Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fairytale Twists

Does Disney have a corner on the fairy market? No, I don't think so. I have recently found two books for children — one a picture book, the other a young adult book — about fairies. Both were enjoyable in their own right.

"What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy"
By Gregory Maguire

For ages 9 – 12
Known for his adult novels, such as "Wicked," Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister," and "Son of a Witch," it was a surprise to see that Maguire had also dabble in children's literature. While leading a middle school class through a writing assignment Maguire decided to try his own hand at the assignment, and what evolved became, "What the Dickens." It is the tale of a rogue tooth fairy on a dark and story night. Forget everything you ever thought you knew about tooth fairies and sink your teeth into Maguire's vision of warring fairy clans, mistaken identity and stormy nights.

Ten-year-old Dinah and her sibings are trapped by a storm and are separated from their parents. Their older cousin Gage attempts to keep their spirits up with a fairy tale about tooth fairies and wish harvesting. The dark and stormy night bit is turned on it's head and never quite explained, but the real story is that of the fairies. Maguire deftly weaves subtle lessons about liberty and the evils of facism and totalitarianism into the tale.

In the midst of the chaos Dinah wants to believe in the twisted fairy tale her cousin Gage is telling and by the end so till you.

"Gone with the Wand"
By Margie Palatini

Illustrated by Brian Ajhar
For Ages 4 – 8
The world's top fairy godmother has a wand on the fritz and is at a loss as to what to do. She is in the dumps and cannot find the slightest bibbity for her boppity boo. Her best friend, who happens to be a tooth fairy, tries to help out. She suggest changing jobs and offers several positions a plump fairy might be able to fill — fairy duster, snow fairy, sugarplum fairy, and so on. As evidenced through the illustrations as much as the dialogue, nothing seems to fit. Palatini meanders a bit in her storytelling, but eventually brings both you and the fairies around to the right job for a fairy godmother.

"Gone with the Wand" offers no attempt at morals. It just offers a bit of fun. children will be enthralled by Ajhar's illustrations. He brings each character to life with pizzazz. Children will enjoy pointing out characters from other famous fairytales in the fairy godmothers photo collection. They'll find all the famous princesses, princes and even a dragon or two.

The tale is cute, but the illustrations are what will have my children requesting to read "Gone with the Wand" multiple times.

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