This YA book explores traditional fairy tales from a dark, often gruesome perspective, mining the most disturbing aspects (and there are plenty) of the stories from Anderson and the brothers Grimm. The twelve dancing princesses, Bluebeard, the little match girl, the robber bridegroom and, of course, Little Red Riding hood are among the tales retold from various perspectives.
Some take a fairly traditional approach to the stories. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" begins:
When one sleeps, they all sleep. When one pouts, they all pout. And they all wear out their shoes in a roadhouse by the lake."
Others have a more modern, up-to-date spin, as with the story "Bearskin:"
The soldier had seen the devil in the desert. And he'd seen the devil's toys - IEDs, VBIEDs, the maniacs with dynamite strapped to their chests.
So he wasn't surprised when the devil came right up to him in the VA hospital room and said, "So here's the deal. If you can wear a bearskin for seven years, you'll stop having bad dreams. And I'll make you rich. But it you ever take the bearskin off, I get your soul."
This is a quirky, compelling, darkly humorous and often disturbing little book that will have appeal for fans of fairy tales in all the shapes and forms. It's a mixture of poetic prose and free verse, heavier on concepts and ideas than on characterization, interesting and full of surprises. My library shelves this in the YA section, but it definitely has adult appeal and I would not recommend it to younger teens because of some of the content. I look forward to seeing what Koertge turns his talents to next.