FICTION

Brave Red, Smart Frog: A New Book of Old Tales

illus. by Rohan Daniel Eason. 104p. Candlewick. Sept. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780763665586.
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Gr 3–5—Although wordy at times, Jenkins's skillful narration generally stays faithful to the source material of seven retold tales and provides depth for some characters. However, the author makes some tweaks, and her idea of "happy-ever-after" is a little different than in the original stories. In "The Frog Prince," Crystal doesn't get to throw the frog against the wall, but when the frog turns into a prince, they do fall in love and marry. Cherry—the good sister in "Toads and Pearls"—does not marry the king's son as in the Charles Perrault version. ("She wanted to make a life for herself somewhere new…. She came to a town, rented a room, and paid in pearls.") It's not clear whether Snow White will marry Prince Beacon. But Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and the "Three Great Noodles" end up pretty much as expected. Jenkins explains in a concluding author's note that her intent was to be faithful, though not necessarily accurate, in retelling the tales "to bring out what's most meaningful to me." Her occasional references to bunnies and bluebirds are a bit too cute, but the contemporary tone is effective. This slim, handsome volume includes an illustrated title page for each tale with a simple, nicely sketched setting usually framed in the forest's twining branches.
VERDICT A welcome visit for fairy-tale fans, and a useful introduction for readers not so familiar with these enduring stories.

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