February 28, 2012
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
If you love fantasy and fairy tales, you will love this story. Hazel is adopted and her parents have just split up. She has always felt like she doesn't quite belong except when she is with her next door neighbor and best friend, Jack. Jack understands her love of Narnia and Harry Potter and all things fantastical and plays along, although sometimes he does like to spend time with other boys instead of Hazel. Then one day, out of the blue, Jack is horribly mean to Hazel and disappears. His parents say he is visiting an elderly aunt, but Hazel knows differently. When Tyler tells Hazel he saw Jack disappear into the woods with a mysterious white witch, Hazel knows she needs to go and rescue him. He may not want her to come for him, but Hazel can't leave her best friend. So she enters a magical wood and has to face not only her own fears, but Jack's, too. Along the way, Hazel will see fairy tales and stories practically come to life around her--but in the most sinister of ways. Experienced readers may see how it all might end...or perhaps not. But all the same, a strong story that readers will love.
Rating: 3 3/4 stars
If you like fairy tale retellings, you'll be interested in this version of Snow White. Set in West Virginia, Summer lives with her grieving father and is mainly taken care of by her "cousin" Nancy, a close family friend. Summer's dad is so consumed with his depression he barely notices her, until the day he meets a woman and is so besotted he quickly marries her. Summer is eager to gain Stepmama's approval, despite her strange ways and potions and dark mirror. But she also realizes her stepmother is cold and punishing, and that her father seems worse around her. Stepmama, of course, is a witch, and and has evil plans for the little family she married into. Summer doesn't know where to turn, until finally the witch makes her move and Summer has to escape her clutches--but how? This is a very different retelling, featuring nods to religion, small towns and not a princess or prince in sight. For some other great retellings of fairy tales check out Beauty by Robin McKinley or Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George.