Review of Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales

Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales
by Soman Chainani; illus. by Julia Iredale
Middle School, High School    Harper/HarperCollins    336 pp.    g
9/21    978-0-06-265263-8    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-265265-2    $10.99

The author of the popular middle-grade School for Good and Evil series proves his imaginative prowess for older readers with these twelve fairy-tale retellings. The volume begins with a town sacrificing its most beautiful girl to a pack of wolves in a thrilling and disturbing adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood.” The stories that follow are by turns haunting, funny, suspenseful, and sweet. Having chosen some of the most well-known tales, Chainani successfully breathes new life into “Snow White,” “­Rapunzel,” “Bluebeard,” and others. The stories are set in a timeless fairy-tale realm, but they feel fresh and modern with plenty of plot twists (and violence) to appeal to seasoned fantasy readers. The protagonists are strong in a variety of ways, displaying cleverness, determination, and grit but also, at times, tenderness and patience. Welcome diversity (for example, a South Asian–inspired “Hansel and Gretel”) and several different kinds of love ensure that all readers will have something with which to identify. Iredale’s (Amber and Clay, rev. 3/21) illustrations are gorgeous, bloody, and magical. Particularly striking is a portrait of Snow White as a triumphant Black queen seated on a throne with her daughter in her arms. It’s a treat to watch villains get what they deserve and witness young heroes finding their way through a world that is as fraught with jealousy and suspicion as it is with wolves and evil queens.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Berman

Sarah Berman is a middle school special education assistant. She attended the University of St. Andrews, where she studied literature and wrote a dissertation about violence in children's fiction. 

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