Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reimaginings galore

This week for Newbery Wednesday I want to talk about reimaginings, inspirations, and their ilk. Now I've never paid this close attention to every single book published for kids, but this feels like an unusual amount of books that are clearly retellings. Here briefly are the ones I've seen. It is by no means a complete list, just what has come across my desk so far.

Standard disclaimer: As always my opinions are my opinions and don't reflect on anyone else on the committee. Nor does the brief notes I'm about to give mean that a book is or isn't a serious contender for the

Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards ~~ 1001 Nights (Arabian Nights)
This is not precisely a retelling. It's a new tale in the old world, incorporating many of the characters and elements of that beloved world. The main character is a girl named Zardi (short for Scheherazade) and her father is the Grand Vizier for the evil Sultan who kills one girl a season (four girls a year). Their are also djinnis who grant wishes, Sinbad the Sailor (and his crew) and a missing prince named Aladdin. It's a good middle grade fantasy with an obvious set up for a sequel at the end.

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter ~~ The Secret Garden
This one is intentionally a modern retelling. It isn't bad, just a bit forced. Orphaned child goes to live with rich
uncle who has a secret. They live on an island in an old TB sanitorium. She befriends a local boy who knows all about the local plants and animals. You know this story. It's a quick read and will appeal to many girls (including the girl I used to be) ages 8 to 11 (basically the same girls who liked the original).

The Last of the Gullivers by Carter Crocker ~~ Gulliver's travels
Think of this as a kid friendly sequel. The Lilliputians have been cared for in their own town in a walled garden in England by the descendants of the original Gulliver. A local youth discovers their secret and becomes their caregiver. In doing so, he pulls himself back from the brink of delinquency. And naturally has a chance to prove himself a hero when the town is endangered. Very clever book. Best part: the recreating of the "fire-putting-out" scene from the original. (No spoilers because if you've read the original, you know what I mean, if not, well... My main complaint about this book is that the author (a Californian) felt like he was forcing the English setting. Just tell the audience that the Gullivers immigrated to California and took the Lilliputians with them. It would work better than creating this false inauthentic feeling setting.

The Invisible Tower by Nills Johnson-Shelton ~~ King Arthur (assorted legends)
Only Arthur's clone is being raised as a semi-normal video game obsessed kid. Merlin runs a video game/comic book store. And through the video game Arthur gets his first taste of his destiny before eventually travelling to the parallel world that contains all the Arthurian legendary folk. You'll find the familiar elements, including a sibling (sister this time) named Kay. Again (as with much fantasy) there is an obvious sequel set up at the end. Overall it is a fairly solid fantasy with a few modern elements thrown in for fun.
Pinch Hit by Ted Green ~~ The Prince and the Pauper Haven't read this one yet. Two kids look alike, but one is a movie star and one is a star only on the baseball field. They trade places so the movie star can play baseball and the baseball player can help his dad's screenplay get made.

Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler ~~ Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans
Haven't read this one yet either. It's about a princess whose brothers were turned into swans by their new stepmother. Of course it is a retelling, that is Diane Zahler's bread and butter. She has an entire line of chapter books turning the familiar princess tales into longer versions for tween girls.

Newbery Reading Update:
I've read 37 books for a total of 9,092 pages. I've received 128 unique books or 132 if you count the second copies I got. (Second copies were donated immediately.) Currently I'm reading Bittersweet Summer by Anne Warren Smith and Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani.

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