I love reinvented fairy tales (so long as good versus evil isn’t turned on its head). And Shannon Hale’s retellings truly bring these tales to life.
Each book by Shannon Hale portrays a kind girl thrown into impossible circumstances who must learn to be courageous, selfless, and noble. Each tale contains just enough fairy tale magic to make it sparkle, but the magical elements never overwhelm the story.
In Princess Academy, the sages predict the prince’s future bride will be from a small, mountain, mining community. The girls are forced to attend Princess Academy to prepare should the prince choose one of them. Miri, a girl never allowed to mine, must use all her cleverness and bravery when things don’t go as expected. This Newberry winner is perfect for girls ages 10 and up. In fact, there is a whole series of Princess Academy books, though I’ve only read the first.
In The Goose Girl, Ani, a princess with the gift of speaking to animals, has been promised, against her will, to the prince of a neighboring kingdom. On the way, her maid stages a coup, claiming the title of princess herself, while Ani barely escapes with her life. Ani becomes the goose girl in the new kingdom to seek a way to reclaim her title and her life, but she learns much more than she bargained for in her new position. This book is based on a story by the same name from The Brothers Grimm. Again, I feel this story is appropriate for ages 10 plus. There are a few grisly images and some danger.
Book of 1,000 Days was by far the most mature title I read from Hale. Though I first assumed it was a retelling of “Rapunzel,” it’s actually based on aT Brothers Grimm story called “Maid Maleen.” Set in Asia, it’s written as a diary of a princess’s maid. They both get bricked up in a tower by the king for seven years when the princess refuses to marry the man he chose. This story was more intense in violence, danger, and emotions (perhaps because of the first-person perspective). I’d recommend it for girls 13 and up.
Although I greatly enjoyed these books, I have two caveats for parents before I recommend them.
- Each book contains an element of romance. It is minimal and pretty innocent, but it’s there in each book.
- There is a situation in each book where a man has the intention of harming either the main character or a secondary female character in a malicious way. Though this is always prevented and the manner of harm intended is never stated, I’d still be cautious about introducing this depending on the child and their history and level of sensitivity.
Her writing was engaging and vivid, and I think Shannon Hale’s books will become favorites of many girls.
The audiobooks were well done and are available on Audible. You don’t have to be a member to buy from Audible, but first time members get a free book. The images below are links to the Audible version.
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What retold fairy tales have you or your kids enjoyed?