A Book Based on a Fairy Tale, Myth or Legend: Picks for the TPL Reading Challenge 2020
Fairy tales, myths and legends have been told and retold by storytellers around the world. These familiar stories can be a powerful framework for exploring themes of gender, disability, family and more. Our picks for "a book based on a fairy tale, myth or legend" are a combination of twisted and traditional takes on these classic tales.
Beauty and the Beast illustrated by Walter Crane
This picture book is a familiar telling of Beauty and the Beast, based on Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's 1756 version which popularized the fairy tale. It is the illustrations by Walter Crane that make this book a standout! Crane's character designs and backgrounds are beautiful, adding an extra layer to the well known story. You can read a digitized edition of the book, or visit Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books to see the original.
Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
This graphic novel series blends elements from many fairy tales to tell the story of Castle Waiting and its residents. Formerly Sleeping Beauty's castle, Castle Waiting has been transformed into a refuge for troubled magical creatures and fairy tale characters. This book is one of my favourite comfort reads, reading it feels like curling up with a warm cup of tea. Medley balances incidents from the characters' humourous daily lives with explorations of their (sometimes traumatic) backstories.
These books were picked by our staff for "a book based on a fairy tale, myth or legend."
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Based on a Russian fairy tale titled Snegurochka. It takes place in Alaska in 1920. Jack and Mabel build a child out of snow and the next day the snowchild is gone, but they see a little girl running through the trees, with a small fox by her side. This lovely story has themes of parenthood, friendship and loneliness. After visiting Alaska, this book brought back the beauty for me!
– Debra, Librarian
Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc
Not exactly a retelling of a fairy tale, but more of a reconsidering, or maybe a reckoning. This book explores how disability is portrayed in fairy tales and how those stories shape our understanding of disability in the real world, including in the author's own life story. Leduc, who has cerebral palsy, incorporates her own experiences throughout the book, including medical notes and memories from her childhood, which make for some of the most powerful passages. She asks, "[a]s a young girl growing up with a wheelchair, then crutches, then a limp, what does it mean to watch a princess put her foot into a glass slipper and understand that this glass slipper holds all promises of her dreams come true? What happens when you know that your own foot would never fit in a slipper like that, much less be good for dancing?" It's a thought-provoking read – you'll never look at fairy tales the same way again – that ultimately encourages us to make space for different kinds of stories and imagine other ways to live happily-ever-after.
– Winona, Services Specialist
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley
Beauty was one novel length retelling that I read. I have also read a number of Robin McKinley's other retellings.
– Jo-Ann, Library Assistant
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Based on the fairy tale of Cinderella, Cinder is a cyborg - half human half machine. Hated by her stepmother and stepsisters, she meets Prince Kai and helps protect her world's future in an intergalactic struggle. I loved the author's creativity in coming up with the characters and the setting! This is the first book in The Lunar Chronicles, a series of young adult novels that mash up classic fairy tales with androids, cyborgs and humans. If you end up loving Cinder, try the others in the series – Scarlet, Cress, and Winter.
– Nalini, Senior Branch Head
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
The newly released YA novel Legendborn reimagines the Arthurian myth in the American South with a magical Black girl at its heart. Absolute cracker of a story that features magic and adventure, challenges privilege and systemic inequalities, and is really, really difficult to put down! Must read for those who love contemporary fantasy or are looking for a way into it.
– Kimberly, Librarian
Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
Reimagines the Russian/Slavic folktale of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless. The story is set in Russia during the Revolution and up to WWII. It's like a mixing of magical history and actual history, revolution and mythology, love and death. I read it in one sitting!
– Lucas, Librarian
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Is a very dark retelling of Rose Red and Snow White. This book is so eerie and dark that it does merit content/trigger warnings: incest, miscarriages, suicide, rape and bestiality. Liga is a victim of incest and sexual abuse and through her trauma she creates a magical world where her two daughters can live without ever seeing the horrors of the real world. But this fantasy can't last forever. It is kind of a disturbing story that really hooks you in.
– Lucas, Librarian
The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust
It's a story that winds around a Hungarian fairy tale, interspersed with what is going on in the artist's life in the present. It feels like a grandfather telling you two stories at once, but they each matter and you never get confused.
– Stephanie, Public Service Assistant
Redder Than Blood by Tanith Lee
– Wendy, Digital Content Lead
The Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail
A beautiful and highly readable collection of poems that play off of the tale of Scheherazade and also draws on the mythology of Tammuz and Ishtar.
– Michael, Librarian
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
A retelling of Rumpelstiltskin (mixed in with other Russian folklore), can't recommend it enough, writing is graceful and evokes some breathtaking imagery.
– Christine, Librarian
Entwined by Heather Dixon
A retelling of 12 dancing princesses, cleverly manages to be both creepy-dark and sweet, like Beetlejuice mixed with Mary Poppins, highly recommend it!
– Christine, Librarian
The Game by Diana Wynne Jones
It is very short, more of a novella than a novel. Hayley and her cousins play in the "mythosphere" where all the stories in the world are found. It was a delight to read through and not only spot all the references to well known stories, but also try and guess who all the characters were suppose to be representing.
– Kara, Librarian
East by Edith Pattou
This is a retelling of the fairy tale "East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon." It's a very expanded retelling (coming in at just under 500 pages) but the world building that the author does to ground this fairy tale in our own world and infuse it with life is just amazing. Highly recommend.
– Kara, Librarian
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
The Bloody Chamber is good if you like the blood and guts of old school fairy tales but want heroines with more agency than a lamppost.
– Tessie, Librarian
Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran
A delightfully creepy retelling of Snow White. "A not-so-evil queen is terrified of her monstrous stepdaughter and determined to repel this creature and save her kingdom from a world where happy endings aren't so happily ever after." This graphic novel was adapted by Colleen Doran from Gaiman's original short story.
– Isabel, Librarian
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
A beautifully illustrated short book about a young queen who sets out to save a princess from an enchanted sleep.
– Isabel, Librarian
Recommendations from the Facebook Group
These are just some of the recommendations from our Facebook TPL Reading Challenge 2020 discussion group.
- Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
- The Swan Suit by Katherine Fawcett
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman
- Once Upon a More Enlightened Time by James Finn Garner
- Folk & Fairy Tales edited by Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek
- The Iliad by Homer
- A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
- Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
- Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
- Circe by Madeline Miller
- Geekerella by Ashley Poston
- Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
- Tristan and Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliff
- Fables series by Bill Willingham
We'll be hosting an online discussion for this category, along with "a utopian or dystopian book" on Wednesday, October 21 from 4 - 5:30 pm. Everyone is welcome! And if you miss the event, we'll be having more virtual TPL Reading Challenge events later this year. You can also watch the replay.
And if you've already completed the TPL Reading Challenge and Advanced Challenge 2020, please fill out our feedback survey. You can also enter our draw by submitting the titles you've read for a chance to win a prize!
What did you read for "a book based on a fairy tale, myth or legend"? Do you have other recommendations? Share in the comments below!