Beanstalker and Other Hilarious Scarytales

illus. by Karl Kwasny. 224p. Scholastic. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545940603.
Gr 4–6—Best-selling YA author White makes her middle grade debut in this creepy but hilarious collection of reimagined fairy tales. Readers will be quick to recognize familiar faces like Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Snow White, but the recognition stops there. These archetypal figures, along with their stories, are subverted by macabre characterizations that see them turning into zombies, vampires, or worse. In White's nameless "scarytale" kingdom, monsters and little girls might be the same thing. Princes and princesses might be locked in towers (or coffins) for a good reason. Each story blurs the line between good and evil, such that the only true foe is misunderstanding. With clever wordplay and confused homonyms (hair/Herr; pea/pee), White makes it clear that spelling and meaning matter greatly. But staying alive matters most of all. Even when the plot is frightening, readers can rest assured that there's a joke around the corner. Short, adapted nursery rhymes separate stories and elicit chuckles. Occasional spot illustrations also provide comic relief with their cartoony, exaggerated quality. The real star of this romp, though, is the narrator. Equal parts Terry Pratchett and Lemony Snicket, the unnamed omniscient narrator relates each scarytale. Some stories are scarier (and cleverer) than others, but the consistency of tone will have readers eagerly flipping from story to story.
VERDICT For larger collections. This book will circulate best where fairy-tale retellings—especially Adam Gidwitz's "A Tale Dark and Grimm" series—remain popular.

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