a lone parent, is not prepared to give up the search for her little son, stolen by the faery folk of Sidhe in "The stolen child".
The stories are retold in lyrical prose by Kate Forsyth and beg to be read aloud. At the beginning of each story is an introduction which informs the reader of the source of the tale and when it was first in print, and at the end of each story is a paragraph by Kate about why she chose that story and a paragraph by Lorena telling about the process of illustrating the story, often using photos of Kate's and her daughters and detritus from the forest floor.
Kate says in her introduction "...we knew we wanted the stories and the artwork to be full of darkness and peril and tension, just as the old stories always were," and both very successfuly fulfil that with stories and illustrations that will inspire and challenge all readers.
This book would be a great gift for young women and is a must have for libraries.