31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Fifteen: 2017 Fairy Tales / Folktales
Ah! One of my favorite lists. Not a long one, to be sure, but beloved. As I’m sure you’ve heard me say far too many times, in the history of children’s librarianship there was once a plethora of folktales and fairytales published every single year. Some of them were great, some them were hugely problematic, but they were a constant. Walk into your local library and check out the 398.2 section and you’ll see a large grouping of books, probably all with copyright dates between the 1960s-1980s. Then the spigot turned off, and the publication of such books turned from flood to trickle.
These days it’s an uphill slog for a folktale. And fairy tales, bizarrely, fare little better. Here then are the cream of the crop as far as 2017 publications are concerned. I’m deviating from my training (which would stipulate that fractured fairytales were verboten) a tad, but nothing too extreme. Enjoy these, the fruits of the year:
The Crane Girl by Curtis Manley, ill. Lin Wang
A popular Japanese folk tale is given a cheerier ending, which is something that usually chaps my hide. In this case, however, I think Manley and Wang have made the right choice. It’s probably the most fairytale-ish of the fairytales here today, what with its lush art and storyline. In this tale a boy rescues a crane and is later visited by a mysterious girl who offers him gifts in return. Aside from the writing and art, the copious Author’s Notes in the back are enough to make this one of the strongest books of the year. Great stuff.
The Happy Prince: A Tale by Oscar Wilde, illustrated and adapted by Maisie Paradise Shearring
In the game of Who Made Creepier Fairy Tales it all comes down to Hans Christian Andersen vs. Oscar Wilde (the Grimms don’t count since they just collected them, albeit with some edits). Andersen’s usually on top of his game with frozen matchgirls and the like, but then there’s Wilde’s The Happy Prince. I remember having to read this story in 4th grade or so, and it stuck with me. It has a lot of similarities to The Brave Tin Soldier, actually, since both stories end with the protagonists being melted down with only their hearts remaining. I’ve heard various interpretations of this story, including a persuasive one about it being a tale of the male sparrow and male prince being in love. However you read it, this is a pretty darn nice version. Read it if you don’t mind the sads.
The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais
This one needs a bit of a warning label. Not that there’s anything inappropriate in it, but this story goes pretty darn dark. It’s a very nice 180 degree turn on the usual Red Riding Hood plotline. Only, in this case, the little wolf is lured by a lovely little girl. A girl with dire, dreadful desires. The art is amazing and the story completely unforgettable. A visual feast.
The Mermaid by Jan Brett
Oh, I liked this one! How appropriate that it should come after the twist on Red Riding Hood. This, in turn, is a twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Set in the waters off of Okinawa, it’s kind of a change of pace for Brett. A little mermaid inspects the home of three absentee octopi, wrecking the usual amount of havoc in her wake. Lush and lovely, it’s a spin I’ve never seen anyone attempt before.
Noodleheads See the Future by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss, ill. Ted Arnold
Odd inclusion, yes? I have my reasons. Even better than the first Noodleheads book, Tedd Arnold has actually revived the old fool folktales, giving them life in a pair of misbegotten macaroni. Read this book and you’ll wonder how anyone else could even attempt to adapt these stories. The folk origins of these tales come via collaborators Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss. But above and beyond its inspirations, these are honestly funny stories that kids are going to just love.
Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland, ill. Jeffrey Alan Love
And what better time could such a book as this collection come out than the same year of Thor: Ragnarok? There will be a couple older kids wondering about the original Norse myths, and they’ll want a good book to walk them through the details. Yet aside from some pretty ancient texts, we don’t really have a plethora of Norse myth collections on hand. This one is perfect. It’s a big sucker with thick, luscious pages, and black acrylic and ink paintings in block print and silhouette style art. It’s also for you older readers, no question. Just what they’re looking for.
Pattan’s Pumpkin: A Traditional Flood Story from Southern India by Chitra Soundar, ill. Frané Lessac
There were several times when my librarians were whittling down the books of the year for our 101 Great Books list that this title was held up as a possible cut. You should have HEARD the commotion! Turns out, it’s vastly beloved, and why not? It takes a flood story, well-known to the Irula people of Southern India, and presents it in a fun, colorful, original way. It even got me to thinking that perhaps you could do a whole storytime of different flood myths around the world. Maybe.
La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, ill. Juana Martinez-Neal
If this one slipped under your radar, don’t worry. Happens to the best of us. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on discovering this book, though. In spite of its title, I wouldn’t slot this into the “bilingual” section of the library quite yet. Spanish words pepper the text but there’s no full translation to be found. The Peruvian inspired art is good. The grumpy cat (who somehow managed to make it onto the cover) is even better. Charming.
Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:
December 1 – Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations
December 3 – Wordless Picture Books
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – CaldeNotts
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Picture Books
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – Translated Picture Books
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Poetry Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Comics for Kids
December 21 – Older Funny Books
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Fiction Reprints
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
Filed under: Best Books, Best Books of 2017
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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