Author Spotlight: Gregory Maguire

Today my husband surprised me at Wal-Mart. My older daughter and I had stopped to look at something and when we caught up to him, he handed me this hardback book, marked down to $5.97!

Alice In Wonderland is one of my all-time favorite books, and it’s by Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked.

Wicked is followed by three other books, but I need to read the last in the series. Honestly, I didn’t need the other books to be written. Elphaba’s story was what I really wanted.

I have read and enjoyed some of his fractured fairytales though. I loved Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror, Mirror wasn’t bad.

I was completely shocked when the narrator’s identity was revealed at the end of Stepsister. Mirror references the Medici family in medieval Italy.

I have not yet read Hiddensee but I think it’s a retelling of The Nutcracker.

I did not enjoy Lost as much as I had hoped. The blurb on the book says it’s a ghost story with Jack the Ripper, but it just didn’t work for me.

Maguire also has numerous children’s titles. I’ve read Matchless, which is a take on Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Match Girl.

I would like to read What the Dickens which is about a tooth fairy gone rogue. There are other children’s titles, but I’m not familiar enough with them to share them.

I hope I’ve peaked your interest in this great author. He uses beloved stories and creates amazing alternative storylines for them. I have not read his works in a few years, since I don’t have any of his titles at school and my favorites by him are adult titles. I need to make more time for adult works.

The Tinderbox

I’ve read a few of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories before and they are not sweet, flowery books. The Little Match Girl its the saddest Christmas story ever, The Ice Queen is one dark lady (kids never want to hear that she is who Elsa from Frozen is based on), and The Little Mermaid dies at the end of her story.

I picked up The Tinderbox because of those freaky dogs on the cover. The children’s librarian I am assisting this summer had not read it either. I think I may have read a version of it by an amateur author, but it wasn’t kid friendly.

In the story,a soldier coming home from war meets a witch who offers him all the riches he can carry if he will go into an underground hall and bring her back a tinderbox that her grandmother left down there the last time she went below ground.

This illustrator its amazing! Look at the detail!

The Witch tells him that he will meet three dogs with giant eyes but gives him a means to get around them.

He looks really constipated or like he’s getting his temperature taken at the vet!

The soldier does as she asks and fills his pockets with all the gold he can carry. She demands the tinderbox, but the soldier isn’t stupid and realizes it must be special. He kills the Witch and takes the tinderbox along with the gold. 

He isn’t overly intelligent though, and manages to spend all of his gold. Down to nothing, he decides to light the candle in the tinderbox. He is amazed to discover that when he strikes the flint, the first of the giant-eyed dogs magically appears. Two strikes brings the second dog , three the third, four strikes brings all three and best of all, they can grant wishes!

The story gets weird here. There is a beautiful princess secreted away in the city and he longs to see her. He had the dog  abduct her while she sleeps so that he may kiss her. This continues and the king and queen try frantically to stop it. Finally, the soldier is discovered and arrested.

On the day he is to be hanged, the soldier’s last request is to smoke a pipe one last time. He strikes the tinderbox four times to summon all three dogs and sics them on the royalty in the crowd and kills them! He is then (Good knows why) declared the new king and marries the princess.

Don’t get me wrong, many old fairy tales seem unbelievable to modern people, but this one was out there. I think it’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure about the whole kidnapping/murder thing–I have reservations about a lot of old stories in their original form in fact. 

Keep in mind it may be necessary to pre-read stories to make sure they don’t have details in them you aren’t willing to share with kids–like Rapunzel getting pregnant with twins, or Cinderella’s stepsisters curling off parts of their feet to make the glass slipper fit. Fairytales can be brutal.

Soap! Soap! Don’t forget the soap!

Stories from the Appalachians are so terribly fun to read out loud. I think I learned enough of the accent to do a decent job but it’s not so thick the kids get confused. Today I read an old story from the Appalachians to second grade:

Plug is so forgetful that he sometimes forgets his own name. One bath day his Mama sends himto  buy some soap. Now, if he can just keep repeating “Soap! Soap! Don’t forget the soap!” all the way to town, he’ll have no trouble remembering….but darned if he didn’t see a big old bullfrog and get all distracted.

Plug’s awful memory causes him to repeat the words of others, and that causes him to offend a whole lot of others. He’s one unlucky kid! Finally, his luck turns and a lady tells him that he needs his mouth washed out with soap. Soap! Soap! Don’t forget the soap! 

Andrew Glass’s illustrations are fun, and they really match the hill-folk feel to this story. Glass and Birdseye also collaborated on a picture book retelling of the song She’ll Be Coming ’round the Mountain.

It has that same great feel:

Birdseye is an accomplished author, I’ve even read his middle grade book, Attack of the Mutant Undrwear.