Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge

Ronald Koertge unleashes wicked humour in Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses, a collection of fairytales retold in verse. Nontraditional voices and occasional contemporary settings add fresh perspectives. Forget Disney schmaltz; these versions are bawdy and bloody.

The first tale is told jointly by Cinderella's bitter stepsisters, after birds have plucked out their eyes:

"Even in tatters Ella was desirable -- a little thigh showing here, some soot at her cleavage. And what a tease -- dashing away at midnight, leaving the heir to the throne groaning in his purple tights." [...]
"And then, insult to injury, we have to go to the wedding. Mother insisted. There will be men there. Other princes or earls or rich merchants or anybody, really, with a penis and a pulse."

There are no happy endings. The newly-handsome beast misses his fangs. The princes are in rehab and Rapunzel's mother sees a therapist three times a week. Thumbelina leaves a trail of dead bodies behind her. The final voice is that of the wolf:

"Let's get a few things straight. Only a few of us like to dress up like grandmas and trick little girls."

Andrea Dezso's cut paper illustrations are a perfect match for Koertge's dark satire. Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses is a treat for teens and adults alike.

Readalikes: The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith); Kissing the Witch (Emma Donoghue); Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes (Roald Dahl); and Highly Inappropriate Tales for Young People (Douglas Coupland).

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