As a girl, my favorite part of visiting Grandma’s house was the three volume The Family Treasury of Children’s Stories. Volume Two was my favorite, because it was a collection of fairy tales from all over the world. These were the real deal, not the Disney-fied, Americanized versions. And I read them every time we visited, which was quite often.
So, a few years ago, when I found Gail Carson Levine’s books The Princess Tales, I fell in love all over again. I had quite forgotten about them until this week, when my eleven-year-old found them at the library and brought the whole collection home.
In The Princess Tales, Levine retells six fairy tales – some more well-known than others. These are definitely not the original stories either.
My favorite one is the first one The Fairy’s Mistake. Sweet Rosella goes to the well and meets a disguised fairy there. She offers her a drink of water, and her reward is that jewels fall from her mouth every time she speaks. Her greedy sister Myrtle dashes off to the well, but is quite rude to the re-disguised fairy. Her punishment is that toads, snakes and insects fall from her mouth every time she speaks. After just a few hours, the fairy realizes her dreadful mistake – Rosella is whisked away by a greedy prince while Myrtle is having the time of her life. Fortunately, the fairy comes up with an inspired solution and the story ends well.
For those familiar with the original fairy tales, Levine throws twists and personality into the original stories – most of which make me laugh every time I read them. If you’re not familiar with the original stories, I highly recommend finding and reading them first in order to more thoroughly enjoy Levine’s rather irreverent retelling.
Books in The Princess Tales include:
- The Fairy’s Mistake (“Toads & Diamonds”)
- The Princess Test (“The Princess & the Pea”)
- Princess Sonora and the Long Sleep (“Sleeping Beauty”)
- Cinderellis and the Glass Hill (“Cinderella”)
- For Biddle’s Sake (“Puddocky”)
- The Fairy’s Return (“The Golden Goose”)
These are short chapter books, so children reading at a fourth-grade level should be able to read them to themselves. Younger children familiar with the original stories may enjoy them, but may not understand why the stories are so different from the original or get some of the sly humor. But those reading the books aloud will certainly enjoy them!