Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Storybook of Legends

The Storybook of Legends
Shannon Hale
Little Brown, 2013  304 pgs.
Grades 4-7
Fairy Tale/Fantasy/Humor
Ever After High series #1

Raven Queen enters her second year of Ever After High with a heavy heart.  This is the year that she must sign the "Storybook of Legends" and embrace her destiny to be the wicked witch in the Snow White fairy tale.  The problem is that Raven is not wicked and doesn't have the desire to be so.  Her best friend Maddie Hatter (daughter of the Mad Hatter of Alice fame) tries to console her, but Maddie is a little too wacky and scattered to be much help.  Popular Apple White (daughter of Snow White who will share Raven's story) chooses to room with Raven so they can get to know each other since their futures are entwined.  Raven begins to question the acceptance of her destiny.  Does she HAVE to sign the Storybook of Legends?  Will she disappear if she refuses to sign as headmaster Grimm has said?  How about her fellow story-mates?  Raven with the help of her friends does some digging into a past story where an evil character refuses to sign and then makes the decision of her life.  Raven's decision to sign and the aftermath conclude the book and lead the reader to the next installment in the Ever After High series: The Unfairest of Them All.

I wanted to hate this series.  Its pink and purple, expertly marketed, flew to the top of the children's best seller list and (gasp) has a doll for purchase component.  After dragging my heels for a year I finally buckled under the pressure and read the first installment of the Ever After High series.  I loved it!  The book stars characters from famous and not-so-famous fairy tales and classic children's books and places them in a modern setting.  Humor and puns abound with clever wording (ex: the characters "hex-message" each other).  The characters themselves are all true to the nature of their classic counterparts, but are unique to themselves.  Raven is clearly torn between following the "safe" route and doing what she thinks is right and choosing not to be evil.  The third person narrator becomes a character who is only heard by Maddie Hatter, adding further dimension to the book and humor. Following the great surge of mythology spin-offs thanks to Rick Riordan, I feel like fairy tales are the next big thing.  (Land of Stories by Colfer is currently one of my most popular series).  This was started by Michael Buckley with his Sister's Grimm series of a decade ago, but that series appeals more to Harry Potter/Lemony Snickett kids, who are sophisticated readers.  Ever After High is fantasy/fractured fairy tales for the masses.  The book's design, which initially put me off, is carefully done and appeals to today's visual youth.  Every page contains a colorful boarder with the feel of a magical book.  The website for the series is interesting, vast and has free games.  The link to purchasing the dolls is in small print at the top corner of the page and the marketing for the products is much subtler than the American Girls.  The books can be enjoyed without ever entering the site or knowing about the dolls. Ever After High is a fun series that may lead kids to the original fairy tales and will encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book.  It will visually appeal to kids, while still containing enough content to make the experience worth while.  My library owns three copies of all three titles in print and currently none are on the shelf, so the popularity of the series is proven, making them a choice for girls of all interests and reading levels.

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