cover image The Fairy's Mistake

The Fairy's Mistake

Gail Carson Levine. HarperCollins Publishers, $10.99 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028060-4

Levine's talent for hilarious subversion of fairy tale motifs, used to great effect in Ella Enchanted, her Newbery Honor-winning debut, is honed to perfection in this pair of stories, which kicks off the Princess Tales series. In The Fairy's Mistake, Levine revisits the Brothers Grimm's ""Toads and Diamonds"": fairy Ethelinda rewards kind Rosella, punishes her evil twin sister, Myrtle, and thinks the job is done, only to find out her spells have backfired. In The Princess Test, Andersen's ""The Princess and the Pea"" gets turned on its head: Lorelei, a blacksmith's daughter, proves that royal lineage is no guarantee of character. Levine once again creates heroines who defy fairy-tale stereotypes. For example, Rosella agrees to marry greedy Prince Harold because ""she thought it might be pleasanter to be a princess than to be the widow Pickering's daughter and Myrtle's sister."" Similarly, Lorelei, prevented from doing any work since birth because of her extreme sensitivity, is neither spoiled nor selfish. She is, however, prone to accidents and na vet . It is these unorthodox qualities that will endear Rosella and Lorelei to readers. In fact, Levine gently pokes fun at all of her characters' shortcomings (Ethelinda's ineptitude, King Humphrey's obsessive use of synonyms) and upsets the usual balance of good and evil. Elegant design and Elliott's framed, black-and-white drawings create a timeless effect that plays off nicely against Levine's updated plot twists. This is grand entertainment, likely to appeal to anyone who appreciates deadpan delivery, reluctant royalty and a touch of romance. Ages 7-10. (Apr.)