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Tales as old as time

Retellings can offer teenagers an accessible entrée into classic literature and lore, and the best of them also connect with today’s readers through timeless themes and issues. These four new titles — including a graphic novel and one in verse — repackage centuries-old source material into books that will resonate with today’s young adults.

crowe_bone jackSara Crowe taps into Welsh and British folklore in Bone Jack, the story of two boys struggling with grief. Ash and Mark were best friends before Mark’s bereaved, debt-laden father killed himself and Ash’s father returned from military service with PTSD. Now, Ash is training for the Stag Chase, an annual race and ritual hunt in which he’ll play the coveted part of the quarry, and Mark one of the hound boys who chases him. This extended paean to friendship and familial love, the land and its history, is reminiscent of David Almond’s work in its sensuality and mysticism. (Philomel, 12–16 years)

anderson_yvainAuthor M. T. Anderson and illustrator Andrea Offermann offer something very different from a traditional chivalric tale in Yvain: The Knight of the Lion. A graphic-novel retelling of a twelfth-century epic poem about the marriage of young knight-errant Sir Yvain to widow Lady Laudine, this adaptation puts as much emphasis on Laudine’s sorrow as on Yvain’s adventures. It’s a tempestuous counter-story that challenges perceived notions of love by eliciting darker emotions of doubt, confusion, and even rage in examining women’s roles in relationships and society. Anderson’s spare narration, set against Offermann’s detailed small panels, sweeping spreads, and turbulent motifs, ensures that readers’ hearts will be as tormented as Laudine’s. (Candlewick, 12–16 years)

laskin_ronit & jamilIn her Romeo and Juliet–inspired verse novel Ronit & Jamil, Pamela L. Laskin swaps the setting of Renaissance-era Italy with present-day Israel, where teenagers Ronit (an Israeli girl) and Jamil (a Palestinian boy) are star-crossed lovers who meet while accompanying their fathers (a Jewish pharmacist and Muslim doctor, respectively) to a clinic in East Jerusalem. First-person poems in a variety of forms convey characters’ curiosity, confusion, and desires, while abrupt shifts in action highlight the immediacy — and irrationality — of the characters’ affections. Supplementary information offers context, including language translations, additional story details, and references to other works. (HarperCollins/Tegen, 14 years and up)

kaplan_grendel's guide to love and warA. E. Kaplan identifies Grendels Guide to Love and War: A Tale of Rivalry, Romance, and Existential Angst as a Beowulf update, but readers unfamiliar with the source material can still enjoy this contemporary-set novel. Every-teen Tom Grendel and his widowed father live in a Virginia retirement community — his dad, an army veteran with PTSD, needs the peace and quiet. New neighbor Willow, Tom’s enigmatic first kiss, is an exciting addition to the neighborhood, but the raucous parties thrown by Willow’s brutish brother Rex and their cousin Wolf become a problem for Tom’s fragile dad — and lead to an escalating prank war between the neighbors. All the while, Tom wrestles with memories of his mother, the quiet tragedies of old age that befall his neighbors, and the complexities of intimacy. (Knopf, 14 years and up)

From the April 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.


Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is managing editor of The Horn Book Guide.

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