Thursday, January 28, 2010
Troll's-Eye View, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. Penguin Group (Canada), 2009. $21.00 ages 9 and up
"His name was simply Troll and he had no other. His Mother had little imagination when it came to names, or anything else. Lack of imagination is why you so seldom see Trolls today. Except on the Internet."
An interesting take on the bad ones that people folklore: trolls, witches, ogres, wolves, giants, wizards and others. The authors are well-known and such clever storytellers that you cannot help but be caught up in their retellings of some very familiar fare. There are twelve short stories and three poems and each has its own originality, presenting the rapscallion as somehow misunderstood for their behavior. I particularly liked "The Unwelcome Guest' Rapunzel, who is presented as a spoiled and obnoxious young woman who has tricked the witch in order to find refuge in her castle; and it takes some sly thinking to get rid of her.
Some of the stories are dark and haunting but there are touches of humor that will have readers chuckling as well. If, like me, you enjoy alternate tellings of familiar fairy tales, I think you will something here to like and to share with your middle graders. They will love to sit and listen, and get a feel for the 'other side' of those villains that we so love to hate.
A few left me unsettled, and I know they will be mine for longer than I would like. The humor in 'Up the Down Beanstalk: A Wife Remembers' made me smile often (and laugh out loud) and left me with a genuine feeling of warmth for the woman who had to deal with a cheeky visitor who demanded that she give his cow back (which was stolen by the giant) or offer a trade...perhaps a hen that laid golden eggs or a harp? Here's a snippet:
"And people do keep climbing my old beanstalk, no matter how poor Jack runs all over, warning them not to, so there's any amount of company, and I hardly ever eat out. It's princes, mostly - they don't taste any better than anyone else, no matter what you hear - and once there was this whole bunch of dwarves, the dearest little fat fellows. Perfect timing, that was, because my bridge circle was meeting over here that day. So, I stay interested, that's what's important - being interested."
Great inventive writing, causing readers and listeners to stop and think about it, and a host of stories to be shared. The variety is amazing, the writing strong and the lingering memories will take you back to it again. It's always wonderful to hear 'the other side of the story' so well known to us. Enjoy!