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The Children's Bookshelf: Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales - January 17, 2022

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Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales written by Soman Chainani is a collection of twelve stories built around the harsh world of fairytales and folktales. And each story ends with a brilliant twist. From Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty to Rumpelstiltskin, The Little Mermaid and Peter Pan, these stories will captivate older readers.

The opening story is Red Riding Hood. It begins with this line,“On the first day of Spring the wolves eat the prettiest girl.” This is a planned event between the townspeople and the wolf pack in exchange for the pack’s good behavior during the rest of the year.

As the story proceeds the reader soon finds out that this “selected girl” is very clever as she has hidden a knife in the bottom of the basket she is carrying as she walks into the forest to meet her fate. The description of her encounter with the pack, her selection of the wolf who will eat her, and how she tricks him into wanting to eat her prettier sister instead of her is excellent storytelling. What happens at grandmother’s house is totally surprising!

Snow White is a brilliant retelling of the fairytale. Here Snow White is a beautiful girl with black skin, red lips and eyes with whites as bright as snow who is forced out of the castle by the evil queen. After wandering about she comes to live with seven dwarfs who also have dark skin in addition to lily-white beards. Then comes a wonderful twist to the story that affirms that speaking up and speaking out for difference is necessary, prudent and wise.

BEASTS AND BEAUTY: Dangerous Tales written by Soman Chainani with exceptional cover art by Julia Iredale is an enchanted read for older readers 12 years of age and up looking for magic, adventure and strong women (Harper/an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2021).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

 Activity Questions for Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales

The author has written 12 stories in this book all of which pull aspects of fairytales into the story. Which “dangerous tale” did you like the best? Why? Which “dangerous tale” did you like the least? Why? Draw a picture of your best-loved and your most disliked character in this book. Use whatever materials and media you wish---have fun.

How does Rapunzel deal with the prince’s offer of marriage? How does Red Riding Hood deal with the wolf who wants to eat her on the spot in the forest? How does Snow White deal with her evil Stepmother, the Queen, throughout that story?

Throughout this book what did you experience and learn about fairytales, magic, common sense, feminist thought and diversity? Select one of these topics and write a reaction piece of your own and place it in a writing notebook or diary for further development when the creative urge moves you.

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.