“Chris Picks” August: Retellings

Here are this month’s five great recommendations from staff member Christopher Jennings Penders! Click on a title to place a hold. To find previous Chris Picks just click on the “what to read” link at the bottom of this page or type “Chris Picks” into the search bar on our home page.

Orson Scott Card is a favorite writer. Enchantment is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty and is perhaps my favorite book on this list. Taking place in old Russia, Card brings in the old Russian folk tale of Baba Yaga. The way Card introduces Baba Yaga fits perfectly into the context of Enchantment. It’s almost as though Baba Yaga was created with Enchantment in mind. Read both stories and you’ll understand.

Ash by Malinda Lo is a retelling of Cinderella and in the right hands, retellings can be amazing, just as Ash was. I LOVED the twist that the author made to give this enduring fairy tale a modern take.

One of the huge advantages of working in a public library is the constant flow of books coming in and out. I get to see so much reading material, much more than I would if I didn’t work in the book industry. I often joke that I get paid to read. That isn’t far from the truth either. I couldn’t be happier working where I work because I’m such a voracious reader. 

All the traits of the Cinderella tale are here:
The stepsisters
The stepmother
And of course, Cinderella herself.

This tale, though, veers off into uncharted territory. I love the concept, as I said earlier. I certainly don’t want to give away the twist if you aren’t aware or haven’t read Ash.

Don’t let the fact that this book is written for a teen audience, or that it is not a traditional fairy tale stop you from reading it.  Another trait about this book I enjoyed is that stylistically it is written in such a way that it almost appears to have been written during the time the original Cinderella was written.  This retelling maintains enough of the same language and atmosphere as the original while including many modern touches to make Ash something you shouldn’t pass up simply because you don’t read a particular genre or style.

Gregory Maguire might be the most well-known re-teller on this list thanks to his book Wicked. If you have gathered anything from these last few months of reading my book columns, I hope it is this:
That I usually stay away from big popular books. Anyone can go into their library and find those. I’d rather point out books that get lost in the stacks. With that in mind, my favorite book by Maguire is another Cinderella story called Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister.

While not exactly a retelling, The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue retains some elements of The Pied Piper story with a stolen child being the subject of Donohue’s book. Be warned, however, that this is a dark tale. It did wind up being one of my favorite books I read the year it was released.

Ridley Pearson’s The Pied Piper is the first crime novel featuring Lou Boldt and Daphne Mathews. Like The Stolen Child, The Pied Piper deals with kidnappings. The character in the book called Pied Piper got his name because he leaves a penny flute in the crib of the children with which he absconds.

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