Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane

fairytales for feisty girls .jpgTitle: Fairytales for Feisty Girls

Author: Susannah McFarlane

Genre: Fairytales, fantasy, children’s fiction, short stories

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 29th August 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 128

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: Renowned girl hero and feisty author Susannah McFarlane presents an illustrated collection of ’tilted’ fairytales featuring girls with smarts.

Feisty: typically describes one who is relatively small, lively, determined and courageous.

Girls can rescue themselves – just watch Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina create their own happily ever afters in this beautiful and emboldening bedtime book.

A glorious treasury for young girls – and boys – featuring artwork from four leading Australian illustrators: Beth Norling, Claire Robertson, Lucinda Gifford and Sher Rill Ng.

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Fairytales for Feisty Girls is my sixty-second book in the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. The author, Susannah McFarlane, has taken four well-known fairytales, turned them on their heads, and given the female characters agency and gusto that in the older versions and many sanitised versions, they do not have. Here, we have Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina all acting for themselves, in active and innovative roles. Rapunzel, forever inventing things, works out how to cut off her own hair, and asks a young man to tie one end around a tree so she can come down on a flying fox, Little Red Riding Hood uses her knowledge of plants and tea to trick the wolf, Cinderella makes her own fortunes, and Thumbelina seeks a family of her own.

These girls do not let anyone stop them, they’re bold, brave and where their counterparts wait for someone to save them, it is refreshing and fun to see these girls do it for themselves whilst embracing a form of femininity that works for them, and where they do not give up who they are for their happy ever after, which is still there, but they make their own happy ever after,  and stick to their convictions and beliefs.

Allowing these girls to explore their identities beyond their name, and beyond what people think of them. They are empowered and show all children – all readers of this book, really, that you can be anything and do anything. So instead of passive Cinderella waiting for the prince, she finds a way to up and leave her step-mother and step-sisters, and create a new life for herself, just as Thumbelina journeys alone to find those like her. I am hoping there will be a second volume with different stories to show readers what they can do if they set their minds to it.

AWW-2018-badge-roseFairy-tales and fairy-tale retellings have been a passion of mine for many years. From the oral traditions to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, to Disney and all the authors such as Kate Forsyth wo have used fairy tales in their stories, the tradition of the fairy-tale is alive and well. Each retelling reveals something new, a new layer to the story, a new way to see history through the scaffolding of a fairy-tale, or a new way to explore diversity and identity. Each story is empowering and funny, set in a time of magic and wonder, and invention, in a place that is both far away but that could be anywhere.

Each story has been illustrated by a different artist – and yet, they flow seamlessly from one storey to the next in a wonderfully cohesive style that feels as though one person was in charge of the illustrations. They work brilliantly with the short stories that are divided into short chapters, perfect to read with your child or to be read alone.

An excellent book for all ages that defies stereotypes and empowers girls of all ages and backgrounds to be and do what they wish.

Tales from the Kingdoms by Sarah Pinsborough

tales.jpg

I received a copy from the publisher for review

Title: Tales from the Kingdoms

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Hachette/Gollancz

Published: 14/6/2016

RRP: $29.99

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 464

Synopsis: Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty: stories you love, and that we think we all know…but why would a prince fall in love with a woman in a coffin? Why would a queen poison her stepdaughter? And what is a fairy Godmother’s real motivation?

 

Turn the page, and discover these classic fairy stories, told the way they always should have been…

 

 

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Tales of the Kingdom is an exquisite collection of three novellas – Poison, Charm and Beauty – retelling the stories of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. These tales incorporate elements of more than just these three fairy tales, seamlessly twisting the characters and their stories so that they work together to create a narrative that flows well throughout.

There were a few surprises whilst reading, though I had an inkling of what might happen part way through the second story, I enjoyed reading through to the end to see if the stories were to become intertwined with each other. Was the prince the same prince? Is this why he was not named? The nice inclusion and hints towards other well-known characters and their tales added to the overall story.

Most fairy tales explore the nasty side of evil characters and the nice side of good characters. Pinborough does the opposite; she explores the black, white and grey of all characters, showing that they are not all good, nor are the y all evil – they have reasons, motivations and most of all, she shows most of them as flawed humans, unless they are witches who always seem to have ulterior motives, or whose personalities are such stark contrasts, that these extremes are who they are. This seems to be a new trend in fairy tale retellings, as this is something Once Upon A Time does as well, but in a different way to this book.

Tales of the Kingdom is also a little bit sexy – the sex scenes are not overdone, nor are they the main focus of the story. They are the result of the spells woven by characters throughout and often are the turning point in the tales for the characters, in particular, for who the characters truly are, and perhaps showing the side of them that the happily ever after endings do not show. The messy implications of the actions of true love’s kiss and what it does to the parties involved. The stories perhaps question why true love’s kiss was so important in fairy tales, rather than just getting to know somebody for who they are, but also explores how some people see others and would prefer them to be.

I enjoyed reading this, especially as I have read and seen many fairy tale retellings, including Disney, and each retelling reveals something different about the tales.