Once Upon A Fright?
By Maura McHugh, Illustrated by Jane Laurie
Barron’s, $19.99, 144 pages
Maura McHugh, author of Twisted Fairy Tales: Dark Stories with a Dark and Dangerous Heart writes, “Open this book—but only after you’re prepared for a shock!” Yet these fairy tales are no less chilling than the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales, little modified by the characters, point of view, or the plot. Illustrator, Jane Lauie, however, provides blood splattered illustrations unmatched by the stale plots of most of the stories.
McHugh’s first two stories, “Snow White,” and “Bone Whistle” are the most original and bloody. “Snow White,” is by far the bloodiest story, where “The queen learned of different sacrifices to hold onto her good looks; all of them involved blood.” This story is partly borrowed from the real life vampire, the Countess of Transylvania, who slaughtered 600 young virgins to improve her complexion. And “Bone Whistle,” a gory retelling of sibling murder adapted from the original fairytale, “Singing Bone.” Here, McHugh fleshes out the story and gives the reader more depth than the original one page story. The next 18 stories show very little variation. And unlike the modernized Fairy Tales Friday by Angela Carter, McHugh offers no feminine twist or unique slant.
Part of the allure of fairy tales, states Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale of Dark and Grim, is that “Fairy tales have endured because they speak to the deepest hopes, fears, and needs of children.” McHugh has realized this with her retelling of Twisted Fairy Tales, since McHugh’s stories are so closely hewed to the original fairy tales. Yet McHugh’s visual descriptions are her greatest strength, bursting with sparks of creativity, as in the first story, “[Snow White] lifted the mirror with her aching hand. She could feel the rustling of flowers in the handle and the quiet murmur of the voices from those that dwelled within.”
Despite the bloody illustrations, the reader soon becomes weary of the all too familiar thread of each retold story in McHugh’s collection of fairy tales.
Reviewed by Sheila Erwin