Folktale lovers needn’t give up on the genre when their reading interests turn toward young adult concerns. Here are four new folklore-inspired books—three novels and a poetry collection—for those who like their tales sophisticated and dark.
Ron Koertge retells, in free verse and from various points of view, twenty-three familiar tales (mostly Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault) in Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses. With a contemporary sensibility and voice, Koertge pitches directly to teenagers—Red Riding Hood to her mother: “I’m into danger, / okay?” Illustrator Andrea Dezsö’s black-and-white cut-paper silhouettes are appropriately stark and gruesome. (Candlewick, 14–17 years)
In Margo Lanagan’s The Brides of Rollrock Island, a seal-kin woman, lonely, ostracized, and vengeful, enlists beautiful selkies to entice the men of Rollrock Island away from their human wives. Six narrators spanning two generations describe the consequences of this magical act as experienced by members of the now-isolated community. Sensory descriptions of the natural world animate this powerful story, a blend of folktale and pungent, sharply observed regionality. (Knopf, 14–17 years)
The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti finds Frenenqer Paje and her controlling ex-pat father living in a desert town in the Middle East. Frenenqer rescues a cat that turns into a winged, shape-changing “Free person”—sometimes a cat, but often a boy. Each night, the two explore far-flung places and other worlds—and begin to fall in love. Rossetti’s evocative, sensual descriptions and her subtle portrait of Frenenqer give satisfying depth to this romantic fantasy. (Dial, 14–17 years)
At the start of Lindsey Barraclough’s post–World War II horror fantasy Long Lankin (based on the ballad of the same name), Cora and her little sister have been sent to stay with their aunt in crumbling Guerdon Hall. While delving into family history, Cora sees ghosts of abducted children and of a priest who warns of Long Lankin’s awakening. Barraclough’s setting is richly evoked in this shivery, atmospheric tale. (Candlewick 14–17 years)
From the September 2012 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.