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Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses Hardcover – July 10, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Caught in the ultimate battle between good and evil, with time running out and her enemies closing in, Gwen is forced to finally face the truths she’s been hiding from all along. But can she save Neverland without losing herself? Paperback | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews


With sardonic wit and a decidedly contemporary sensibility, Koertge retells 23 classic fairy tales in free verse, written from the perspectives of iconic characters like Little Red Riding Hood, as well as maligned or minor figures such as the Mole from Thumbelina and Cinderella’s stepsisters... A fiendishly clever and darkly funny collection.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A much-honored poet and novelist retells, in free verse and from various points of view, twenty-three familiar tales (mostly Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault). With a contemporary sensibility and voice, Koertge pitches directly to teenagers. . . Dezsö’s choice of cut-paper illustrations is brilliant, a nod to Hans C. Andersen’s skill in that medium despite the radically different tone.
—The Horn Book (starred review)

The poems beg to be shared aloud, like the best gossip. The sensibilities are wry, often dark, and the language is occasionally earthy... This slim volume is at once simple and sophisticated, witty and unnerving.
—School Library Journal

About the Author

Ron Koertge is the author of many award-winning novels, including Stoner & Spaz and its sequel, Now Playing: Stoner & Spaz II; Shakespeare Bats Cleanup; Strays; Deadville; Margaux with an X; The Brimstone Journals; and The Arizona Kid. A two-time winner of the PEN Literary Award for Children's Literature, he lives in South Pasadena, California.

Andrea Dezsö is a visual artist and writer who works across a broad range of media. She is a full-time faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art and lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (July 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763644064
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763644062
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #982,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This isn't usually my thing. I like Fairy Tale retellings but I like them in novel form, with a lot of plot and character development. Short stories have never appealed to me. That being said, I actually enjoyed Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses. It's clever and the humor is dark. And I like my fairy tales dark.

Though my ARC didn't have the beautiful cover art you see above, there was art on the inside, each drawing perfectly suited to the story. It's a quick read. The stories are short and grim, sometimes shocking, but never simply for the sake of being grim or shocking. They're purposeful and expertly written. I will say that it is definitely intended for an older, more mature YA audience. It wasn't exactly the kind of story I would want to share with my preteen aged neice.
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Format: Hardcover
Written in free verse, this macabre collection of poems and creepy illustrations includes twenty-three retellings of classic fairy tales. Featured tales range from "Cinderella," told from the perspective of the stepsisters, "Hansel and Gretel," who want revenge against the father that allowed them to be abandoned in the woods, and a monologue from "Red Riding Hood" who is relaying what happened to her mother once she is home safe from Grandma's house.

Seasoned young adult author and poet Ron Koertge delivers a chilling set of retold fairy tales in Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses. The collection is brief and can easily be read in one sitting, although many readers might want to go through some of the chapters twice so as not to miss any gruesome details. In terms of enjoyment, some of the tales fare better than others. Although the book is marketed for the young adult audience, only some of Koertge's retellings will appeal to teen readers. Teens will likely enjoy tales like "Red Riding Hood, Home at Last, Tells Her Mother What Happened," "Hansel and Gretel," and "Memoirs of the Beast," all grim but witty retellings of stories that younger readers will undoubtedly be familiar with. Other chapters, such as "Godfather Death," "The Little Match Girl" and "The Robber Bridegroom" are taken from tales that aren't as well-known, and are far more grisly, making them less likely to resonate with the young adult audience. In fact, when factors like language, characterization and imagery are taken into account, this collection seems more appropriate for an adult audience. At most, it will entertain very sophisticated teen readers who will understand all the nuances in each retelling and be familiar with the original tales they are derived from.
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Format: Hardcover
When I came across this one in my preparations for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I was immediately struck by the dark and direct tone of the cover, and took it as an indication of the tales found inside. In some ways this is what I got: the retellings are gritty and dark and very pared down, stripped of any residual fairy dust and ball gowns. Koertge plays on the original tales, in all their dark and twisted glory, but he also plays with our Disneyfied modern expectations.

But even though Koertge did sort of give me what I was expecting, it somehow managed to not be quite what I wanted. The book is very brief, tackling 23 different tales in less than 100 pages, including illustrations and title pages for each story. This means each story averages about 2 pages of well-spaced text or free-verse, and this means Koertge only has the space of a few blinks of the eye to make an impression with each story - blink and it's over...

I will say, I think Koertge certainly tried to create memorable, concrete images that would linger with the reader, plunging straight into the heart of each with a wry, jaded style. There's also a really good mix of well-known and little-known tales, and Koertge changes up the narration slightly in each tale. But even the narration at its most different (like Little Red's vapid prattling) still has a sameness to it. Some readers will appreciate this and feel the sardonic tone running throughout is the thread that holds it all together. Other readers - like myself - will feel that what the book really needs is a shake-up. The stories, different as they are originally, blend one into the next in Koertge's hands, and in the end, I would have been hard-pressed to tell you what happened in which, and how - if at all - the narrators differed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have all of Koertge's in-print poetry collections and have managed to scavenge a few out of print volumes. I thought Indigo was a bust. Setting that aside, how does this collection feel? Frankly, I found most of the poems to be mean spirited. I know this is probably quite true to the original fairy tale versions, which have been diluted down tremendously for the modern audience. But I missed the oblique gaze, wry humor and affection found in Koertge's other "retelling" poems (Superman - several, vampires, 50's horror movies). Having read the book twice in the past 4 days, I'm sitting here trying to think of the most memorable poem. For me it's Hansel and Gretel or maybe Rapunzel. If you haven't read Koertge poetry before, this isn't the place to start. If you want a modern look at fairy tales in free verse form, with all the darkness left in, you couldn't do better than this book.
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