fairy tales

New Books: Recently Read Roundup

New Books: Recently Read Roundup

It's all about adventure in these new books, whether you're visiting a fantasy world where one brave guild stands between a city and disaster or meeting a tween determined to start her own restaurant.

Readaloud of the Week: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

In brief: Thanks to a not-fact-checking-savvy bard, Liam, Frederick, Duncan, and Gustave get written off as interchangeable Princes Charming in the stories of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel. But when these four princes find that “happily ever after” means getting kicked out of their castles by their respective damsels in distress, they team up to stop a nefarious plot that threatens their kingdoms—and to become the heroes they know they were meant to be.

What makes it a great readaloud? This book is SO funny that we frequently dissolved into giggles while reading it. The set-up is great: It manages to address the problem of generic “princes Charming” without sacrificing strong female characters, and it puts a new spin on several classic fairy tales. 

But be aware: It definitely gets silly in places, which may annoy kids who don’t like that.

Quotable: “Duncan, what are you?”
    “Human!” Duncan cried, trembling with excitement.
    “More specific,” Liam said, still dramatically.
    “A five-foot-two human!”
   “I'm going for hero here," Liam hinted under his breath.”

HSL Book Deal of the Day 5.25.17: The Fairy-Tale Detectives

All of my favorite writing students have something in common, and that something is the Sisters Grimm, a series that they cite fondly and reference frequently when we're talking about what makes good fiction. It's easy to understand why: In this series, sisters Daphne and Sabrina discover that not only are fairy tales real but they they are the latest in a long line of fairy tale detectives—which may explain the mysterious disappearance of their parents that left them orphaned. This first book is a great taste of what you'll get in the series: strong female protagonists, witty fairy tale allusions, lots of action, and a story that you don't want to end.

We're highlighting our picks for best book deal of the day on the blog, but you can always find our favorite Kindle book deals here.

More Book-Movie Match-Ups

In almost every issue of home/school/life, we put together a book-movie list to recommend reading to go along with upcoming movies. It's always one of my favorite things to research. Though this list is from spring 2014 (when all these flicks were coming to the big screen), I think it's just as fun now that you can watch them in your living room instead.

Before you see: Divergent, starring Shailene Woodley as a girl whose multiple talents cause big problems in a society where people are sorted according to their strongest characteristic

Read: Divergent by Veronica Roth, the dystopian young adult novel the movie is based on

Why: How else will you be able to nitpick the details changed in the text-to-screen adaptation?


Before you see: The Double, in which Jesse Eisenberg’s shy hero finds his life slowly being overtaken by his brasher doppelganger 

Read: The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the 1846 novella that inspired the film

Why: There’s plenty of critical controversy about what the Dostoevsky novel is really about, so it will be interesting to see what direction the film takes—and if you agree.


Before you see: Noah, Darren Aronofsky’s apocalyptic-style retelling of the Genesis flood story

Read: Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle, a quiet little fantasy that transplants two modern-day Murrys to Noah’s time

Why: Aronofsky is all over the story’s epic details, while L’Engle’s novel touches on deep emotions and philosophical questions.


Before you see: X-Men: Days of Future Past, a time-hopping entry into the X-Men universe with an Oscar-worthy cast

Read: Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction by Paul J. Nahin, a terrifically comprehensive examination of time travel in science fiction

Why: Nahin digs deep into the science behind science fiction, so you can intelligently quibble about disrupted timelines.


Before you see: Maleficent, in which Angelina Jolie attempts to create a sympathetic backstory for the baby-cursing villainess of Sleeping Beauty

Read: From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers by Marina Warner, a smart exploration of women’s roles in fairy tales and their history

Why: Jolie’s villain’s sympathetic origins can reveal a lot about society’s values and needs—if you know how to look.


Before you see: How to Train Your Dragon 2, which flashes forward five years into Hiccup and Toothless’s future

Read: How to Train Your Dragon: How to Seize a Dragon’s Jewel by Cressida Cowell, the latest installment in the popular series

Why: Like the Harry Potter series, Cowell’s dragon books have grown increasingly dark and complex as her hero grows up. Will the movies follow suit?


Before you see: The Fault in Our Stars, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort as teenagers with cancer who fall in love

Read: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, the heart-warming (and tear-jerking) novel the film is based on

Why: There’s every chance the movie will be excellent, but you are missing out if you don’t read the book, which is so beautifully sad that it can make you cry on the subway. (Ask me how I know.)

This list was originally published in the spring 2014 issue of HSL.

Summer Reading: If You Liked the Sisters Grimm

Revisit your favorite fairy tales in these tellings-with-a-twist.

Your next picture book

Alexander T. Wolf finally gets to tell his side of the story in The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.


Your next chapter book

The Wide-Awake Princess
By E. D. Baker

Sleeping Beauty’s little sister Princess Annie is totally immune to magic—so when her sister’s curse kicks in, Annie is the only one who can save the day in The Wide-Awake Princess.


Your next readaloud

Princesses and scrappy tailor’s sons get all the fairy tale fame, a fact which the motley crew of princes in The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom sorely lament. Be prepared to pause for laughter.


Your next teen read

By Marissa Meyer

In Cinder, a futuristic, dystopian imagining of Cinderella set in New Beijing, Cinder is a cyborg mechanic and Prince Kai is at the center of an intergalactic balancing act. (The story continues, following different fairy tale characters, in the Lunar Chronicles series.)


Your next grown-up book

The Sleeper and the Spindle is written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. It’s also a thoughtful, nuanced short story retelling of the Snow White and Sleeping Beauty narratives.

Monday Pep Talk No. 26

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 fun things to do this week

There is absolutely no better way to celebrate Curling Is Cool Day (on Tuesday) than by listening to the great David Attenborough narrate a curling match, documentary-style. (Seriously, though, why do we not have David Attenborough narrating all sporting events?)

There are lots of activities and reading ideas to choose from in Scholastic’s Myths, Folktales, and Fairy Tales workshop, which means there are lots of fun options for celebrating Tell a Fairy Tale Day on Friday.

Put your kitchen science skills to work making a batch of homemade yogurt together.


3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Put a twist on the breakfast-for-dinner standby by serving huevos rancheros. 

Nothing’s better than slow-cooker versions of family favorites, like this butter chicken. Serve with a big bowl of basmati rice.

Comfort food at its best: sweet potatoes with porcini gravy. (Bonus: Monday is Cook a Sweet Potato Day, so you’ve got that covered.)


one great readaloud

Sometimes in the middle of winter, you just want a readaloud that will make everyone laugh out loud. Put The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher on your library list, and you won’t be disappointed.


one thought to ponder

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
—Jessica Hische


in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

spiked coffee milkshakes

New Books: Egg and Spoon

Egg and Spoon
By Gregory Maguire
“Elena had always felt like the center of her own world — who doesn’t? The world arranged itself around her like petals around the stem of a flower. This way the meadows, that way the woodland. Over here, the baryn’s estate, out there, the hills that hug the known world close and imply a world at beyond. She could never come up with the edge of a world, because it always kept going on beyond. She moved the center of the world as she walked. The world was balanced on her head.”

When a train pulls into the station of her impoverished Russian town, Elena is fascinated. Having grown up in the Russian countryside, she’s seen her father die, her brothers conscripted into the tsar’s army, her mother slowly dying from a wasting disease, and food grow more and more scarce. The train carries spoiled, wealthy Ekaterina, on her way to St. Petersburg — and with one unexpected event, the girls’ lives are catapulted in strange new directions.

Maguire draws on the rich history of Russian folklore and fairy tales for this story — newly out in paperback — and there are echoes of the great Russian novelists like Tolstoy and Pasternak in his slow-paced, lyrical prose. His Baba Yaga is delightfully reminiscent of some of Diana Wynne Jones’ sharp-tongued, kind-hearted mentors, and the scenes with her in her curious house that runs around on chicken legs are some of the book’s best. The Firebird — the enchanted glowing bird who brings either good luck or great sorrow to its owner — also plays a part. The journeys in this book are peopled with mystery: an incognito prince, a magic egg, a monk imprisoned in a tower.

I actually loved this book, which makes it hard to write about. But I cannot resist books that are about the experience of reading—where the way that the story is told is as important as the story itself. This little book just did it for me — I loved the language and the allusions and the fairy tale plot. It’s not a book that’s easy to recommend for a particular age, though, because what it needs is a particular kind of reader: a thoughtful, patient reader who doesn’t mind letting the words take their time to tell their story.


This review was originally published in Atlanta Homeschool.