Tag Archives: classic retellings

Bull by David Elliott

Bull by David Elliott. March 28, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 200 p. ISBN: 9780544610606.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

SEE THE STORY OF THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR
IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT

Minos thought he could
Pull a fast one
On me,
Poseidon!
God of the Sea!
But I’m the last one
On whom you
Should try such a thing.
The nerve of that guy.
The balls. The audacity.
I AM THE OCEAN!
I got capacity!
Depths! Darkness! Delphic power!
So his sweet little plan
Went big-time sour
And his wife had a son
Born with horns and a muzzle
Who ended up
In an underground puzzle.
What is it with you mortals?
You just can’t seem to learn:
If you play with fire, babies,
You’re gonna get burned.

Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton, the New York Times best-selling author David Elliott turns a classic on its head in form and approach, updating the timeless story of Theseus and the Minotaur for a new generation. A rough, rowdy, and darkly comedic young adult retelling in verse, Bull will have readers reevaluating one of mythology’s most infamous monsters.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Bestiality

 

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Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. This striking reexamination of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur maintains the bones of the original story: Minos, King of Crete, angers sea god Poseidon, who exacts his revenge not on the king but on the king’s wife. Queen Pasiphae, seduced by a bull, births Asterion, the famed future Minotaur, who is ultimately locked in a labyrinth and killed by hero Theseus. Elliott focuses this novel in verse on Asterion and the women in his family, painting them in a particularly sympathetic light. Rotating first-person narrations appear in a variety of poetic forms. Poseidon takes on the role of irreverent, anachronistic narrator, as he raps the story (“Life’s not for wimps. / Sometimes gods are gods / And sometimes they’re pimps”); Pasiphae grows increasingly nonsensical; Asterion speaks in childlike rhymes; Daedalus, labyrinth builder, is ever the architect with rigid, four-line stanzas; and princess Ariadne’s flowery language is imbued with a clever slant rhyme that belies her coquettish facade. When Theseus the hero finally struts onto the page, it’s with significant frat-bro swagger (“Ariadne! What a rack! / I knew I’d get her in the sack / As for her bro? / He won’t outlive me. / No sweat. / In time they all forgive me”). Effective both for classrooms and pleasure reading, this modernization brings new relevancy to an old story. It’s a conceit that easily could have floundered; in Elliott’s capable hands, it soars.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
There’s little grand or heroic in Elliott’s clever verse version of the classical story of the Minotaur: its title, Bull, is topically and colloquially apt. The story unrolls in the voices of seven characters, each with his or her own poetic form (an appended author’s note details them), but it’s the god Poseidon who determines the tone—as instigator, manipulator, and despiser of humankind. His raunchy, derisive take on humans (“Man! / That guy’s a dick!” he says of Minos) is a spreading stain that permeates even the innocence of Asterion the bull-headed boy, maternal Pasiphae (who “take[s] refuge in madness”), and valiant Ariadne. The sympathetic heart of Elliott’s story is Asterion/the Minotaur: Elliott presents him as a physically deformed youth, suffering cruelly from his hateful father’s abuse. But Poseidon’s voice comments on all, and Elliott characterizes him as despicable, misogynistic, and sexually prurient. Raplike wordplay, rhymes with coercive predictability, unpleasant intensity—it’s horribly effective, culminating in the god’s conclusion: “the things you mortals do: / Ridicule. / Follow orders. / Stay passive. / Betray. / What a pity! / It could have gone another way.” Such is the matter of the Greek myths. deirdre f. baker

About the Author

David Elliott is the author of The Cool Crazy Crickets and The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle. He says of And Here’s To You!, “My neighbor’s rooster and I were having a disagreement. I wanted to sleep in the morning; he wanted to crow. The rooster won, of course. The first verse of And Here’s To You! is a tribute to his victory and to the joys found in simply following your nature.”

Her website is www.davidelliottbooks.com.

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Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail. February 27, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780670013081.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3;l Lexile: 620.

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J.

It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.

It s all good. Well, almost all. She’s trying

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Eighth-grader Gracie is certain that she likes A.J., but when she learns he likes her best friend, Sienna, she goes all out to help the two get together. She texts him on Sienna’s phone for her as if she were Sienna, and she consults with Emmett, A.J.’s best friend and her neighbor. Emmett and Gracie have been best buds since they were little, and there’s nothing they won’t do for each other. But when Gracie turns 14, she’s not certain if she can handle some of the shifts and changes that begin to take place. This modern, middle-school retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac is heartwarming, funny, and tender, offering a story of young love and loyalty, friendship and family. Characters are pitch-perfect for middle-school musings and milieu: a whirlwind of activity and emotional confusion that is the bane and fuel of any early teen’s existence. Call it cute, call it clever—Vail fluently captures the spirit of today’s American middle-schoolers. See Kristina Springer’s Cici Reno (2016) for another tween take on Cyrano.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
As eighth grade comes to a close and her fourteenth birthday approaches, Gracie Grant discovers she has a problem. Out of the blue, Gracie realizes she like-likes longtime and suddenly very attractive classmate AJ Rojanasopondist. But that’s not the problem. AJ like-likes someone, as well–Gracie’s best friend, Sienna. Despite nursing a mild heartache, Gracie sincerely tries to be happy for her bestie, so much so that when Sienna panics about what to say to AJ in a text, Gracie helps compose it for her. Then she writes anotherâç¦and another, until eventually Sienna hands over her phone, and all texting of AJ, to Gracie. As their correspondence unfolds, Gracie is surprised by AJ’s sense of humor, which feels oddly familiar–kind of like Gracie’s close friend Emmett. Guilt over playing Cyrano to Sienna’s Christian, exacerbated by complex family dynamics (Gracie’s sister died as a young child) and Gracie’s tendency to overthink things, makes her prone to brief but intense emotional outbursts and moments of painful awkwardness in nearly all of her relationships. Gracie’s breakneck narration is presented in and out of text messages, folding in an effortlessly diverse cast, including Latina Sienna and Filipino-Israeli Emmett. Through her protagonist’s rollicking commentary, Vail captures the anguish and hilarity at the heart of middle school. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Rachel Vail is the author of children’s books including Justin Case, Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, and Righty and Lefty. She is also the author of several books for teens and middle grade readers, including If We Kiss, You Maybe, Gorgeous, Wonder, and Never Mind, which she wrote with Avi. Vail was born in New York City and grew up in New Rochelle, NY, just down the street from her future husband, though she didn’t know that until much later. She attended Georgetown University, where she earned her B.A. in English and Theater. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.rachelvail.com.

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Well, That Was Awkward Publisher Page

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters. March 8, 2016. Harry N. Abrams, 352 p. ISBN: 9781419719158.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 880.

A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes; Racist language and violence; Homophobic language and practices

 

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Booklist starred (January 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Hanalee Denney’s father has been haunting the crossroads of Elston, Oregon, right where Joe Adder ran him down in his Model T after a night out drinking. Now that Joe’s out of prison, Hanalee’s ready to get her revenge, but before she can fire the bullet home, Joe convinces her to take a closer look at her stepfather, Uncle Clyde, who married her mother quickly after her father’s death. If that plot sounds vaguely Shakespearian, you wouldn’t be wrong. Winters retells Hamlet in a grandly realized Prohibition-era Oregon setting, featuring biracial Hanalee in the title role, while the prejudices of the day simmer in the background. Compellingly, Winters doesn’t cleave faithfully to the Hamlet story. Instead, Hanalee discovers something far more rotten than a murderous uncle: the KKK are eager to rid Oregon of anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideals, and Hanalee, along with her parents and Joe Adder, is at the top of their list. Hanalee’s investigation of her father’s murder and her growing friendship with Joe are engrossing enough, but Winters amplifies the story by weaving Oregon’s troubling true history—state-sanctioned discrimination, eugenics, forced sterilization—throughout the tale, adding weighty, unsettling context to the slow-burning mystery. A powerful, gripping, and exceptionally well-executed glimpse into a little-known corner of U.S. history.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2016)
In 1923 small-town Oregon, Hanalee Denney has some friends, but she’s well aware of the prejudice surrounding her. After the death of her African American father, Hank Denney — apparently from injuries sustained when he was hit by a car driven by young Joe Adder — Hanalee’s white mother married Clyde Koning, the doctor who treated Hank after the accident. Convicted of the murder, Joe has been released from prison and returns to town an outcast, which brings Hanalee and Joe together even though she knows him as her father’s killer. When she begins to see Hank’s ghost, it leads her to suspect foul play. Was it in fact her new stepfather, not Joe, who killed her father? The more Hanalee investigates, the more she uncovers of her town’s shadowy underbelly, including a thriving local Ku Klux Klan chapter that targets not just Hanalee and other nonwhite people but also Joe, who is gay. As in her previous novels, Winters (In the Shadow of Blackbirds; The Cure for Dreaming, rev. 11/14) incorporates historical photos into the text, adding a documentary-like feel. While the influences from Shakespeare’s Hamlet are clear, the novel is not so attached to its inspiration that it fails to let its plot flow naturally. The unique setting and thorough research take the book beyond Racism 101: the KKK has it out for anyone who’s not “white, Protestant, American-born, or sexually normal in their eyes,” and readers might be surprised to learn of the Klan’s Rotary-like activities, which allowed it to keep its hate crimes hidden. This is genre-pushing historical fiction that will surprise and enlighten readers. sarah hannah gómez

About the Author

Cat Winters is an award-winning, critically acclaimed author of fiction that blends history with the supernatural. Her young adult works include In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, The Steep and Thorny Way, and the forthcoming Odd & True (Sept. 2017). Her adult novels are The Uninvited and Yesternight. She has been named a Morris Award finalist, a Bram Stoker Award nominee, and an Oregon Spirit Book Award winner, and her books have appeared on numerous state and “best of” lists.

Winters was born and raised in Southern California, just a short drive down the freeway from Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.

Her website is www.catwinters.com.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Heartless by Marissa Meyer. November 8, 2016. Feiwel & Friends, 464 p. ISBN: 9781250044655.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland―the infamous Queen of Hearts―she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

 

Book Trailer/Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (August 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Catherine Pinkerton’s dreams may be complicated—after one, she wakes to find a lemon tree has grown in her bedroom overnight—but her hopes for the future are not. Cath, who crafts exquisite tarts and cakes, just wants to open a bakery, until the kind-but-idiotic king of their kingdom, Hearts, expresses an interest in her, and her social-climbing parents refuse to acknowledge her reluctance to be wife or queen. But when she meets the compelling new court joker, Jest, Cath is swept off her feet, daring to dream of the life she wants, even as she unwittingly sets off on the path that leads to her inevitable future as the feared, enraged, and notorious Queen of Hearts. Readers familiar with Carroll’s classic will notice all the details of Alice’s Wonderland falling ominously into place, but newcomers, too, will be swept up in Cath’s doomed quest for freedom. Clever, whimsical, and mournful, this story of an infamous villain who was once just a girl will capture plenty of hearts of its own. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles grew progressively more hyped with each release, and this high-interest stand-alone boasts an extensive prepublication marketing campaign.

School Library Journal (September 1, 2016)
Gr 8 Up-The author’s best fantasy yet. In her inspired reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s inimitable adventures in Wonderland, Meyer has explored the world that existed before Alice fell down the rabbit hole. All Lady Catherine wants to do is open her own bakery with the help of her maid. She has no wish to wear beautiful dresses or go to balls, and she certainly has no desire whatsoever to marry the good-natured, bumbling, childlike king. But that seems to be her fate until she meets the king’s handsome and mysterious new joker, Jest. Although his mission is to steal Lady Catherine’s heart and take it to the White Queen, who would use it to overcome the enemies of her realm, he falls in love with her instead. Employing all the best aspects of Carroll’s book-the White Rabbit, croquet with hedgehogs and flamingos, suits of cards, and the Jabberwocky-Meyer has woven all the elements of darkness and light, fate and free will, and love and hatred into an unforgettable story of the evolution of the Red Queen from a young girl who dreamed of true love and freedom to a madwoman best remembered for the phrase Off with his head. VERDICT If you only read one fractured fairy tale this year, make it Heartless. A must-have title.-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK

About the Author

Marissa Meyer is a fangirl at heart, with a closet full of costumes, a Harry Potter wand on her desk, and a Tuxedo Mask doll hanging from her rear view mirror. Han and Leia are still her OTP. She may or may not be a cyborg.

Marissa writes books for teens, including the NYT bestselling series: The Lunar Chronicles.

Follow her blog or sign up for her newsletter at www.marissameyer.com

Teacher Resources

Alice in Wonderland Lesson Plans

Lewis Carroll Resources

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Heartless on Amazon

Heartless on JLG

Heartless on Goodreads