CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 3. . . .September 17, 2010
Terrible Tales is a collection of five short stories that take the form of fractured fairy tales. In Sir Jasper Gowlings’ Foreword and Backword, we learn that an ancient leather-bound book containing the terrible tales was forced upon him by Felicitatus Miserius with instructions to share them and their teachings with the world. Gowlings and Miserius serve as fictional pseudonyms for the book's actual author, Jennifer Gordon. This is the first book she has written, and, in a fun, irreverent way, it effectively conveys valuable messages to the reader regarding self-esteem, compassion and the recipe for true happiness. Gordon's voice as a storyteller is a joy to read thanks to her conversational tone, and the stories practically beg to be read aloud. While Terrible Tales is primarily being marketed to the 9-12 age range, the stories will appeal to children as young as seven, and the book also manages to appeal to adult readers familiar with the original fairy tales as well.
Each of the five terrible tales presents a well-known fairy tale and then flips it around so that once beloved characters become greedy, wicked villains, while the characters we once considered evil become sympathetic characters imbued with traits such as generosity and compassion. This reversal illustrates Gordon's problematization of the message found in traditional fairy tales in which the majority of "good" characters were those who were physically beautiful, while unattractive traits were associated with nasty personalities. In the fairy tale world of Terrible Tales, those fortunate to have beauty and wealth are thus portrayed in the vilest of terms, and so, for the first time, we meet the "absolutely, positively, 100 percent" true nature of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs, Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel - and through their adventures, come to understand the real secret to living happily ever after.
Emily Sobool is a librarian in Vancouver, BC.
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