Review Blog

Dec 13 2012

Lies, knives, and girls in red dresses by Ron Koertge

cover image

Ill. by Andrea Dezso. Candlewick, 2012. ISBN 9780763644062.
(Age: 16+) Recommended, but not for the faint hearted. Fairy tales retold. Some adult themes.
Koertge has a funny, provoking retelling of 23 familiar and not so familiar fairy tales, which are not for the faint hearted or for the young. This excerpt from Bluebeard is a good example of the humour, style and nature of his free verse:

Yes it's blue and Yes it tickles and Yes
he's had a lot of wives
and nobody knows what happened to them

but he's fun at the party and omigod
that castle!

Most of the fairy tales are about two pages in length, written in free prose and often with controversial and adult themes. They are illustrated by Andrea Dezso in thick black ink, often in horrifying images, which bring another dimension to the story. An example of this is The robber bridegroom which I was not familiar with. A miller's daughter is engaged to a guy she barely knows and follows him through the woods. There she is horrified to see him and his friends argue about who gets to eat the toes of a dead girl. Koertge's verse was satirical and very funny, and the bridegroom gets his just deserts. The miller's daughter "finds men untrustworthy now. She prefers to live alone and teach Feminist Theory & Practice at the local community college." However, after reading the story I went back to the pictures which show a body being dismembered and are quite disturbing.
Once I started the book, I found that I had to continually return as Koertge's satire and dark humour were very compelling. Modern touches like parties, a GPS and the speech in Red Riding Hood, Home at last, Tells her Mother what happened (Like, where to even start. So, okay - at the beginning. Right.) make it relevant to today's older teens.
There is controversial subject matter, like drugs, dismemberment and sexual undertones, scattered throughout the book, and the humour and unconventional nature of the subject matter would probably make it perfect for the older reluctant reader, both male and female. However it is not for everyone and school librarians should read it first to make sure that it is suitable for the clientele in their schools.
Pat Pledger

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