Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird

Vivian Vande Velde

Harcourt Brace and Company. $17.00.
(paper, Bantam $3.99)

Here is a collection of stories and poems with delightful twists that turn the old fairy tales upside down. Vivian Vande Velde's earlier work, particularly the novels Dragon's Bait and Companions of the Night, prove that she is adept at clever and successful variations on otherwise familiar themes. The thirteen stories and poems (and one list) of Brothers Grimm and Sisters Weird are no exception, from the gently happy ending of "Straw into Gold" to the eerie and disturbing "Twins."

This time the miller's daughter runs away with Rumpelstiltskin.

This time Granny and the wolf lock Red Riding Hood in a closet because Red is an insufferable brat.

This time . . .

The one mistake is the dust jacket. "Rated PG-13," the heading says, "Fairy tale endings you're not likely to see," followed by a list of macabre alternate endings. Yes, Vande Velde's stories are sophisticated, witty, and not intended as sweet-dream bedtime tales. But the suggestion that "Rated PG-13" describes the table of contents ("Rated PG-13" is actually a story itself) is misleading.

The inside front cover is more appropriate:

"How to fracture a fairy tale:

  1. Make the villain a hero;
  2. Make the hero a villain;
  3. Tell what really happened.
  4. All of the Above."

It works. This time . . . once upon a time . . . .


This review originally appeared in the June 16, 1996 edition of The Roanoke Times.


This review copyright 1996 by Wendy Morris 

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