Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Wolf at the Door: And Other Retold Fairy Tales (Book)

Author: Various. Edited by Ellen Datlow.  Release date: 2000. Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. ISBN: 978689821394.
Cover image for A Wolf at the Door: And Other ...Plot summary: This collection of re-told fairy tales features some of young adult literature’s most popular authors, including Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Jane Yolen, and Gregory Maguire.  All of the short stories are updated versions of classical tales. “Cinderella” becomes “Cinder Elephant,” the story of an overweight girl who is constantly bullied by her ultra-thin stepmother and stepsisters. “Hansel and Gretel” becomes “Hansel’s Eyes,” where an urban witch lures the siblings into a shiny Playstation 2 store in an effort to harvest and sell their organs. A modern version of the “Ugly Duckling” has an intelligent but misunderstood middle-schooler, Clarise, becoming a swan who accepts herself for who she is. These tales, and many more, make up this compilation of short stories from award-winning authors.
Review:  This interesting and at cleverly unsettling collection of re-told fairy tales is sure to delight tween readers who like reading stories that are just a little off-kilter. The list of authors who contributed to A Wolf at the Door is impressive and includes some very well-published and beloved individuals. Neil Gaiman who, when this collection was first released in 2000 was not as well-known, has a bit of a “before he was famous” feel to his contribution, a list of instructions to survive a fairy tale. Gregory Maguire’s story, “The Seven Stage a Comeback,” is a dark look at the lives of the seven dwarves after they are abruptly abandoned by Snow White, and provides an antithesis to the cheery Disney version. Each story in this collection is unique and the change in voice, tone and subject will keep tweens interested through the entire book. The story that is perhaps the most gruesome, but will also likely hold the most appeal for readers, is “Hansel’s Eyes.” Luring the children with video games, soda and snacks is a devilishly clever update to a candy house, and the underlying message (the hidden dangers of overindulgence) will not be lost on tween readers. Overall, this is a very enjoyable compilation that would make a good reader’s advisory pick for tween boys or girls.
Genre: Fairy tales/Short stories
Reading level: Grades 6-10
Similar titles:  Troll’s-Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales edited by Ellen Datlow.  Swan Sister: Fairy Tales Retold edited by Ellen Datlow.
Personal thoughts:  This was a really clever read that I really enjoyed. Updated versions of classic tales have always interested me and I would have loved this book as a tween. I also really enjoyed the chance to read a variety of authors in one sitting.     
Themes: Fairy tales, updating classics
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from School Library Journal , Booklist and Kirkus.
Series Information:  N/A
Character information: N/A
Annotation:  Experience these creepy, funny and devilishly clever updated fairy tales from some of your favorite authors!   

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