The Wild Swans, by Jackie Morris

I was pleased as all get out last fall when The Wild Swans, by Jackie Morris (Frances Lincoln Children's Books, October 2015) , a beautifully illustrated retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, was nominated for the Cybils in Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, the category for which I was reading.  (NB- It ended up in the MG section of the Cybils, but more because it wasn't a book "for teens" than because it is really a book for 9-12 year olds.  It is really an all ages older than 7 book).  I very much appreciated her 2013 retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon (my review), and I was not disappointed by this one.

(And of course I meant to write about last fall when I read it for the first time, but didn't...and it surfaced yesterday when I was tiding up Book Pile #34 (the books on top of the DVD/CD shelf) and so here it is now....)

So this is the story of the princess (named Eliza) whose bothers (11 of them in this case) get turned into swans by their evil stepmother, and she has to spin shirts of nettles for them, all the while not saying a word, to turn them back.  And a prince falls in love with her, and takes her back to his castle, where she ends up being accused of witchcraft, but can't defend herself (because of the no talking rule) and just as she's about to be burned alive her swan brothers come and she throws the shirts over them.  And one is unfinished, leaving a brother still with a swan wing...

All this is here in Morris' retelling, but with a lovely detailed richness that a good-lengthed book (173 pages) and lovely pictures can afford that an anthologized 10 page version can't.  Morris adds two things of her own to the story, that I appreciated very much. The stepmother does a Bad Thing, but she has reasons that make sense and are emotionally convincing--not just greed or ambition for her own kids but reasons that come from her relationship with the king, and her past before she became queen.  And it's not just the prince falling in love with Eliza, but her falling in love with him too, not just because he's a pretty face but because he gives her space to do what she needs to do. 

It's a lovely book, beautifully produced, with exquisite illustrations, and if you like fairy tale retellings, go for it!  And now I get to go upstairs and put it neatly on the shelf of fairy tales where I will look fondly on it and Book Pile #34 has one less book in it yay me!

edited to add--Thwarted! The fairy tale shelves are full with books sidewise on top and so I will have to expand fairy tales onto the shelf above them which means lot of rearranging.  Nothing is as easy as it seems it should be...


  1. this sounds super interesting..will check it out!

  2. I really love retellings of fairy tales and want to read this one. Thanks for the reminder and for the review.


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