I have to admit it … I love modern re-tellings of fairy tales and fairy tale mash-ups! This book, Briar and Rose and Jack, fits the latter as author Katherine Coville combines the classic fairy tales of Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Rose Red, and Jack and the Beanstalk (and maybe a little Jack and the Giant Killer?)(note that we’re talking of the classic stories and not the Disneyfied versions).
Briar and Rose are twin sisters but almost immediately after birth, Briar, the first-born by a matter of minutes, is whisked away and neither will know their true relationship for many years. A witch places a curse on the heir to the kingdom, that she shall prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a deep sleep only to be awakened by true love’s kiss. But will that curse fall on Rose, the girl everyone believes to be the heir, or Briar, the true heir?
As the girls grow older, Briar is not considered to be very pretty and is in fact scorned for her looks, while Rose is practically revered simply because she looks so pretty. But the girls don’t care or pay much attention to what others think … they are busy trying to protect the kingdom from the an evil giant who terrorizes the land. Along with Jack, a friend from the town, they set out to do what none of the adults have been able to do … defeat the giant.
Katherine Coville has managed to do something quite extraordinary with this story … not only has she combined a couple of classic fairy tales into a cohesive, exciting story, she has retained a great deal of the strength of the original stories while making them relevant and readable to today’s audience. This is no small feat!
There are some really important lessons to be learned here (perhaps most importantly, the lesson of image/appearance and what makes a person truly great) and Coville mostly includes these lessons so casually that the reader isn’t likely to know that they are learning something. There is one moment that I noted as a really nice teaching moment … how to make paint … and it works well in the book and most children reading it will find it to be a new discovery, but I did see it as an intentional teaching moment rather than a natural part of the story.
Though I admit that I like fairy tale re-tellings, I’d also have to say that I liked this book much more than I expected. It’s got so much heart and depth and honesty that it goes well beyond a simple fairy tale.
Looking for a good book? Briar and Rose and Jack by Katherine Coville is a fantastic fairy tale mashup with a whole lot of heart that should be on every child’s bookshelf.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Briar and Rose and Jack
author: Katherine Coville
publisher: Clarion Books
hardcover, 368 pages