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Search tags: fantasy-fairy-tales
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review 2019-02-16 22:28
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales - Neil Gaiman,Alissa Nutting,Carmen Giménez Smith,Naoko Awa,Lily Hoang,Hiromi Itō,Ludmilla Petrushevskaya,Kellie Wells,Michael Mejia,Lucy Corin,Jonathon Keats,Ilya Kaminsky,Rabih Alameddine,Karen Brennan,Katherine Vaz,Timothy Schaffert,Sarah Shun-lien Byn

t's interesting using this book in a class. The Swan stories are the most popular, and the quiet ones about relationships confuse people for some reason.  I liked "Warm-Mouth" far more on this re-read.

Old Review
There is a misnomer on the cover of this book. Some short stories in this volume have not been commissioned for the book. Several of them have appeared in various magazines and collections (some have appeared over a decade ago).

This is okay, for this is the first time that they are all collected together and I hadn't read any of them before.

The purpose of this collection in part, according to Bernheimer, is to present fairy tales as an acceptable source of literature, at least to present modern fairy tales as such. The succeds very well at this and several stories are truly descendents of the French Salon writers, Andersen, and the Grimms. Some of the stories don't work (at least for me) but several stories are absolutely, jaw dropping friggin (Can I say that?) wonderful. Even the stories that I didn't like (like "Warm Mouth" by Joyelle McSweeny) were at least worthy experiments in differenty styles. Each story has a brief afterword by the author and the table of contents gives the source tale for each story.

The two best stories (and it is a very close race, a photo finish, for several stories for this title) are John Updike's "Bluebeard in Ireland", a story about a marriage; and Katherine Vaz's "What the Conch Shell Sings When the Body is Gone", also a story about a relationship. In fact, many of the stories in this collection, as in many fairy tales, focus on relationships. Updike and Vaz's short fiction are really descendents of such older as "Bluebeard" because like the older tales, they look at marriage and relationships in the modern world. The two stories are magical without having "magic" in them.

Many of the tales in the collection are not what most readers would call fantasy or horror (I brought this at Borders which had it in the horror section), but there is a good mixture of fantasy and magic realism. I heistate to use the word horror. In fact, the two most distrubing stories, "The Erlking" by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and "With Hair of Hand-Spun Gold" by Neil LaBute, are distrubing because of thier out and out realism. "Dapplegrim" by Brain Evenson is the only true horror story, and considering the source, it shouldn't be surprising.

There is humor here as well. I didn't really enjoy Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things, but his "Orange" is really, really funny.

Overall, the collection fulfills the promise that is made in the introduction

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review 2017-04-06 22:47
So Many Opportunities!
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

When my children's lit professor assigned this book, I was not thrilled. I don't want to read a book about a boy who was raised by ghosts. That sort of story doesn't appeal to me at all, but I found myself staying up until 1am trying to finish it. This is a well written story about a boy whose parents are killed when he is a baby and then he ends up getting raised by ghosts, a vampire, and a werewolf. Despite the spooky theme of the book, it actually teaches extremely good lessons. Bod, the protagonist, grows up and becomes his own throughout the story. He learns how to read and write by tracing/rubbing letters on gravestones, he learns about history by the dead people who lived through it, but most importantly, he yearns to learn more. What Bod really wants to do is read and learn as much as he can. This book shows how important education is in a totally different way than most people imagine. I would use The Graveyard Book with upper elementary- no younger than 5th grade- for many reasons. When teaching this book in the classroom, there are obvious lessons you can teach such as figurative language, references, writing styles, etc. But there is so much content that can go beyond that. You could use this to teach about European history (or any history for that matter), early American history, the human body (science), geography, and many others.

If I were teaching this, one of the activities I would do would be to have the students pick out a prefabricated name and birth/death date out of separate piles. I would then have the students do heavy research on that time period (I could give a location if necessary such as the US). They would then write a fictional story about their character and give the character an inscription on a headstone that they would draw. 


Lexile: 820L

Grade Equivalent: 5.4


Wonderful website I found full of The Graveyard Book resources:


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review 2017-04-05 21:01
Little READ This Book!
Little Red Writing - Joan Holub,Melissa Sweet

"Little Red Writing" surpassed all of my expectations. I expected it to be a simple story about little red riding hood except the girl is now a pencil. I was very wrong. This book teaches while entertaining! It goes through the writing process, details many different parts of speech, and talks about punctuation. I would use this in an upper grade classroom by reading it aloud to the class before the students have to write a story or paper. It would remind them of grammar rules and sentence structure while letting their minds think about what they want to write. Just like in the book, I would give students 15 categorized words to use in their story. After reading the book aloud to the class, I would have the students come up with a 2 page story using those 15 words. 


Lexile: AD 740L

Guided Reading: O

Grade Level Equivalent: 3.5

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review 2017-03-29 00:17
BFG- Best Fictional Gift
The BFG - Roald Dahl,Quentin Blake

This well known book is a favorite of many- and I know why. Roald Dahl is an amazing author and his work really shows through this book. It tells the story of a young orphan named Sophie who meets the BFG- Big Friendly Giant. He is the only giant that isn't nasty or a children eater. Instead, he and Sophie come up with a plan to save future children from being eaten- by telling the Queen of England and having her lock the other mean giants up. This book is perfect for all sorts of activities in the classroom. A quick search of "BFG" on pinterest pulls up many fun activities that engage the children while allowing them to learn new things. One of the best ideas I saw was incorporating "The BFG" into STEM activities (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-BFG-by-Roald-Dahl-STEM-Challenge-2538071). Students are asked to dream up then construct a fork that the BFG could use to eat his food. This can be taken to the next level, though. Students could fictitiously design tools, utensils, and other important items for people with disabilities. Not only would this put their STEM minds to use, but would also get students to think about other people who don't necessarily have that easy of a life and that "simple" tasks can be hard for other people. 


Guided Reading: U

Grade Level Equivalent: 5.8

Lexile: 720L


Another Cute Idea:



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review 2016-10-16 20:41
Good story
The Loves of the Argonauts - John Michael Curlovich

Disclaimer: ARC Via Netgalley and Riverdale Avenue Books

So I find it really hard to be negative about anything that expresses a love for the Jason and Argonuats movie by Harryhausen. Just saying.

In fairness, I should note that I am not a huge romance fan. I really am not. But how can you pass up a book that actually acknowledges that the Argonauts weren’t just rowing oars?

Curlovich does a fine job of bring the legend to life.

The story of Jason and his quest for the fleece is told via Acastus, his cousin, and son of the man who stole Jason’s father’s throne. Acastus is not a typical Greek prince, something that no doubt can be traced to dedication to the Muses. His father is not quite right and there is a sense of decay in the kingdom. The arrival of Jason and the quest for the fleece suggests a solution to the problem.

In some respects, the book is a typical romance. There is instant love between Acastus and his partner, there is instant lust as well. Curlovich does an excellent job at showing the love between the men, in particular when it is the true love of equal. This actually makes the use of instant love less annoying because the relationship does develop and not every character is going “oh, does he love I don’t know for sure” like in another book I recently read.

Acastus is a fully rounded character whose conflicts might be too modern in some aspects, but, perhaps because of this, his voice makes it easier for the reader to enter the realm of the story. He isn’t perfect, and at times, he uses too modern a tone – there is a reference to differences in cultural values that does seem to fit an ancient Greek.

The sequence describing the Argonauts quest for the fleece is good and contends the right amount of daring do. The drawback is that too few of the crew stands out. While this is understandable considering the source material, it can also be a little confusing or disheartening as some characters seem to pop up and go away again, making it hard for the reader to become attached to them. At times, too, it does feel like Curlovich is pairing all of them up. This makes Atlanta an oddity because she is the sole women on the ship. While I wish her role had been larger, Curlovich includes her, which is more than many modern retellings do.

Still, that is a very interesting part of the book. While I might not agree with Curlovich’s reading of the Medea story, his use of homosexuality in terms of Greek culture as well as woman’s place in that culture is well thought out. What do the powerless do when they are cut out of most aspects of societal control? It is an interesting theory that Curlovich plays with, and it does make sense.

This is the first male romance book that I have read, and I want to read more Curlovich.

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