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BOOK REVIEW: Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane

| 8 September 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Fairytales for Feisty Girls by Susannah McFarlane

Allen & Unwin
August 2018
Hardcover, $24.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Fairytales / Short Stories / Picture Book


Renowned girl hero and feisty author Susannah McFarlane presents an illustrated collection of ’tilted’ fairytales featuring girls with smarts.

Feisty: typically describes one who is relatively small, lively, determined and courageous.

Girls can rescue themselves – just watch Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Thumbelina create their own happily ever afters in this beautiful and emboldening bedtime book.

A glorious treasury for young girls – and boys – featuring artwork from four leading Australian illustrators: Beth Norling, Claire Robertson, Lucinda Gifford and Sher Rill Ng.


Once upon a time, in a land far away
(yet not so different from today),
four young girls stand and fight
for what is good; for what is right.

Dark forces try to hold them back.
Evil tempts them from the track.
In order to be truly free,
these girls must strong and feisty be.

While this is a lovely collection of four classic stories, long enough to each be broken up by  chapters, the emphasis on the feisty main characters is perhaps a little overstated. 

Rapunzel is the story with the biggest differences, in that the titular character likes to build and invent things, and rather than waiting for the prince to come and ask her to let down her hair, she decides to cut it off and climb down it for herself. 

Little Red Riding Hood is mostly the same story, except Red (Lucy, in this telling) has learned the uses of various flowers and herbs from her grandmother and uses those to outsmart the wolf and save her grandmother. The woodsman does little except sit to the side of the path and forget that he left his axe in the tree he was chopping down.

Cinderella seems to follow more of an Ever After/Ella Enchanted vibe, with Ella being more hands-on with the care and friendship of animals, and the prince being similarly inclined. The main difference here is that she sets up her own life in the family home and the prince decides to go live with her there. Though one does have to wonder how that fits into the royal plans… but I guess sometimes princes can be feisty, too!

Thumbelina seems to mostly follow the same story as the original, except for the fact that Thumbelina doesn’t spare a thought for the woman who cried with joy to have her as a companion at the start of the story… when Thumbelina finds friends her own size. 

This is a gorgeously illustrated collection, sure to fit wonderfully amidst other fairytales and collections thereof, and bound to appeal to readers bridging the gap between picture books and chapter books. The stories do have a vaguely feisty twist to them, but is it too much to ask that a book with “feisty” in the title be, I don’t know… feistier?

Category: Book Reviews

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