Hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest, Six Degrees of Separation picks a starting book for participants to go wherever it takes them in six more steps. Links in titles will take you to my reviews where they exist. So without further ado, our starting book this month is …
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
As an early reader, I was on the cusp of being too old for children’s picture books when Maurice Sendak’s classic tale was published. I expect that by the time it reached our local library some time later, I’d moved on to early chapter books. So I never read it as a child. When I had my daughter, it became one of my favourite books to read with her at bedtime. It’s a perfect story with a brilliant beginning, middle and ending – with the most unscary, scary monsters imaginable, with whom to make a wild rumpus.
When I was looking at the book cover for inspiration for my link, I noticed that the monster has prominent feet (human ones too – I’d honestly never noticed that, and it puts a whole different emphasis on the tale – hmm!). So the feet stuck with me – and of course this led me to more feet of …
The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien
Hobbit’s feet are big and hairy. I loved this book when I was about twelve, until I read Lord of the Rings, which overtook it in my affections. Re-reading The Hobbit a few years ago, I had entirely forgotten that it’s full of dwarfs, which leads me to:
The Spindle and the Sleeper by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman’s fairytale combines the stories of Snow White and the Sleeping Beauty into a new beguiling version with two strong female leads, beautifully illustrated by Chris Riddell, however it begins with dwarfs. Gaiman’s reimagining is for all ages, but not all such classic fairy-tale retellingsare:
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Carter’s slim volume of folk and fairy-tale reimaginings are often quite adult, they are earthy, sensual and dark on the whole and her heroines give as good as they get. She tackles ‘Bluebeard’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ amongst others. Another adult retelling of a classic tale is:
The Meat Tree by Gwyneth Lewis
This is one of the volumes in Seren Books’ series of New Tales of the Mabinogion, the Welsh story-cycle. Lewis’s retelling is of the story of Blodeuwedd, the woman made from flowers. Lewis takes this rather weird tale and puts it into a science fiction setting! The original is a very complex tale of transformations, curses, deceit, rape and incest! Brothers get transformed into deer for raping a virgin, and then they are turned into boars, and finally wolves – each time a male and female pair – and they have offspring which get turned back into humans. A woman is made out of flowers as a bride for a son cursed never to have a human wife, but she falls for another and tricks him. It’s the wolf transformations that lead me on:
Tinder by Sally Gardner
Gardner retells Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Tinderbox, making it into a short novel length and updating the soldier’s story to show more of the trauma of war and its lasting effects on those caught up in it. You may recall that Andersen’s story has three terrible transformed wolves who guard underground caverns. Gardner’s utterly fab version, which is for older children upwards, is illustrated by David Roberts, who conjures up a bloodthirsty world, with werewolves and ghouls and death stalking the pages, it oozes despair. Did I mention werewolves? Yes, and that leads me to:
Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
I think this is my favourite werewolf novel ever – and it’s told as a prose poem! This is a quirky contemporary novel about packs of werewolves in LA, combining themes of gang warfare with a murder story and a touching central romance, like The Sopranos with lycanthropes. The thing about werewolves, of course is that, as we know from Harry Potter’s Professor Lupin and Taylor Lautner in the Twilight films, they can transform back from wolves into something resembling a normal human, -which brings me back to
Max in Where The Wild Things Are, who returns from his (dream) voyage:
into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot.
For once, I’ve engineered to come round full circle – via a route through classic fantasy and fairy tale in versions old and new. Where will your six degrees take you?