A Wolf at the Door: And Other Retold Fairy Tales by Ellen Datlow & Terry Windling

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A Wolf at the Door: And Other Retold Fairy Tales by Ellen Datlow & Terry Windling

Datlow, Ellen. A Wolf at the Door: And Other Retold Fairy Tales. Aladdin, 2001. ISBN 978-0689821394 166 pp. $

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Datlow and Windling (authors of several books in a fairy tale retellings series that includes Briar Rose by Jane Yolen) present a balanced blend of familiar and more obscure tales and well-known and first-time authors along with recommendations for resources about fairy tales and good collections of stories. Although their introduction is a perfect lead-in to Neil Gaiman’s poem “Instructions” (a set of directions for how-to survive in fairyland with lessons gleaned from favorite tales), his gem of a poem is relegated to the middle of the book. Jane Yolen’s “Cinder Elephant” isn’t petite but she is the one the prince falls for in a sharp and witty tale that blasts Walt Disney. Gregory MacGuire presents the seven unique voices of seven determined dwarves in a mission to get their Snow White back. Other highlights include a version of Jack and the Beanstalk from the point of view of the giant’s wife, and Patricia McKillip’s lovely retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”

A nice addition is the brief author bio at the end of each story, along with a explanation or some remarks about fairy tales. The collection itself is a bit uneven. One author unsuccessfully weaves two unfamiliar tales together, and the ugly duckling story is a bit of a stretch and has a pat ending. And why were Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine, two popular fairy tale retellers, omitted?

The cover, with neon green lettering and a haunting wolf, will leap into reader’s hands, but may disappoint horror fans who grab it and aren’t expecting fairy tales. Teens will enjoy these stories where the heroes use the Internet, read Avi books and Sandman comics, wear Doc Martens, drink Coke, and are lured by Playstation game consoles.

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