Editors: Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Published: Penguin Group (2009)
Genre: Fantasy; Children's Literature
As a kid, I was raised in part by Walt Disney. More specifically, I refer to the Walt Disney films I watched with rapt amazement. The classic tales of Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and Pinocchio were so well orchestrated with fluid animation and colorful palettes, I suspect it was hard for any kid who watched them not to become hypnotized by Disney's vision of children's tales. But so many of those stories were homogenized and watered down compared to the more potent source material.
So to see editors, Ellen Datlow and Terrie Windling, offer up an anthology of short stories and poems that hold humor and horror in the same vein as those centuries old fairy tales and fables, it's a true sight to behold.
The fifteen contributing authors, including Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, and Kelly Link, each provide their own new touch on old tales. The focus of this anthology being on the more villainous elements of those stories, even delving into the minds of some of the iconic characters as they work against the protagonists of the original stories.
The first story by Delia Sherman called "The Wizard's Apprentice" sets an interesting tone for the book, by tapping into an old Russian fairy tale about an evil wizard. The story not only offers something new from a potentially obscure tale to western audiences, and turns it into a more complex story concerning the nature of good and evil, as the wizard may not be the most evil character in the tale.
The following stories relate to more familiar territory--at least for me--with stories involving or alluding to Puss in Boots, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and a particularly dark tale involving Cinderella by Kelly Link at the very end of the book.
If you think this book might not be suitable for your kid, relax. They can handle it. The stories shine a light on those famous villains, but they also do it without malice and offer very humanizing elements to the fables. I think both kids and parents will enjoy seeing the world from the antagonist's point of view for a change.
Personally, I liked it, but strictly from an inner child perspective. And you will really need to be a kid at heart to sit down and be entertained by these stories. Otherwise, your curmudgeonly mind will have a hard time appreciating the value of this anthology.