Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (Viking, 2009, upper middle grade, 199pp)
In their introduction to this anthology of re-imagined fairy tales, Datlow and Windling asked the contributors "to take a long, hard look at fairy-tale villains. Witches, wizards, giants, trolls, ogres: what's the truth behind their stories? And are the fairy-tale heroes and heroines pitted against them quite as noble as they first appear?"
The resulting fifteen stories and poems are variously delightful, funny, and disturbing. Some are fairly straight retellings of familiar stories from the point of view of the un-heroes, like "Rags and Riches," by Nina Kiriki Hoffman, the story of the goose girl's treacherous servant, and Peter Beagle's very entertaining telling of Jack and the Beanstock from the perspective of the giant's wife, "Up the Down Beanstalk: A Wife Remembers."
Other authors took their fairy-tales and ran off with them onto new ground, and several of these are rather more disturbing. Holly Black's story, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," for instance, gives a horrifying back story to the Red-Riding Hood's wolf, and Kelly Link's contribution, "The Cinderella Game," is going to stick in my mind for a long, long time...even if I wish it wouldn't!
But the one I remember best isn't disturbing, just lovely--"Wizard's Apprentice," by Delia Sherman--"There's an Evil Wizard living in Dahoe, Maine. It says so, on the sign hanging outside his shop: Evil Wizard Books..." It raises the question of what constitutes an evil wizard in a truly delightful way.
In short, like all good anthologies, there's a lot of variety and a lot of great writing. I found the stories fascinating, even the ones I personally didn't care for much. But best of all, in my mind, is that many of the stories are lovely presentations of the awfully important fact that there are at least two sides to just about every story, and as someone who wants her children to think critically about what is presented as "the truth," I'm happy this book is in the world.
It is definitely for the upper end of middle grade onward--there's nothing desperately graphic or violent, but there's considerable subtlety, and, as I said above, some of the stories are disturbing.
Here's the list of all the stories and poems:
"Wizard’s Apprentice" by Delia Sherman
"An Unwelcome Guest" by Garth Nix
"Faery Tales" by Wendy Froud
"Rags and Riches" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
"Up the Down Beanstalk: A Wife Remembers" by Peter S. Beagle
"The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces" by Ellen Kushner
"Puss in Boots, the Sequel" by Joseph Stanton
"The Boy Who Cried Wolf" by Holly Black
"Troll" by Jane Yolen
"Castle Othello" by Nancy Farmer
"‘Skin" by Michael Cadnum
"A Delicate Architecture" by Catherynne M. Valente
"Molly" by Midori Snyder
"Observing the Formalities" by Neil Gaiman
"The Cinderella Game" by Kelly Link
(note: I received a review copy of this book for my consideration as a Cybils panelist)