Cloaked in Red: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande VeldeSome fairy tales are just problematic. Rumpelstiltskin’s motivations are fuzzy at best. Does Rapunzel’s mother really need lettuce that badly?

Then you have Little Red Riding Hood. How oblivious can one child be? Why was she left unsupervised in the woods? Why a red hood at all?

Many questions. Not so many answers.

Plenty of opportunities for new retellings in Cloaked in Red (2010) by Vivian Vande Velde.

Find it on Bookshop.

This collection runs in the same vein as Vande Velde’s earlier collection The Rumpelstiltskin Problem. An author’s note starts the volume in which Vande Velde outlines the numerous problems with the original Little Red Riding Hood.

In the eight stories in this collection Vande Velde offers a different slant on the story. “Little Red Riding Hood’s Family” offers a very clever, whimsical explanation of why Little Red would not be concerned to find her grandmother looking like a wolf. “Granny and the Wolf” delves deeper into the relationship between Granny and the woodcutter (not to mention the wolf). “Deems the Woodcutter” is a delightful story about a myopic woodcutter who misguidedly helps quite a few familiar fairy tale characters while out gathering wood.

While this collection ignores some of the darker undertones of the Perrault* version of the story–and only nods to the Grimm version in “Why Willy and His Borther Won’t Ever Amount to Anything” without mentioning Perrault at all–the collection is solid with a range of stories to appeal to readers of every age and persuasion.

With a snappy tone and amusing starts to every story along the lines of “Once upon a time, before department stores and designer labels . . .” Cloaked in Red is filled with stories that are approachable and fun. This would be a great collection to pair with picture book versions of Little Red Riding Hood, to read aloud, or even to use as a primer on short story writing.

*The moral from the Perrault story is as follows: “Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.” It’s safe to say the moral is hinting at a bit more than actual wolves.

Possible Pairings: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde

You can find some different version of Little Red Riding Hood (including both Perrault’s and Grimm’s) here: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0333.html

The Glass Swallow: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Glass Swallow by Julia GoldingRain’s father is one of the most sought-after glass makers in the kingdom of Tigral. Torrent’s mastery of stained glass is unrivaled with even the king and queen ordering windows from the Torrent forge for their palace.

The only problem is Torrent is not the visionary behind his stained glass designs. Rain, his daughter, is the designer–a secret that could get them both thrown out of the male-only glassmaker guild.

When an opportunity arises for Rain to visit a distant land and ply her wares, it seems like a fine opportunity. She will be able to promote her father’s forget and her craft all while keeping her secret and seeing the wonders of the kingdom of Magharna.

Unfortunately, within a day of her arrival everything goes very wrong.

Alone in a strange place, Rain must find her own way as she navigates the foreign language and strange customs of Magharna and tries to find her way home. As Rain learns more of her temporary home, she realizes something is very wrong in the state. With a flagging economy and a society on the brink of riot, Rain will have to get very creative to find her place and a way home in The Glass Swallow (2010) by Julia Golding.

The Glass Swallow is a companion Golding’s earlier novel Dragonfly. (The current king and queen of Tigral are the protagonists of Dragonfly while it’s fun to see the characters overlap you do not need to read one book to enjoy the other.)

The Glass Swallow is a cute if sometimes improbable story focused on Rain and a young Magharan falconer named Peri–a man deemed “untouchable” by the higher echelons of Magharan society. The story is written in third person with focus shifting between Rain and Peri (often highlighting deeply frustrating missed connections between the two characters).

Although Rain has a very rough start in Magharna things begin to go surprisingly well for her by the latter third of the novel as pieces of state politics and revolution fall into place as if part of Rain’s personal stained glass design. While groundwork is laid for the romantic aspect of the story, the romance too felt a bit contrived as it moved with surprising speed from flirtation to actual love.

The Glass Swallow is an entertaining fantasy. Given the characters’ ages I went into this book expecting something along the lines of YA fantasy. Instead the characters and plot read much younger marking this more as a middle grade level read. That said, The Glass Swallow is still very fun with the nice touches of both stained glass and bird handling as areas of interest in the story. While the story, particularly the latter half, felt cursory as if the characters were rushing to a resolution the story was often heartwarming. It’s very nice to read a well-thought-out fantasy with an unabashedly happy ending.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Selection by Kiera Cass, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley*, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

*Strictly speaking this isn’t a real read-alike for this book. BUT it does have art and glass working and birds so why not?