No sooner do I establish in my mind two categories for re-written fairy tales, those that re-tell vs those that re-imagine (see this post), then I find myself reading a book that defies tidy inclusion in either. The book is Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand, by Louise Hawes, with illustrations by Rebecca Guay (Houghton Mifflin, 2008, 211pp, YA). Hawes takes one nursery rhyme (Banbury Cross) and six fairy tales (old chestnuts such as Cinderella and Snow White), and makes them new by shifting perspective. For instance, she gives us Cinderella after the ball, as experienced by the prince, Snow White as seen by one of the dwarfs, and the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, from the point of view of the singing harp (I really liked this one, never before having wondered exactly who this harp person was). Through this shifting of focus, she allows herself room to add depth and nuance to happily ever after, and the chance to give human emotions, and human pasts and futures, to the fairy tale characters.
As the title suggests, Hawes is not shining light into these stories to make them sparkle in a pretty fairy dust way, but rather to revel dark layers and complexities. This darkness is nicely judged--not so much as to induce prurient squirming or sick horror, but enough to rivet and disturb.
These stories are more than re-tellings (even though Hawes sticks closely to her source material), but they aren't quite re-imaginings (despite the added richness of Hawes' telling, the stories are still quite recognizably themselves, and didn't take me, at least, into new territory. It's harder to do this with short stories, which is why I, in general, prefer novels). What they are, in the end, are fascinating stories, well told, to which are joined some beautiful black and white drawings (the only one of Guay's illustrations that I really don't care for is the cover one...). I imagine that those who like re-written fairy tales will love this book, and even those who don't, particularly, might well like the stories for their own sakes.
Here's another, longer, review at Tempting Persephone