Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Learning | Jane Yolen's Fairy Tales

Fans of Jane Yolen know her books can be fun and informative (like the How Do Dinosaurs...? series of picture books.) 

If you have read her chapter books for children, such as the Young Merlin Trilogy (that series really deserves a separate blog post,) you know that she has a talent for taking traditional folktales and turning them into compelling stories of her own. 

If you have not yet discovered her books for teens, I suggest starting with one of her books based on fairy tales; they have a tendency to focus on the darker side of the stories. In some cases, we hear more about the fairy side of things than the human side.

Snow in Summer: Fairest of Them All We think of the Snow White story taking place in some unnamed kingdom in Europe. This is a retelling of the Snow White story, set in post-war Appalachia. Snow in Summer (or Summer, for short) is a beautiful young girl; her happy childhood turns dismal after her mother dies in childbirth. 

Her grieving father loses all joy in the things he used to love, like his daughter and singing. Then he is captivated by the charms of an evil woman, who becomes Summer's Stepmama. Summer bears the brunt of her Stepmama's cruelty; as it becomes more clear that Stepmama is truly wicked, Summer escapes into the woods and over the mountain, where she meets seven odd little men. 

This story is hard to put down; I couldn't wait to find out what happened, but I was sorry when it ended.

Snow-In-Summer, or Cerastium Tomenosum,
courtesy of John Stratford's photostream on

Fun Fact

Snow in Summer's name came from a flowering plant called Cerastrium Tomenosum. 

The three titles below are all related to the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale:

Briar Rose is an award-winning adult science fiction book from 1992. Yolen juxtaposes the present day story of Becca, a journalist researching the holocaust, and her memories of her grandmother, Gemma's, telling of the a fairy tale  blended with her own experiences in a Polish prison camp during the Nazi holocaust.

The Hostage Prince This is the only book I have ever read with a troll birthing scene! This is the first book of the Seelie Wars Trilogy, which Yolen is writing with her son, Adam Stemple. The main characters are a bumbling midwife's apprentice named Snail, and the unhappy Prince Aspen, who is being held hostage in an unfriendly kingdom.  

The Curse of the Thirteenth Fey: The True Tale of Sleeping Beauty This tells the other side of the Sleeping Beauty story--not the version the humans tell. The main character in this tale is Gorse, a clumsy young fairy with twelve older siblings. Her family is bound to an evil king's land, and required to do his bidding. She falls ill, just when it is time for her family to bestow gifts on a new princess. It looks like she may not make it to the bidding, but she recovers from her illness, and hurries toward the castle to catch up with her family. That's when things go terribly wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for these recommendations. I'm halfway through Briar Rose and had trouble putting it down at the end of my lunch hour today. I'll have to read more from Jane Yolen.