Monday, October 5, 2015

New Book: Feathers, Paws, Fins, and Claws: Fairy-Tale Beasts (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies)

Feathers, Paws, Fins, and Claws: Fairy-Tale Beasts (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) edited by Professor Christine A. Jones and Jennifer Schacker is a new September release. I received a review copy so I can actually review this one with some confidence, too.

Feathers, Paws, Fins, and Claws: Fairy-Tale Beasts (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) is part of the Series in Fairy-Tale Studies from Wayne State University Press. It's a new and different kind of release in the series which has had a strong academic focus until this book. This book has an academic foundation, never fear, but it is more suitable for a larger audience with a wider age range. In other words, this one fits comfortably on an academic shelf or an older kid's bookshelf. I say older, perhaps 8-10 and up since the tales are longer (most aren't suitable length for a bedtime story, for example) and the content is more mature--not adult or unsuitable for kids, per se, just older themes. With that said, I should quote the introduction that says:

This volume of vintage tales was conceived especially for readers beyond childhood, those at an age when fairy tales may not appear to have much to offer and who therefore stand to be charmed by characters and plots they did not expect to find interesting.

But young readers will be drawn to the book, too, since it is beautifully presented.

There are 10 tales following the title's theme as well as an endnoted Introduction to suit the needs of someone with a more focused interest on the material. There is no index. It is also illustrated by Lina Kusaite and designed to be more visually pleasing than the standard academic tone. In truth, the book looks more suited to the children's folklore section and could easily end up there in bookstores. It will make a nice gift book for young and older folklore fans with an unusual line-up of tales. While The Three Bears is going to be the most familiar tale, it is still different since Goldilocks is no where to be found, just her antecedent "little Old Woman," known in some versions as Silverlocks, actually.

You can click on these illustrations to view them larger and read the titles.

So overall, this is a beautiful book and it will make a nice gift or a fine addition to your own library of folktales. The ten tales included are:

Ballad of the Bird-Bride
The Story of the Three Bears
The Rat's Wedding
Nanina's Sheep
Constantino Fortunato
East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon
The Snake-Skin
Prince Cheri
The Maiden and the Fish

I was familiar with most of these--a few have appeared in SurLaLune collections actually--"The Maiden and the Fish" is in Cinderella Tales From Around the World and "East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon" and "The Snake-Skin" are in Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World. Which also gives you a clue as to what tale types those fit into. "Constantino Fortunato" is an early Puss in Boots.

Book description:

A wide variety of creatures walk, fly, leap, slither, and swim through fairy-tale history. Some marvelous animal characters are deeply inscribed in current popular culture—the beast redeemed by beauty, the wolf in pursuit of little girls and little pigs, the frog prince released from enchantment by a young princess. But like the adventures of many fairy-tale heroes, a curious reader’s exploration in the genre can yield surprises, challenges, and unexpected rewards. Feathers, Paws, Fins, and Claws: Fairy-Tale Beasts presents lesser-known tales featuring animals both wild and gentle who appear in imaginative landscapes and enjoy a host of surprising talents. With striking original illustrations by artist Lina Kusaite and helpful introductions by fairy-tale scholars Jennifer Schacker and Christine A. Jones, the offbeat, haunting stories in this collection are rich and surprisingly relevant, demanding creative reading by audiences aged young adult and up.

Schacker and Jones choose stories that represent several centuries and cultural perspectives on how animals think and move. In these ten stories, rats are just as seductive as Little Red Riding Hood’s wolf; snakes find human mates; and dancing sheep and well-mannered bears blur the line between human and beast. Stories range in form from literary ballads to tales long enough to be considered short stories, and all are presented as closely as possible to their original print versions, reflecting the use of historical spelling and punctuation. Beasts move between typical animal behavior (a bird seeking to spread its wings and fly or a clever cat artfully catching its prey) and acts that seem much more human than beastly (three fastidious bears keeping a tidy home together or a snake inviting itself to the dinner table). Kusaite’s full-color artwork rounds out this collection, drawing imaginatively on a wide range of visual traditions—from Inuit design to the work of the British Arts and Crafts movement.

Together with the short introductions to the tales themselves, the illustrations invite readers to rediscover the fascinating world of animal fairy tales. All readers interested in storytelling, fairy-tale history, and translation will treasure this beautiful collection.

Jennifer Schacker is associate professor of English at University of Guelph and author of National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth-Century England.

Christine A. Jones is associate professor of French at the University of Utah and author of Shapely Bodies: The Image of Porcelain in Eighteenth-Century France. Jones and Schacker are longtime collaborators and co-editors of Marvelous Transformations: An Anthology of Fairy Tales and Contemporary Critical Perspectives.

Lina Kusaite is an illustrator, designer, and art/life coach based in Brussels, Belgium. Her work has appeared in a wide range of international publications, computer games, and exhibitions, and was selected for display in Times Square as part of the 2014 "seemetakeover" event. Kusaite’s website is

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