Archive for Fairy Tales

Booktalk: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Darkest Part of the Forest cover

I’ve been a fan of fantasy books since I was a kid.  While I admit a certain fondness for high fantasy stories featuring princesses, castles, and unicorns, I have a special place in my heart for the stories where fantasy and reality blur.  Because (of course) those kinds of stories were more likely to really happen to me!

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black is an awesome fantasy story set in modern day featuring some characters that feel like they just stepped out of a fairy tale and others who feel like your childhood friends or the kid you used to be.  And because I always like books that cross genres because then I can use different hooks to appeal to different readers, I should also mention that this story blends fantasy with adventure and suspense AND it also features numerous romantic angles!


The town of Fairfold seems like a modern place that fits into the 21st century.  But the town has very old roots, and those roots are filled with magic.  Most of the magic is invisible, but there’s one magical thing in the town that you CAN see.

That magical thing is a boy — a very unusual boy.  And tourists will come from miles around just to see him.  This boy has horns on his head and pointed ears, but other than that he looks human.  The boy is lying in a glass coffin in the woods.  It’s a very special coffin, because it can’t be opened and it can’t be broken.  The boy appears to be asleep … at least, no one’s ever seen him open his eyes.  And there’s one more unusual thing about the magical boy.  Even though he’s been there for as long as anyone can remember, he never gets any older.

Hazel and her brother Ben grew up in the town of Fairfold, so they both spent a lot of time hanging out in the woods and visiting the magical boy.  Like generations of kids before them, they’ve spent time talking to him and wishing he would wake up.  Hazel and Ben have seen pictures of the magical boy from years ago.  And in every picture he looked EXACTLY the same.

Hazel and Ben don’t know it yet, but the town of Fairfold is about to go through some major changes.  And one of those changes is that the magical boy is going to wake up.

Booktalk: Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge

Lies Knives cover

I first picked up Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses because I love fairy tales, I love retellings of fairy tales, and (I confess) I thought that a poem-format book would make for an easy booktalk.  But the more I read, the more I realized that I didn’t want to read any of the poems out loud both because of the “mature” language and because I didn’t want to limit myself to just one or two stories.  So instead I wrote the booktalk in more of a list format, so that listeners will get some idea of the range of stories in this book.

If you go to Ron Koertge’s website, you can learn more about this and his other books.  I’ll confess that I’d only read his novels before, but if you’re interested in poetry he has another recent release that might interest you, as well.

ETA: This booktalk had a really fast turnaround time (I recorded it about two minutes after writing it).  Then I realized after I’d posted this episode that I made a couple of small but vital grammatical errors in my recorded booktalk.  I’ve fixed the errors in the printed version below.  My apologies for the confusion.


Once upon a time, people made some bad decisions.

Two girls listened to their mother, and turned against their beautiful stepsister.  A man broke into a witch’s garden because his pregnant wife was craving a salad.  The Beast hoped that Beauty would fall in love with him.  A girl was kind enough to share her food with a stranger.  A man promised that his daughter could spin straw into gold.  And a girl wondered what it would be like to be eaten by a wolf.

Yes, there’s magic, and danger, and punishments, and rewards, and falling in and out of love, and revenge, and death.  But most of these stories don’t end QUITE the way you’d expect.

Booktalk: Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl

In this episode, we revisit Patrice Kindl (of Owl in Love fame), who put a funny spin on the Goose Girl fairy tale in her novel Goose Chase.  I like to use this book to break things up in my booktalking presentations and make my audience laugh after I’ve finished telling them about a bunch of dark, scary, or sad books.

As always, a first-person booktalk takes a little extra effort, acting ability, and self-confidence.  I find it both challenging and entertaining to look right at my audience and tell them (with a mostly straight face) that I’m as lovely as the dawn!  In some ways, I both love and fear doing first-person booktalks.  Does that make any sense?  Well, surges of adrenaline work both ways, I suppose …


You might think that having your tears turn into diamonds and gold dust fall from your hair would be a good thing.  You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. You might also think that it would be wonderful to have a prince and a king competing for your hand in marriage.  But you know what?  That’s not so great, either.  You know how you want that perfect someone to look into your eyes and see into your heart and realize that the two of you are soulmates and that you’re destined to spend the rest of your lives together?  Yeah, well that’s not gonna happen when you’ve got diamonds and gold falling out of your head!

You know, six months ago my life was a lot easier.  I was a goose girl.  My life was simple, I lived by myself, and I was happy.  And then one day I gave an old beggar woman my last crust of bread.  And in return, she gave me a blessing, which if you ask me is more of a curse.  Oh, and by the way, not only do I have diamonds falling out of my eyes and 24-karat dandruff, but I’m also as lovely as the dawn.  That’s right, I’m a triple threat.  But all my powers aren’t helping me at all right now; in fact, they’re what got me into this mess.  You see, right now I’m locked up in a tower while the prince  and the king wait for me to decide which one of them I’m going to marry.  (Confidentially, my answer is “neither one,” but these guys don’t know how to take no for an answer!)

You know that “happily ever after” stuff?  Don’t believe a word of it!

Booktalk: Beast by Donna Jo Napoli

I have always been a fan of fairy tales, and as soon as I was old enough to understand the inventiveness of retold and reimagined fairy tales, I loved those, too.  Donna Jo Napoli is one of the most prolific authors when it comes to retold fairy tales.  Beast is one of my personal favorites, but she has also reimagined classic fairy tales like Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rumplestiltskin, and the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  Check out her website to learn more about her books for kids and teens.


Once upon a time, there was a prince.  His name was Orasmyn, and his father was the shah of Persia.  Throughout his life his luck had always been good – until the day that he was cursed.  He was told that the next day, his father would kill him, and that the only thing that would break the curse was a woman’s love.  Orasmyn thought he had the answer – he made his father promise to kill no man the next day, and he planned to stay locked in his room just in case.  But his plan unraveled on the way to his room.  Orasmyn stopped to help a servant girl; a girl who was not what she seemed.  She was a pari — a fairy — who delivered the second part of the curse by turning Orasmyn into a lion.  Now, his father had promised not to kill any man, but he didn’t say anything about lions.  In fact, his father was going on a lion hunt the next day, and had promised to kill a lion with his bare hands.  Orasmyn spent the next day narrowly escaping the hunters, and the days after that realizing that even though he had escaped death, that he was still a lion, so the curse still needed to be broken.

Orasmyn the lion went to France to find a woman who would love him and finally break the curse.  He didn’t know it yet, but one day he would meet a woman named Belle who would finally be the one to save him … but then, we already know her side of the story.