Ellen Datlow &
Terri Windling, editors,
A Wolf at the Door:
and Other Retold Fairy Tales

(Simon & Schuster's Books
for Young Readers, 2000)

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling are well known for their anthologies of retold fairy tales for adults, and in A Wolf at the Door: and Other Retold Fairy Tales they turn their attention to younger readers. The 13 tales and poems in this collection are by well known fantasy and science fiction authors, many of whom write for young adults and children as well.

Delia Sherman sets an unpleasant stepsister straight in "The Months of Manhattan," a modern retelling of "The Twelve Months" set in New York City. "Cinder Elephant" is a masterful retake of "Cinderella" by Jane Yolen. The heroine, Eleanor, or Elly, is tormented by her stepsisters Reen and Rhee, skinny girls with thin smiles and "hearts so thin you could read a magazine through them." Fortunately, Prince Charming cares more for who Elly is than what she looks like. (Yolen also finally exacts revenge on those twittery birds from the Disney movie.) Next, Neil Gaiman offers "Instructions" in a moody bittersweet poem about the things you learn from fairy tales.

"Mrs. Big: 'Jack in the Beanstalk' Retold" by Michael Cadnum takes a sympathetic view from the perspective of the giant's wife. Nancy Farmer also switches perspectives for "Falada: the Goose Girl's Horse," telling the tale straight from the horse's mouth. Tanith Lee takes the title story "A Wolf at the Door," set in the next Ice Age which has been around long enough for civilization to return, with a few quirks. A 14-year-old girl and her father find themselves hosting a talking wolf who may be more -- or less -- than he appears to be.

In "Ali Baba and the Forty Aliens," Janeen Webb gives a science fiction twist to a familiar tale from The Arabian Nights and Kelly Link considers whether a relatively practical-minded princess is made better or worse off by the transformation of her brothers in "Swans." Katherine Vaz dips into Portuguese folk tales for the lovely story "The Kingdom of Melting Glances." "Hansel's Eyes," by Garth Nix, is a chilling retelling of "Hansel and Gretel" made even more so by the urban setting.

Kathe Koja's "Becoming Charise" is a subtly crafted retelling of "The Ugly Duckling," featuring a teen-aged girl who doesn't fit in, Albert Einstein and a wise and caring science teacher. Gregory Maguire's poem "The Seven Stage a Comeback" is like a reader's theater piece as the dwarves' grief at losing Snow White spurs them to a curious action. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" by Patricia A. McKillip seems to be a sprightly and conventional retelling at first, but as the princesses begin their trek, the tale takes on a macabre tone.

Each author comments at the end of his or her tale, adding another level of dimension to the story. As with their other anthologies, Datlow and Windling have done a remarkable job with their selection and arrangement of material. Make way in your To Read pile for A Wolf at the Door.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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