In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Fairy's Mistake

Dear Annie,

Ah, Dr. Dolittle.  So delightful.  I have fond memories of my father, your Grandpa Frank, reading the books to me.  And it was such a pleasure to read them to our girls.  One of my favorite characters was always the Pushmi-Pullyu, a gazelle-unicorn cross with two heads, one on either end of its body.  It argued with itself a fair amount.

I realized, reading the books with Lizzie and Mona, that Dr. Dolittle was the first animal rights activist.  In one of the later books he liberates the animals from a circus in the dead of night.  There's an overland coach ride  to get the seals to the ocean and freedom.

I just re-read a story I gave Eleanor recently: "The Fairy's Mistake," by Gail Carson Levine.  It's part of a collection of six short stories:
The Fairy's Return
.  They're post-modern fairy tales by the author of Ella Enchanted (the subject of a recent guest blog).  Levine takes a classic fairy tale -- one in which a disguised fairy rewards a generous sister and punishes the selfish one -- and asks what would really happen if you had jewels coming out of your mouth and your sister spoke bugs and snakes.

Ethelinda slurped the water.  "Thank you.  Your kindness merits a reward.  From now --"
"You don't have..." Rosella stopped.  Something funny was happening in her mouth.  Had she lost a tooth?  There was something hard under her tongue.  And something hard in her cheek.  "Excuse me."  Now there was something in her other cheek.  She spat delicately into her hand.
They weren't teeth.  She was holding a diamond and two opals.
"There, dearie."  Ethelinda smiled.  "Isn't that nice?"

Of course it turns out not to be nice.  A passing prince realizes that the heretofore impoverished Rosella is a source of constant riches and proposes to her on the spot.  She causes small riots of everyone around her who pounce on every jewel she utters.  The prince shuts her in a huge library with empty chests and tells her to read aloud until they're full.  In the meantime, the evil sister is demanding major payment from all the local shops to keep her from entering their stores and distributing creepy creatures everywhere.  It takes the slightly clueless fairy a little while to realize what's going on, then to find the solution. 

It's a quietly funny read. I'm curious what Eleanor will think of it.  Definitely not Disney-esque, although there are poofy dresses.



1 comment:

  1. I haven't actually read The Fairy's Return, but I do love Ella Enchanted and The Two Princesses of Bamarre, the latter of which deserves a lot more recognition, I think. It's really amazing. :)

    Also, I think you and Ms. Thoms might find this list interesting:

    It's a list of feminist YA novels. I've only read a few of them, and I want to read some more on the list soon.
    There was a bit of a controversy surrounding the list, after they pulled Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels off the list because of a few comments on the page. Another blogger wrote about it here: