Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript

Hi, everyone!

Today I am so very excited to share some great news with you. First, I have something new yet classic, old yet original to share with you. That’s exciting in and of itself.

Second, it’s quintessentially Canadian, which you know I love.

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Third, it’s a book the world has been needing for a while: a scholarly yet readable copy of the original Anne of Green Gables quite aptly titled: Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript, edited by Carolyn Strom Collins. (Note: The lovely people at Nimbus sent it to me to review, which I happily undertook to do on condition they knew I’d only review it if I liked it. They agreed, I loved the book, so here we are.)

So, what is this book?

This is a transcription of the original manuscript of Anne of Green Gables, with marginal notes, additions and deletions, etc., all noted carefully and clearly. It presents, in short, the text as it sprang from L.M. Montgomery’s mind, before she even settled on Diana’s name! If you think that books came into being as they are found on bookshelf walls, this book will challenge you. It will make you rethink how books happen, and it will give you a fresh appreciation for the editorial process.

This is a book written for people like me: passionate lovers of Anne of Green Gables and Lucy Maud Montgomery, especially ones with a strong love of manuscript history. That said, while it shows rigorous academic work and is meticulously edited by Carolyn Strom Collins, it is also both beautiful and accessible. Let me count the ways:

First, the introduction gives a coherent narrative of the manuscript history, how Montgomery worked, and why we should care about the manuscript.

Second, there is a beautifully clear guide to how to use the text in your hands. The guide to the symbols and notes Collins uses is presented at the front (not hidden at the back) makes the whole book usable by both academic readers and the rest of us.

Third, even if you want to ignore the marginal notes, the text itself is laid out nicely and readably so you can just scan the main text, only glancing at the margins if you really are curious.

Granted: I have been an academic for years. So I didn’t trust myself to judge clarity. I therefore trotted myself over to my local book shop to gloat– sorry, to lend the book shop people this book (I may also have gloated a bit, sorry, it’s a really special book and I was just so glad to have it!) and see what they thought.

The report was exactly as I thought: it is a smart book, yes, but it’s also transparent. It’s usable on many levels. You can flip through to find your favourite scenes and see how they evolved, or you can read from the beginning and meticulously follow the careful scholarly work that’s gone into it.

I highly recommend it as a gift for any lover of Anne. It does have a more “grown up” feel to it, as the presentation is distinctly suitable for a nice mahogany book shelf, but I think it’s understandable by any smart reader of Anne’s life (think how Anne herself would feel knowing she was in such a “grown up” book– and now think about a smart 12-year-old getting a lovely book like this!). It would be a great companion to House of Dreamsor is a lovely gift on its own.

So here’s that link again: but note that online it says it’s coming out in the USA on January 28.

Welcome, Wombat Giveaway Update

Hi, folks! Good news: I just got back from the Harvard Book Store where I picked this little gem up!

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That, right there, is the shiny new copy of Welcome, Wombat which I’ll be mailing to one of you, whoever wins it in the giveaway.

What giveaway, you ask? To those who don’t know what I’m talking about, go to this post for details or read on for an abbreviated version:

Donate $20 or more to WIRES in support of the wildlife endangered by the fires in Australia. Pat yourselves on the back for having done something really good. Email me at deborah@childrensbookroom.com with your donation information, and tell me whether you want to be entered for the book or a wombat-themed t-shirt (or, you know, maybe you’re happy with either one!).

Thank you, thank you, thank you for having donated. This is a cause that matters to me as the mother of a lover of Australian wildlife, and because of my Australian friends.

NB: The t-shirt has been more enthusiastically sought after than the book, so your chances of getting the book are higher. I HIGHLY recommend the book, in fact, both because you’re more likely to get it and because it will give you something to discuss with my daughter when you next meet…!

If you have any questions at all, email me or comment here!

Welcome, Wombat + Giveaway

Hi, everyone.

Usually I try to be upbeat here, but today is going to be a little sombre. Why?

Well, because I’ve been wanting, for a long time, to write a lovely, cheerful post about my daughter’s ongoing love of wombats, her unshaken love of marsupials of all kinds– and the news from Australia has been, in a word, terrible.

I’m heartbroken, and the long, laughing post in my head has contracted into an appeal for help. Wildlife in Australia is going through a hard time, as I’m sure you all know. I can’t bear to link to the articles, so I’m not going to. You can find plenty of information out there if you want to look.

Instead, I’m going to give you some reassuring news, and some charity links, and a giveaway.

I have more reviews on the back burner: real, meaty reviews for you. I have plans to tell you about. But today? One brief, heartfelt appeal and giveaway to sweeten the deal for you.

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Let’s start with a rescue organization which is blessedly spared the worst of the fire: When I heard of the fires and devastation, my first thought was, “Please not Sleepy Burrows!”

Sleepy Burrows is a rescue sanctuary for wombats who are affected badly by many factors– and are written about in one of the Changeling’s favourite books, Welcome, Wombat by Kama Einhorn. That book is a wonderful source of information about wombats, how they grow, how unique they are, and the conflicts that humans run into in such a special environment as Australia (and, we can extrapolate– many other places on earth).

My daughter loves this book: she takes it with her on every vacation, she reads it at night until she falls asleep, and we hear about Sleepy Burrows all day every day! Sleepy Burrows gets royalties, by the way, from sales of the book.

So we are glad that, so far, Sleepy Burrows has been spared the worst of the impact of these fires.

Other animals, as we know, have not been so lucky. Koalas are faring badly. On Kangaroo Island the dunnart is doing badly. I won’t go on. We are grateful that Sleepy Burrows is OK for now, but– Here are some links for you:

a) The wonderful Sophie Blackall is holding a fundraiser, donating all proceeds from her print for Wombat Walkabout (a book I must get for my daughter!) to rescue efforts: follow her link here. (NB: I cannot afford this right now, but anyone who wants to get a print for my daughter sure is welcome!)

b) For those, like me, who can’t afford that gorgeous print, the organization she pledges to help is WIRES.

c) MY PLEDGE: I will host a giveaway here for those who donate to WIRES. There are going to be TWO PRIZES, so TWO WINNERS: 1 copy of Welcome, Wombat, described above; and 1 special wombat t-shirt inspired by the wonderful Blunderbuss, the scrap yarn combat-wombat from Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland series.

DETAILS: Donate $20 or more to WIRES. Email me at deborah@childrensbookroom.com with your donation information, and tell me whether you want to be entered for the book or t-shirt (or, you know, maybe you’re happy with either one!).

I WILL SEND THE BOOK/T-SHIRT ANYWHERE, WORLDWIDE. SHIPPING IS ON ME.

Deadline: One week today, January 14, 2020. I will draw randomly from any donors, and will send you my heartfelt thanks.

Reminder: 1 book, 1 shirt of any size or colour. Deadline: January 14, 2020. Please donate to WIRES.

Thank you from me, from my daughter, from the animals.

The Midnight Library

Thanksgiving is staring Americans right in the face, and we’re visiting family in the DC area. I should probably post about something Thanksgiving-sy, but the fact is that I’m born Canadian and, well, frankly– you know me. My aunt took me and my Changeling to the library this morning and while we were there I was attracted by something shiny, and that’s what I’m going to post about!

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Yes, the author of Ghosts in the House!, Kazuno Kohara, wrote The Midnight Library, a similarly slightly offbeat, whimsical, yet adorable adventure in a place that doesn’t quite meet your expectations.

The Midnight Library opens only at night and is run by a little librarian, extremely good at her job, with her three assistant owls. These hardworking library employees guide a band of squirrels to the activity room, calm a wolf sobbing over a sad story, and assist a tortoise who needs a library card. Of course, the final task of the day must be to find a special book for three sleepy owls…

Not at all spooky. Not at all creepy. Never going to disturb the most refined sensibilities.

And yet… there is something deeply compelling about both story and art. I think that even Neil Gaiman, master of the slightly spooky, slightly creepy story would find something to inspire him in this book. It takes place at dark, in a library, a place of infinite possibility, where anything can happen…

And indeed, at the child level, almost anything does! Oh, I don’t mean that it’s crazy; rather, it is ruthlessly logical: who better to assist in a midnight library than owls, who are wise and active at night? And of course the tortoise slowly and laboriously makes his way through an over 500-page book! It makes perfect sense.

But the logic assists the wildness of the story. It has to be a slightly absurd, offbeat place, with sobbing wolves and rowdy squirrels! It’s a midnight library, where things are going to be slightly strange… that’s only logical.

And both child and adult know, as they turn the last page, that the next story about the Midnight Library will be stranger yet.

It opens doors, as libraries do, you see– and I want to see the stories children will write about the Midnight Library themselves. What happens in their midnight libraries? And what will they plan for libraries as they grow older…?

So, maybe it’s almost Thanksgiving and I shouldn’t be posting about spooky, wild libraries. But I’m deeply thankful for libraries, and strongly recommend that any library-lover read this book!

CONGRATULATIONS, SYDNEY SMITH!

OK, it’s no secret that I maybe love books a little bit.

And some authors and illustrators I love a little bit much.

And when those authors/illustrators get recognition for excellence I…

What I’m saying is: Congratulations to Sydney Smith, author and illustrator of Small in the City, on winning the Governor General’s Award for Illustrated Book!

Small in the City

I rarely post about awards, but this one feels personal: Sydney Smith is a Maritimer (so am I!) who lived in Toronto (as did I!) but returned home to the Maritimes (sadly, I have not) and his work just speaks to me on a personal level. I want to take a moment to highlight other works he’s illustrated because, come on, let’s celebrate him!

Both are exquisite books: The White Cat and the Monk spoke to my professional soul; Town Is by the Sea spoke to my homesickness.

It’s been wonderful to watch Sydney Smith grow and develop as an artist and an author and I’m pleased as punch to see him win this award. I can’t wait to see what he does next!

 

And Then Comes Halloween: Redux

As we creep closer and closer to Hallowe’en, I’m trying to continue to highlight wonderful Hallowe’en books to read with your children of all ages. Today I’m going to focus on the pageantry of Hallowe’en rather than the spooky side. We’ve looked at this book before, And Then Comes Halloweenbut it’s worth bringing back: both for the sake of completeness in this series and for its own sake.

And Then Comes Halloween

I want to highlight a few things about this book. It’s not a storybook, or a spooky book, or a witch or ghost book: it’s really an honest, down-to-the-bones, HALLOWE’EN book. It’s not about acquiring candy, or being scared, or carving pumpkins, much: It’s about preparing for the holiday, being someone else, and investing yourself with Hallowe’enness. I love that, and kids need a book about existing in the Hallowe’en space, both on Hallowe’en and in preparation for Hallowe’en.

Which, to my mind, means: ALL YEAR. Here’s the link to the Candlewick catalogue entry, and the link to my old post.

Jane, the Fox, and Me

This is a bit of a rare occasion. I’m writing a post about a book without the book immediately beside me.

You see, I saw it at my beloved local library, and recognized Isabelle Arsenault’s stunning art, so I read it while my daughter browsed. Then we rushed home for Yom Kippur, leaving it behind for someone else to enjoy.

It was on my mind all Yom Kippur. I slightly regret not borrowing it, but it was right to leave it for others. (Still, I need my own copy!)

Which book is this? Jane, the Fox, and Me, by Fanny Britt, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. It’s sort of a graphic novel– more on that below. The advantage of being late to the game is I can point you to Maria Popova‘s excellent summary and account of the book, already there on the internet for you.

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I’m going to suggest you read Popova’s piece first, and I’ll simply highlight a few aspects here: it’s a book about cruelty and bullying, about adolescence and growing up, and about learning friendship and kindness in the face of that cruelty.

Why did it linger in my mind over Yom Kippur? Well, partly because it was a deeply moving read that caught me right in my adolescent insecurities, and it was going to dwell with me whenever I read it. But it felt appropriate to read it over the days of repentance for several reasons:

a) As a parent, I worry for my girl. What if someone else makes her feel insecure or scared? (What if, I catch myself in worse horror, she does the same to someone else?)

b) As someone who grew up with bullying, how do you move past it and grow in kindness and security, helping others rather than dwelling in the past?

c) As someone hurting from pain inflicted by others, how do you repent and grow?

To point (a): I don’t really see the Changeling as the sort of person who will ever be deliberately cruel, and I won’t borrow trouble. She is decidedly the sort of person who takes comments personally, however, and already has. It’s my job to help instill strength and self-confidence in this growing person and help ensure she has the tools to deal with unkindness and face it with grace. But that’s not (yet) what I want to address right now.

To point (b): Thinking about (a) helps me address (b). I feel that grace and radical kindness is the correct response to bullying. Not overlooking the past, but saying, “I’m going to pay off that old feeling by pushing more positivity into the world.” Naive? Maybe. It works for me. That’s also not what I’m talking about right now (yet).

To point (c): If you go into Yom Kippur with pain from others’ on your mind, are you doing it wrong? Aren’t you supposed to be thinking about the wrongs you’ve committed, not the wrongs done unto you?

Well, maybe. I am not a rabbi, nor do I play one on TV.

But I have been made to feel small, feel like being myself is inadequate, and feel frightened. And I do know that every time I’ve made a misstep of which I’m acutely conscious, it has come out of those feelings of inadequacy and low self-confidence. (Obviously there may be things I’ve done of which I’m unaware. What I don’t know of I can’t speak to, though, so I’m focusing on what I do know.) I’ve said things which I regret– almost always when I’ve been frightened for myself, or when I’ve been put down and am trying to climb up, or for a hundred reasons which have to do with not knowing who “Deborah” was any longer.

I’m not going to go into all of that in detail. I’m thinking back to my childhood here, which is deeply personal and not for public consumption. But trust me: if someone says something angry-sounding and you don’t know why? Maybe it’s because they’re just mean, but maybe it’s because they’re feeling lost and alone.

Now, what does that have to do with Yom Kippur and Jane, the Fox, and Me? After all, the protagonist of the book does not act out when she’s been put down. She’s silent in the face of humiliation. And on Yom Kippur you’re really supposed to think about the times you’ve acted out. Right? “I sinned by doing This or That.” Acted perniciously, obstinately, disobediently.

I think, though, and, again, I am not a rabbi, or a maharat, or anything of the sort, that the protagonist of Jane, the Fox, and Me and I have a misstep, if not a sin, in common: we lost faith in ourselves. We were both made, as we all are, in the image of God. If we listen to people telling us we’re inadequate, and internalize that hurt, we are losing confidence in who we are. And that is someone wonderful.

Jane, the Fox, and Me is in no sense a religious work, and if you’re not religious, either, then you can read it, enjoy it, and learn from it regardless. But if you are, and if you’re in a mood of self-reflection before a major religious event in your life, I recommend it. It’s a good counter-charm to flagellation and self-recrimination, if, like me, you feel you’re pretty good at that on your own…

This is a book of kindness, of acceptance, and of perpetual beauty.

It is also a book, to glance back at point (a) above, for parents to read. It’s a book for helping you help your child be stronger within, more self-confident, less prone to flagellation. I can recognize, now, occasions on which I’ve told my daughter her interests were silly (even if I thought they were) and ridiculous (again, even if I thought they were). That was wrong. Make that crinoline dress for your girl. Help her feel stronger.

I want to end with a word about the format, because I think that’s relevant. It’s called a graphic novel, and I suppose you can call it that. But to me, it’s an adolescent book, partway out of being a picture book, but not yet fully grown into a full-on graphic novel. (NB: That’s a problematic statement, assuming as it does that picture books are for little kids, and graphic novels for older folks. Pretend with me for a minute.) It’s inter-genre, just as the characters hover between ages, just as in identity they hover between who they want to be and who they are.

Just as I, as the reader, hover in self-image between who I was and who I am today.

And it is all, completely, beautiful.

Final, final note: Go back to the Popova piece for the pictures and page views. I linked to it because I don’t have the book with me, and I want you to see the inside of the book. That’s important. So if you haven’t yet read her post, if you don’t even want to read it, scroll and look. Then go to Indiebound or your local book shop or library and drink in the whole book, think about who you were growing up, and think more about who you are today, and how you can be yourself more fully.

Dammit, now I want to snuggle my Changeling.

The Witch Family

Back we go to preparing for Hallowe’en! It occurred to me while I was pulling together my Hallowe’en posts that most of them were picture books. What about older readers? Well, off I trotted to the book shop to ask them what they thought, and when they suggested Eleanor Estes’s The Witch Family, I was hooked.

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I love Eleanor Estes. The Hundred Dresses simultaneously broke and healed my heart, my favourite book feeling.

The Witch Family is utterly, utterly different, but written deftly and with a light touch. There’s no heartbreak here; just humour and mischief. The story is of two girls, Amy and her friend Clarissa, who banish the local Old Witch to a glass hill for her great wickedness.

But what of Hallowe’en? they wonder. So they decide that they really need the witch back on Hallowe’en, or what good is Hallowe’en? So, provided that the Old Witch is good the rest of the time, she can come back and be wicked on Hallowe’en.

The rest of the novel is about the deep, philosophical struggle between wickedness and goodness, between when wickedness, and what sort of wickedness, is permissible, and when one must be very, very good.

The Old Witch, for example, needs a family in order to be good– witches can’t be alone. So first comes a Little Witch, Hannah, and then Weenie Witch, the witch baby. But then Hannah needs a friend– so she finds a mermaid in a lagoon, named Lurie. And it all starts to sound very idyllic, really…

But is it, quite? What of the Old Witch’s ultimate, deep, existential wickedness? What of her desire for rabbits?

The whole novel is rollicking good fun. The issues at play (wickedness and goodness, obedience and disobedience) are handled so lightly that they let you think without stressing your poor brain, and the Hallowe’en hurly-burly itself is just a delight.

This is the perfect MG novel for children of about age 8 and up who want to enjoy Hallowe’en without being made to shake in their shoes. It’s not remotely scary, and has only the occasional tiny spooky bit.

We’ll have more Hallowe’en stories soon! Some old favourites will be back…

On the Virtues of Re-Reading, and October Giveaway

Dear Readers,

It’s no secret to those who know me that I love reading books I love over and over again. Ask my parents about Pride and Prejudice, for example. Ask my husband about The Secret Garden (every. single. spring.) and Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard and all of Tolkien. Oh… and the Moomins.

Some re-readings are a little more measured, thoughtful, perhaps casual: I hadn’t read Haroun and the Sea of Stories in over a decade and couldn’t remember it well, so I read it again. (Just as glorious the second time around. You should all read it, and I plan to write it up eventually.)

Some are more… compulsive, instinctive, and burning with need. This doesn’t make the books better or worse (can’t get much better than Haroun, I wager!) but there’s a form of passion involved that means I’m tearing bookshelves apart to get at the necessary volume.

You’re all thinking, “Uh-oh,” right now, and I don’t blame you. First, I suppose I sound a little crazy. (I own that. I am a little crazy.) Second, I bet you’re all worried about what I’m compulsively reading right now.

The weird thing is, despite my strong belief in the high values of re-reading books, I actually haven’t been compulsively re-reading anything lately, and I miss it.

I miss what you learn from re-reading books. (Craft, nuance, and compelling characters. If it’s not a book which inspires warm re-readings, it probably lacks compelling characters.)

I miss the glorious feeling of reveling in plot. (Again, books without some form of really good plot don’t compel me to re-immerse myself. I do not mean it has to be a rushed plot: Martin Pippin is slow and weird! But it has to have a good, immersive story.)

I miss the feeling of being drawn on by the Pied Piper, whether I will or no.

But just lately I’ve been hearing the beginnings of a tune, and I can’t tell whether I’m being called to one or the other of Cat’s books:

The Glass Town Game

Is this what the Pied Piper wants me to read? Or is this set what the Pied Piper wants me to read?

Right now I’m letting it go, finishing up another book, and letting the piping grow more and more insistent, but I’ve discovered something…

I want friends to read with me! And you know what that means:

Fellow readers, I want you to enjoy and revel in the pleasures of Cat Valente’s worldbuilding with me. Here are the rules:

a) I will send THREE readers each ONE paperback of one of Cat’s books. The usual rules apply. I will ship anywhere in the world, and I will pay for shipping. Seriously. I’ve sent books everywhere. Just ask.

b) Email me at deborah@childrensbookroom.com with your choice. Don’t apologize if, say, you want The Boy Who Lost Fairyland. Maybe you own the first three, and just need #4. That’s OK! Just be honest.

c) If you need a recommendation? Ask! Maybe you’re new to Cat’s MG fiction and don’t know where to start.

d) Yes, this is (mostly) for Cat’s MG. I adore her adult fiction, too, and would happily talk to you about it. But this is really to promote The Glass Town Game and Fairyland. THAT SAID… I do want you to experience Cat’s fiction and if you’re stumbling over the MG, well, we can talk. You never know. Point is– if you want to read something by Cat and don’t know where to start, email me! deborah@childrensbookroom.com

e) No deadline, first come, first served. Once I’ve mailed three books, we’re closed. (Probably.) But email me any time in October to check!

So, let’s get reading! Tell me what you want to read, and we’ll all get started. October is Cat Valente season round these parts: Let’s get reading!

Straw into Gold

Things have been… interesting. Don’t get me wrong: the Changeling is brilliant fun, my family is great, and I always have good stuff to write, here and elsewhere.

But some things can be discouraging even while everything is going well. (Hint: I’m job-hunting with a humanities PhD. Easy? No.)

So I’ve been doing more than my fair share of whining about stuff not being brilliant, really, and looking for fun encouragement on the side. Then the wonderful Lizza Aiken wrote on Twitter about Straw into Gold, a story collection by Hilary McKay (whom you may remember from… everything… on this blog, I’ll leave it to you to search and find), and being in an emotional state I almost wept over how much I love those stories. Then my mother and I in another conversation happened across the same collection. And I recommended it to a friend. And… then– well, I realized I should share it here:

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OK, I hear you. I hear you loud and clear: “Why do we need more fairy tale retellings?”

Granted, I disagree with the basis of your question. Asking such a question implies that we have enough fairy tales and I think that’s like saying we have enough ingredients or yarn or notebooks or, I mean– anything you use to make other stuff. Fairy tales are soul material. You need fairy tales to make souls. Cute funny ones for littles, like Gail Carson Levine’s; dark adult ones, like Theodora Goss’s Snow White Learns Witchcraft. I don’t care who does it, to be honest: retelling fairy tales is a godlike act of creation, breathing soul into clay.

What? No. I don’t think I’m being heretical or extreme, why do you ask?

But maybe we can reframe your question a bit: “What does this collection of fairy tale retellings do that others don’t do?”

Well, that’s an interesting question and the answer is complicated and comes down to literary quality and variety.

Oh, don’t jump down my throat: I’m not saying “literary quality” as in “Hilary McKay writes better than others” (though she sure as hell writes better than I do!), but “Hilary McKay has a literary quality to her work which is higher-toned than some and earthier and more humorous than others.”

Let’s talk specifics:

Patricia C. Wrede and Gail Carson Levine jump to mind as retellers of fairy tales for children in twisted and funny and often feminist fashion. I adore both of them! Highly, highly recommended.

Both take the stories in fairly straightforward fashion and, working within the genre, twist this, push that, and come out with something funny, thought-provoking, and just great for, in particular, growing young women who maybe don’t need another story about beauty and docility winning the prince. Wonderful stories!

Hilary McKay challenges even that.

She skips a generation, maybe: take her story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Now, that’s a favourite story of mine in the original! You will pry K. Y. Craft’s edition from my cold, dead hands. (Hey, Mum, if you’re reading this– that gorgeous edition you have that I haven’t yet successfully stolen from you? Put it in the comments, the illustrations are too good for my readers to miss.)

Do you know who else clearly loves the story? Hilary McKay. She writes of it in “Things Were Different in Those Days” with wistful affection, represented by her attitude to the king. But as I said, she skips a generation– in this case, literally: she jumps forward, and bypasses the issue of that blasted marriage question, always so complicated.

Even her first story, the heart-wrenching rendition of Rapunzel, “The Tower and the Bird,” complicates marriage. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not a story about miserable marriages. It’s just… nuanced. Still warm. Still beautiful. But very deeply nuanced.

My favourite? Why are you asking such hard questions? Well, I don’t have a clear favourite, but I’ll tell you a story of my own.

I love the story of Rumpelstiltskin with a passion unspeakable. My favourite is Paul O. Zelinski’s edition. I’ve read it approximately ten million times in my life, bought it at least five times for various reasons, and have read it aloud to the Changeling before she was remotely ready over a hundred, at least.

I wrote my version of Rumpelstiltskin when I was about sixteen. (I reread it recently, and it’s not even that bad! Cute and funny. Not a huge amount of substance.)

So I was REALLY WORRIED about reading Hilary McKay’s version because, well, I’m mildly attached to my own memories of Rumpelstiltskin. Let me put it this way: Hi, Disney! You’ve done most fairy tales out there! If you choose to do Rumpelstiltskin, though? I’ll need you to call me.

Well.

Dear Lord, is the Hilary McKay version, “Straw into Gold,” exquisite! I savoured every word. Every note. It feels as much like a song as like a story.

My one issue is that this collection reads quickly. That’s not a problem with the writing, or with the length, or with anything, really– just that it’s eminently readable and over too fast. I suggest it as bedtime reading. Whether you have a kid the right age and can read a story a night, or whether you like it for yourself and read a story a night. Just don’t gobble it up, as I did. Read it, perhaps, while travelling, to ease the pain of airports and hotels. Or if you’ve had a long day and are feeling stressed by painful, minor issues (cough), read a story instead of crying. Well, no guarantee you won’t cry anyway, but it will be more cathartic.

This isn’t just a collection of stories. It’s a song-cycle. So enjoy it as such, slowly, one here and one there, and revisit them as necessary.

As I said above: fairy tales are soul material. This collection grew my soul in a fashion I didn’t even know was possible, and I can’t wait to share it with my Changeling.