ABC’s Once Upon a Time continues to enchant viewers with its imaginative mashup of modern-day elements and beguiling fairy tale fundamentals. The action is set in Storybrooke, Maine, a small town peopled by fairy tale characters who were transported to the “real world” by a curse and are now unable to reconnect with their fabled realm. Ranging in tone from comedy to adventure to romance, episodes feature multiple storylines set in Storybrooke and Fairy Tale Land, providing opportunity to delve into the characters’ storied histories and current-day conundrums.
Now in its third season, the series’ cosmos has expanded to include Neverland, and a spin-off, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, premiered in October. Teens can visit ABC’s websites for both OUAT and Wonderland to watch full episodes and peruse videos, character bios, trivia, and more.
Series aficionados will be spellbound by the handsomely illustrated Once Upon a Time: Behind the Magic (Titan, 2013; Gr 6 Up). Lengthy interviews with cast members include insights about the characters they play (in both realms) and musings about plot twists and turns. Other chapters provide revealing glimpses at props, costumes (both contemporary and medieval-esque), sets and locales, visual effects, the script-writing process, and more. Composer Mark Isham details how a score is created for each episode, and interviews with two of the show’s producers offer an interesting look at the day-to-day specifics of their behind-the-scenes roles. Episode guides recap the first two seasons with plot summaries, listings of newly introduced characters, and fun “Did you notice?” details about each show. Lively writing and numerous stunning full-color photos and design sketches make for bedazzling browsing.
Odette Beane’s Reawakened (Hyperion, 2013; Gr 7 Up) revisits the plot of the first season with a tight focus on two of the main characters. Emma Swann, brought to Storybrooke by the child she gave up for adoption 10 years before, struggles to accept her new role as mother as well as the fact that Henry just might be right about the origins of town’s residents. Meanwhile, teacher Mary Margaret Blanchard (and her Fairy Tale Land counterpart, Snow White) struggles to find true love in both worlds. While there are no revelations and events are streamlined, viewers may enjoy revisiting the major plot elements through the eyes of the primary protagonists.
Shadow of the Queen (Marvel, 2013; Gr 7 Up), a graphic novel set in Fairy Tale Land, expands upon the OUAT universe by exploring the complicated relationship between the Regina, the Evil Queen, and the Huntsman. She holds his heart—literally—so he is bound do her bidding, but when Regina forms an alliance with a werewolf pack to track down Snow White—the very pack that played an important role in the Huntsman’s past—surprising opportunities arise, friendships are strengthened, and sacrifices are made. The script is clear and crisp, the action unfolds at a rapid pace, and the storyline fits neatly with the established mythology. Each of the four chapters is illustrated by a different artist, providing an array of visual styles and interpretations of the characters.
Fairy Tale Retellings that Will Keep Teens Spellbound
Recently published, these teen-grabbing retellings will captivate OUAT devotees, delight fans of the genre, and provide sumptuous fodder for YA book discussion groups. Or use them in the classroom to examine how modern works of fiction draw on themes, characters, and plotlines from traditional tales (Common Core Standards RL.8.9).
Once Upon a Time Tomorrow
Stacey Jay’s Of Beast and Beauty (Delacorte, 2013; Gr 8 Up) recasts the traditional tale on an alien planet many centuries after the arrival of humans and the origins of a dark curse. Blind Princess Isra, 17, lives in one of the last domed cities, where she will one day serve as human sacrifice to feed the magical roses that ensure Yuan’s prosperity. Gem, 19, is a warrior of the Desert People (called the Monstrous by the dome dwellers), a race that has developed scaly skin, retractable claws, and other mutations to survive the harsh climate. When Gem is captured during a raid intended to save his tribe from starvation, he becomes Isra’s prisoner. Despite the hatred and prejudice that divide their two peoples, the teens feel an undeniable attraction to one another, and as their bond deepens, they begin to question everything that they have been to taught to believe. Can their love break the curse and restore balance to the world? Themes such as tolerance, self-perception, and finding the courage to bring about change are neatly presented against a solidly constructed fantasy world, but the real draw here is the breathtakingly romantic relationship between the two protagonists.
Marissa Meyer’s “The Lunar Chronicles” are set on a futuristic Earth, in which readers encounter the story of Cinder (2012), a modest cyborg mechanic who has discovered that she is the long-lost Lunar princess. Falsely accused of treason and imprisoned, Cinder escapes along with a fellow captive, a debonair American pilot, and is now the Eastern Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. She is also being mercilessly pursued by evil Queen Levana, who will do anything to keep her iron-fisted hold on the Lunar throne.
Cinder’s adventures run parallel to those of Scarlet (2013, both Feiwel & Friends; Gr 7 Up), named for her flaming red hair, who sets out from her rural French village to find her missing grandmother. Scarlet forms an uneasy alliance with Wolf, a volatile street fighter with a shadowy past. The two plotlines intertwine and coalesce in an action-packed tale that references the source material while rendering its own brilliantly imaginative and intricately detailed world. Lively dialogue, strong characterizations, and rollercoaster plot twists keep readers totally enthralled. Also available in audiobook format.
Ordinary World: Extraordinary Happenings
Setting the “Rapunzel”-inspired action in a contemporary upstate New York town, Alex Flinn weaves a Towering (HarperTeen, 2013; Gr 8 Up) tale of heady romance, eerie atmosphere, and thrilling suspense. Wyatt is sent to Slakkill, his mother’s childhood home, to recover from the tragic death of his best friend. Living with a lonely old woman whose own daughter disappeared long ago, he wonders why so many local teenagers seem to have gone missing. When the sound of ethereal singing leads him deep into the woods, he finds Rachel, a beautiful girl who has been locked away in a dilapidated tower for years, cared for by the woman she calls Mama. Together, the two unravel a web of secrets to discover that they share an important destiny—a dangerous quest that will depend upon the power of true love. There’s a bit of everything here—supernatural visitations, a long-lost diary, a drug ring that combines magic with commonplace evil, real-world elements and fantastical happenings—and it all comes together for a satisfying read.
Jackson Pearce adds a fourth installment to her series of fairy tale retellings set in a familiar yet werewolf-infested America. Cold Spell (Little, Brown, 2013; Gr 8 Up), a reworking of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” stars Kai and Ginny, two 17-year-olds who have been best friends since childhood and are now falling in love. After high school graduation they plan to run away together to New York City, where violin prodigy Kai has been accepted into an intensive program and Ginny will do…well, something. When a severe snow storm freezes the area, a gorgeous girl named Mora appears out of nowhere and sweeps Kai away. Determined not to lose him, Ginny goes in hot pursuit, and her suspicions that Mora just might be the Snow Queen that Kai’s grandmother had warned them about begins to look like truth. As she travels the country, Ginny meets terrifying monsters and makes new friends, tests the limits of love and loyalty, and discovers that she can be independent and strong. Readers will enjoy discovering references to the original tale, as well as the lyrical writing, danger-fraught action, and delectably described kisses.
Cinderella’s tale meets high couture, red-carpet celebrity, and even the royal upper crust in Paul Rudnick’s irreverent Gorgeous (Scholastic, 2013; Gr 9 Up). After her mother dies, 18-year-old Becky Randle discovers a fancy velvet box in their Missouri trailer containing only a phone number. One call later, Becky is on her way to New York City to meet legendary fashion designer Tom Kelly, who knew her mother, and promises to create three dresses that will transform her from an ordinary girl to “the most beautiful woman who has ever lived.” And sure enough, the newly-minted Rebecca Randle is absolutely dazzling, quickly embarking on a career that has her on the cover of every magazine, starring in the latest big-screen blockbuster, and grabbing the heart of the heir to the English throne. But will the “real” Becky find a way to remain true to herself? Sassy, smart, and scintillating, this tale of self-discovery is told with delightfully wicked humor, narration that blithely blends down-and-dirty profanity with gems of wisdom, satirical send-ups of modern-day culture, and an empowering happily-ever-after. Also available in audiobook format.
A Telling of the Tales
Tom McNeal takes readers Far Far Away (Knopf, 2013; Gr 6 Up) to the small town of Never Better, where misfit teen Jeremy Johnson Johnson has the amazing ability to speak to the ghost of Jacob Grimm. Mentor, tutor, and father figure, Grimm has resolved to keep Jeremy safe from danger—evil lurks nearby and local children have gone missing—and from the charming wiles of the lovely Ginger Boultinghouse. McNeal presents a folklore-infused tapestry woven from intricately stitched mysteries, complex characters that are contemporary yet often echo folkloric figures, timeless themes and adolescent angst, long-ago tales and creepy current-day goings-on—all of which builds to a spine-tingling crescendo. Like any good fairy tale, the book captivates its audience with suspense, romance, and revelations, all touched by once-upon-a-time wonder. Also available in audiobook format.
Edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt, Rags & Bones (Little, Brown, 2013; Gr 9 Up) presents 12 retellings of fairy tales, classic short stories, and other works reinterpreted with 21st-century flair. With an emphasis on the darker side, the stories are well-written and compelling, and the narrative tone spans from realistic to futuristic, fantastical to horror-filled. For example, Neil Gaiman’s “The Sleeper and the Spindle” provides a refreshingly clever re-envisioning of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White” that reverses roles and rethinks heroes;” Kami Garcia’s “The Soul Collector” recasts “Rumpelstiltskin” in a grim modern-day world where drug dealers and villains hold women powerless; and Kelley Armstrong sets W. W. Jacobs’s haunting “The Monkey’s Paw” in a harrowingly dystopian “New Chicago.” Each offering ends with an author’s note naming the original tale and identifying inspirations, encouraging readers to seek out the source material and providing opportunity for comparative literature studies or creative writing projects in the classroom.
Once Upon a Time: Behind the Magic. Titan. 2013. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781782760290.
BEANE, Odette. Reawakened: A Once Upon a Time Tale. Hyperion. 2013. pap. $14.99. ISBN 978-1-4013-1272-5.
THOMSEN, Daniel T. & Corinna Bechko. Once Upon a Time: Shadow of the Queen. illus. by Michael Del Mundo et al. Marvel. 2013. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-7851-8393-8.
JAY, Stacey. Of Beast and Beauty. Delacorte. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-385-74320-4; PLB $20.99. ISBN 978-0-375-99100-4; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-307-98142-4.
MEYER, Marissa. Scarlet. “The Lunar Chronicles.” Bk. Two. Feiwel & Friends. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-312-64296-9; ebook $9.99. ISBN 9781250037633; Audio CD $39.99. ISBN 9781427229649.
FLINN, Alex. Towering. HarperTeen. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-06-202417-6; ebook $11.99. ISBN 978-0-06-220921-4.
PEARCE, Jackson. Cold Spell. Little, Brown. Nov. 2013. Tr $18. ISBN 978-0-316-24359-9; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-316-24358-2.
RUDNICK, Paul. Gorgeous. Scholastic. 2013. Tr $18.99. ISBN 978-0-545-46426-0; ebook $18.99. ISBN 978-0-54546489-5; Audio CD $24.99. ISBN 978-0-545-56908-8
MCNEAL, Tom. Far Far Away. Knopf. 2013. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84972-5; PLB $20.99. ISBN 978-0-375-94972-2; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89698-9; Audio CD $55. ISBN 978-0-385-36859-9.
MARR, Melissa & Tim Pratt, eds. Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales. Little, Brown. 2013. Tr $18. ISBN 978-0-316-21294-6; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-316-21292-2.
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