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.

~*~

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.

The Rebirth of Rapunzel by Kate Forsyth

Fairy tales have a long and varied history, from their beginnings in an oral format, to fairy tale collectors such as The Brothers Grimm, and creators such as Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde and Charlotte-Rose de la Force, author of Persinette. Various authors and collectors have different versions of these tales stemming from different traditions that journeyed across Europe and the world. Today, the best-known fairy tales are from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen. Little is known about female authors such as Charlotte-Rose and their contributions to the fairy tale tradition.
In The Rebirth of Rapunzel: A Mythic Biography of the Maiden in the Tower, and the novel Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth brings Charlotte-Rose to life and explores how her tale of Persinette evolved into the story of Rapunzel that we know today, and the various incarnations and retellings of the tale, culminating in Disney’s Tangled.
Unlike the fairy tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, de la Force’s fairy tale is a literary fairy tale. The distinction being, that even though it was inspired by other sources, de la Force created it herself.
The Rebirth of Rapunzel is a well-written, intelligent collection of non-fiction writing exploring the evolution of the tale of Rapunzel. It presents the history of the tale to the reader in an effective manner, and will be of great interest to anybody who has studied or is studying fairy tales and their history. Kate’s distinctive writing style shines through, making reading this offering as enjoyable as her novels, and is an engaging read for anyone interested in the subject matter.
The book includes a doctorate on the Rapunzel fairy tale, and at the end, other pieces of Kate’s writing on Rapunzel and fairy tales, which, when read with Bitter Greens in mind, gives a greater understanding to the fairy tale of Rapunzel, in an accessible way for many readers.