Allison's Book Bag

The New Fairy Tales Anthology Published by Aurora Wolf

Posted on: June 26, 2011

Growing up, I read storybooks, magazines, and the Canadian Children’s Annual. The latter was largely a collection of stories. Sadly, new editions are no longer made. Instead, I turn to publications like The New Fairy Tales Anthology by Aurora Wolf for a similar reading experience. An anthology is like having a year’s worth of magazines bound together. Moreover, I love long stories, but they can be hard to find, and so anthology stories are a pleasure. I hope Aurora Wolf is already planning a second volume.

Fairy tales are narratives that contain folkloric characters. The New Fairy Tales Anthology contains traditional characters such as enchanted sea creatures, magical trees, and dragons. Fairy tales were also often about royalty, wealthy, peasants, and misers. Oh, and let’s not forget evil step parents. These characters all liven up the anthology pages too. Of course, this is also an anthology of new fairy tales. As such, there are unusual characters such as dream thieves, falling stars, orphans, and a hair dog. The strong writing craft of the anthology authors is shown in their portrait of characters: “His skin was golden like the clouds at sunset, his hair was the color of a thunderstorm, and his eyes looked like the rain.” Couldn’t you just see Cloud Runner? The settings are almost as varied as the characters: cities, towns, houses, gardens, the clouds, and the sea. Again, the descriptions show the strong writing craft of the authors: “where the tree trunks were chocolate and their leaves of angelica; where the flowers were made from spun sugar….”  Can’t you just picture this magical place? Most of the stories are timeless, although one science fiction story snuck into the mix being set in 2195. All these are excellent things!

Then there’s the readability factor. The New Fairy Tales Anthology contains a collection of twelve stories for younger readers and nine stories for older readers. In the average magazine for younger readers, stories range from five hundred to one thousand words or about a couple of pages. The action takes place in one or two places and involves just a few characters. The writing style is also lighter, because readers are still developing their reading skills. In contrast, the average story for younger readers is almost ten pages and contains almost as many scenes. While there are perhaps only three major characters, I would be hard pressed to remember all the minor players without revisiting the story. As for style, consider this example: “Her father’s stone house was nestled in the cliffs overlooking a natural channel through the cold Norde Islands.” When I ran this sentence through a readability scale, it tested at a grade nine level. Other sentences tested closer to sixth grade level. This reading level seems somewhat high, even for really good readers. Ironically, the average stories for the older readers reached only about five pages. They were no less complex in scenes and characters, but the readability dropped to between fifth and eighth grade.

Back to the excellent things! One of my favorite fairy tales is The Pale, Pale Girl and the Very Red Dragon. Isn’t that a fun title? The opening made me laugh: “Once upon a time yet to be, there lived a man who was the ruler of the country that should have been outside the realm of possibility. Oh … and his wife.” As for the story, it starts out being about a wicked step mother and ends up being about self-identity. Another of my top choices is A Sea Fairy Tale. A father and daughter are on a boat trip. This sounds pretty ordinary, but then there is a storm and a sea fairy and other adventures. Next, there is The Old Man, the Hair Dog, and the Dragon. Another popping title! This story includes this description: “There were pitfalls with poisoned spikes, hidden hives of bees, and the skeletons of a pack of attack dogs….” The cast is traditional, in that there are three sons and the youngest is mistreated. Someday someone really needs to write a story about the oldest being mistreated. Although the story does not take this twist, there is a weird hair dog. Some of my remaining favorites were by authors whom I featured in interviews. Were there stories I did not like? Yes! I prefer not to prejudice you against them.

Anthologies are like musical collections. There will be artists for which I hit the repeat button, artists which I will skip after the initial play, but over all I like the synergy of the collection and so I purchase it. Despite the few stories in the New Fairy Tale Anthology with lackluster plots, and the slightly demanding reading level, I loved the strength in characterization and description. For the most part too, the stories were fun or weird or interesting in some fashion. The New Fairy Tales Anthology has synergy!

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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