cover image Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses

Ron Koertge, illus. by Andrea Dezsö. Candlewick, $17.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-7636-4406-2

With sardonic wit and a decidedly contemporary sensibility, Koertge (Shakespeare Bats Cleanup) retells 23 classic fairy tales in free verse, written from the perspectives of iconic characters like Little Red Riding Hood, as well as maligned or minor figures such as the Mole from Thumbelina and Cinderella’s stepsisters. For the princess from the Princess and the Pea, hypersensitivity isn’t all that great (“A puppy licked me and I’ve still got a scar”), and the Little Match Girl appears in a poem with the rhythm of a rap song (“She’s selling CDs on the corner,/ fifty cents to any stoner,/ any homeboy with a boner”). Several stories trade happily ever after for disappointment and discontent, as with the danger-addicted queen in Rumpelstiltskin, or with Rapunzel, who is left with a moody prince instead of the attentive witch who locked her in. Dezsö’s cut-paper Scherenschnitte-style silhouettes nod toward Hans Christian Andersen’s own papercuts—if Andersen were creating a storyboard for the Saw franchise. From Bluebeard’s beheaded wives to a bloody dismemberment in “The Robber Bridegroom,” there are gruesome surprises throughout. A fiendishly clever and darkly funny collection. Ages 14–up. (July)