Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann. HarperCollins. 2014. Reviewed from electronic galley.
The Good: Seriously, I just adore retellings. Whether it's looking into the historical origins of fairy tales, modernizing them, twisting them -- I just love what people can do with the familiar and the unknown, making them new and fresh.
Poisoned Apples approaches fairy tales with a particular question: what do they say about what it means to be a woman? What does it mean in today's world?
"The action's always there
Where are the fairy tales about gym class
or the doctor's office of the back of the bus
where bad things can also happen?"
Where bad things happen. There, right there, it shows that the darkness of the fairy tales is what will be examined.
So many good, tight poems, and each is independent, so it's hard to write about because how to select just one or two.
Some are cynical -- the "Prince Charming" who is charming to parents but says to the girlfriend
you look amazing. That sweater
makes your boobs look
Others are not. "
Retelling" says, "What the miller's daughter should have said
from the start
or at any point down the line is,
And then offers a better solution:
"Once upon a time
there was a miller's daughter
who got a studio apartment
took classes during the day."
"Retelling" may be my favorite because it says, you can say no. You can put yourself first. And that means a happier ending for everyone.
Poisoned Apples is a short book but not a quick read. There is a lot here to discuss; a lot to think about it; a lot to question. And the questions are not just about fairy tales and the poems. It's about what it is to be a woman, what that means, what society and family and friends say it means.
I reviewed this from an electronic galley; and let me say, I want to get my hands on the final print version because I think it's going to be an even more intimate reading.
Other reviews: Sense and Sensibilities and Stories; Kirkus Reviews.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy