Thursday, June 9, 2022

25 Years of Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Time flies, folks. I recently saw the reminder that Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is 25 years old in 2022. I remember reading this book when it was first released and crossing my fingers that it would win the Newbery Medal that year. I was very disappointed when it only got the Newbery Honor. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse won that year. It's a fine book but so is Ella Enchanted which also happens to be a book that kids enjoy reading, too. Both are "issues" books, but one hides it much better from the casual reader. But the politics of children's literature is really beyond my thought capacity today, so let's move on to some squeeing about a favorite book that impacted me personally.

To put it all in better context, I was headed to grad school for Library and Information Science in 1997 with an emphasis on children's and YA librarianship. I also started dating my husband, John, that year and married him in 1998. He was a graphic designer working with online sites. Both of those experiences, along with reading books like Ella Enchanted, converged into my creation of SurLaLune Fairy Tales in 1998. I wanted to build a site and understand what John did a little better by sharing my love and knowledge of fairy tales and folklore.

There were very few versions of Cinderella that I enjoyed prior to Ella Enchanted's publication. I am a fan of The Slipper and the Rose, primarily because I like the music (best work of the Sherman Brothers after Mary Poppins) and the continuation of the story after the ball and slipper fitting. It always made sense to me. And who doesn't love Annette Crosbie's take on the Fairy Godmother? Pretty much all other Cinderella stories left me cold up until the time I read Ella Enchanted. I always preferred Beauty and the Beast and other fairy tales. But Ella Enchanted made me see Cinderella with new eyes. I loved the curse of obedience and Ella's methods of transgression. It resonated with me and still does 25 years later.

Although Bluebeard was the first tale to appear on SurLaLune, Cinderella came soon after thanks in part to Ella Enchanted. Levine had managed to make it fun for me to explore other iterations of Cinderella. After all, I didn't know then nearly what I know now about the tale. Cinderella has so many fascinating variations of the traditional tale, never mind the modern interpretations, that I find it endlessly interesting now. It was one of my favorite tales to edit into a collection of variations, too: Cinderella Tales from Around the World.

A few years after it was published, I would recommend Ella Enchanted to reader after reader while I worked as a librarian in Burbank, CA. They nearly always returned, begging for "More like this one, please!" That enthusiasm for reading always thrilled me. It still does. So congrats to Levine and her publishing team for a great book that still resonates 25 years later.

I was inspired to write this after reading the article below, to give full credit to my inspiration today:

Five Life Lessons From Ella Enchanted on the Novel’s 25th Anniversary by Diane Callahan over at Tor.com:

Here's an excerpt:

Many people struggle to say no—that’s especially the case for many women, because society trains them to be agreeable and self-sacrificing. For Ella, saying no is a literal impossibility thanks to her curse. She attends finishing school under her father’s orders. Hattie and Olive—two nasty bullies in her social circle—take her money and her mother’s pearl necklace. Hattie even deprives Ella of food for days by commanding her not to eat. Even worse, Hattie demands that Ella put an end to her only real friendship. Later on, her stepmother orders her to become a scullery maid and wash the floors. And Ella does, scrubbing until her knuckles bleed.

One reason this novel speaks so deeply to young readers is because it captures a hallmark of being a teenager: the tug-of-war between obedience and rebellion. Really, that desire to be transgressive exists throughout our lives, to some degree. We want the freedom to break the rules, yet we feel compelled to follow them because the consequences for doing otherwise are too great. We could be left unloved, penniless, and disowned if we fail to follow certain scripts we’ve been given. I think of kids with musical or artistic ambitions who become lawyers instead because their parents demand it, or because conventional wisdom says they’re destined for failure.

I’m cursed with obedience as well. When a stranger asks me for a favor—to edit something, maybe, or give advice—I have a hard time ignoring that request. But this realization has helped me recognize how others are cursed with obedience, too, and how easy it is to accidentally take advantage of their willingness to give.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Free Ebook: UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 1) by Chanda Hahn


UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 1) by Chanda Hahn is currently free in ebook format. It's the first in a series and I'll let the book description to the heavy lifting of explaining it all below:

Book description:

Mina Grime is unlucky, unpopular and uncoordinated; until she saves her crush's life on a field trip, changing her High School status from loser to hero overnight. But with her new found fame brings misfortune in the form of an old family curse come to light. For Mina is descended from the Brothers Grimm and has inherited all of their unfinished fairy tale business. Which includes trying to outwit a powerful Story from making her it's next fairytale victim. To break the fairy tale curse on her family and make these deadly occurrences stop, Mina must finish the tales until the very Grimm end.

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Ebook Sale: Uprooted by Naomi Novik for $1.99 TODAY ONLY


Uprooted by Naomi Novik is on sale TODAY ONLY in ebook format for $1.99 at many retailers (but the links here are Amazon).

NEBULA AWARD WINNER • HUGO AWARD FINALIST • “If you want a fantasy with strong characters and brilliantly original variations on ancient stories, try Uprooted!”—Rick Riordan

“Breathtaking . . . a tale that is both elegantly grand and earthily humble, familiar as a Grimm fairy tale yet fresh, original, and totally irresistible.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • BuzzFeed • Tordotcom • BookPage • Library Journal • Publishers Weekly

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

 

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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Insights for Andersen's The Red Shoes: The people who 'danced themselves to death' by Rosalind Jana

 


BBC News published an interesting article about "dance plagues" or choreomania. These phenomena are part of what inspired Hans Christian Andersen's "The Red Shoes."

Read the full article at The people who 'danced themselves to death' by Rosalind Jana (12th May 2022).

Here's an excerpt to perhaps catch your interest (the inserted links below are to the mentioned items on Amazon):

Uncontrollable dance has a bewitching effect on those who contemplate it. One only has to think of the popular Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Red Shoes, with its cursed scarlet leather slippers that condemn their owner into a dance so tortuous that she eventually finds an executioner to hack off her own feet. It is a horrible tale, and people love it. Although its moral implications are relatively straightforward (a good old dose of punishment for vanity: the shoes' wearer put through this ordeal because she dared to covet such beautiful footwear in the first place), its darker suggestions of possession and incessant movement have inspired numerous works including a Powell and Pressburger film, a Kate Bush album, and several ballets.

This summer, the dance plague itself returns in earnest. Florence + The Machine's fifth album Dance Fever, released today, takes its cues from the unstoppable impulses of choreomania. The accompanying release notes outline frontwoman Florence Welch's interest in this volatile meeting point between energetic motion and moral panic, as well as touching on the subject's obvious resonance on an album recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic, when "the whirl of movement and togetherness" was both missed and anticipated. A dance plague is an apt theme for someone who wants to explore uncertainty and change. The opening lines of the song Choreomania – written before the pandemic – are uncannily prescient: "And I'm freaking out in the middle of the street / With the complete conviction of someone who has never actually had anything really bad happen to them." It's also apt for a singer so consistently preoccupied by the body as a tool of expression. Music videos for the album's singles King and Heaven is Here feature the same group of dancers who writhe around Welch, their motions uninhibited as they stamp their feet and dash their skirts.

A book to learn even more is mentioned in the article:

A Time to Dance, a Time to Die: The Extraordinary Story of the Dancing Plague of 1518 by John Waller

After one woman had danced to exhaustion in Strasbourg in July 1518, the dancing sickness quickly escalated into an epidemic that lasted over a month, with many people dying after dancing with crazed abandon for days. This study tells the story of the dancing plague, evokes the sights and sounds of the afflicted city and seeks to explain why people lapsed into that state of frantic delirium.


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Insights into The Six Swans (ATU -450): "Why you should embrace stinging nettles" by Richard Fisher

 



BBC News published an interesting article about stinging nettles with an emphasis on using them for clothing. Remind anyone of fairy tales like the The Six Swans and Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen, as well as the other tales of type ATU 450

Here's a short excerpt to the article which you can read in full at:  "Why you should embrace stinging nettles" by Richard Fisher (17th May 2022)
Given the nettle's ubiquity and utility, people have collected and cultivated the plant for centuries. Archaeological digs in the UK show that as far back as the Bronze Age, people used a subspecies of the plant to make their clothing, realising its easily accessible stems could make for soft, strong textiles.
Over the centuries, the nettle has been entwined with folklore and stories. In Hans Christian Anderson's tale The Wild Swans, a princess must silently – and painfully – knit 11 nettle shirts to save 11 of her brothers, who have been turned into swans by their evil stepmother. 
Nettles are also associated with Norse legend – specifically stories of Thor, and his companion Loki, the latter of whom supposedly invented a fishing net made from nettle yarn to catch salmon. The plant, however, has yet to appear in a storyline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

Bargain Ebooks: Steampunk Proper Romance Series by Nancy Campbell Allen for $1.99 and $2.99


This fairy tale historical romance steampunk series by Nancy Campbell Allen is on sale. The reviews for this series have been strong since it's release a few years ago. The "proper" label also means there is no explicit content but it isn't considered inspirational either. I think these are usually $3.99 or $4.99 each. All but the last one are currently $1.99 with the last one listed at $2.99.

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast (Steampunk Proper Romance) by Nancy Campbell Allen

When Lucy Pickett arrives at Blackwell Manor to tend to her ailing cousin, Kate, she finds more than she bargained for. A restless ghost roams the hallways, werewolves have been reported in the area, and vampires lurk across the Scottish border.

Lord Miles himself is clearly hiding a secret. He is brash and inhospitable and does not take kindly to visitors—even one as smart and attractive as Miss Pickett. He is unsettled by the mysterious deaths of his new wife, Clara, and his sister, Marie. Could Miles himself be to blame for the deaths?

Working together, Miles and Lucy attempt to restore peace to Blackwell Manor. But can Lucy solve the mystery of Miles? Can she love the man—beast and all?

Kiss of the Spindle (Proper Romance Steampunk) by Nancy Campbell Allen

A steampunk Sleeping Beauty story from the author of Beauty and the Clockwork Beast.

Doctor Isla Cooper is cursed. Literally. Each night, at the stroke of midnight she falls into a death-like sleep from which she cannot be awakened for six hours. To make it worse, the curse has an expiration date--after a year, it becomes permanent. And the year is almost up.

In a desperate attempt to find Malette--the witch who cursed her--Isla blackmails her way onto Daniel Pickett's private airship bound for the Caribbean, only to discover she's traveling with three illegal shapeshifters and the despicable Nigel Crowe, a government official determined to hunt down and exterminate every shapeshifter in England. Isla and Daniel must work together to keep the identities of the shapeshifters hidden while coming to terms with their own hidden secrets, and their blossoming attraction to each other.

Filled with suspense, intrigue, and plenty of romance, Kiss of the Spindle is steampunk Sleeping Beauty story. It is a race against the clock as Isla and Daniel try to hunt down the elusive Malette before Isla's death-like sleep becomes permanent.

The Lady in the Coppergate Tower (Proper Romance) by Nancy Campbell Allen

Hazel Hughes has spent her life believing she is a Medium—someone who can talk to ghosts. But as of yet, that skill has remained frustratingly elusive. She is also suffering from a reoccurring childhood dream of someone who looks almost exactly like Hazel, but this dream version of herself is slowly going mad.

Sam MacInnes is a talented surgeon who runs in the highest social circles thanks to his family’s position and history. When Sam hires Hazel to assist him with his medical practice, he is immediately drawn to her intelligence, wit, and beauty.

Their potential relationship is derailed one evening when a mysterious count arrives in London and reveals to Hazel the truth about her past: she was abducted at birth and her twin sister has fallen dangerously ill.

Hazel agrees to travel to Romania with Count Petrescu in order to save her sister, and Sam insists on accompanying her. The count has secrets, though, and the journey grows more sinister with every mile that draws Hazel closer to her homeland. Even as her feelings for Sam become deeper and more complicated, she fears she might not survive the quest to save her sister with her heart intact, not to mention her life. She must learn to draw on gifts she doesn’t know she has if they are going to ever return home again.

Hazel and Sam must fight their way past dark magic, clockwork beasts, and their own insecurities as they try to reach her sister in the impenetrable Coppergate Tower before time runs out.

Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts (Proper Romance) by Nancy Campbell Allen is $2.99.

A steampunk retelling of Cinderella.

Emmeline O’Shea has been an outspoken advocate for the shapeshifter community, which has come under unjust attack from a political body known as the PSRC (Predatory Shifter Regulations Committee), and her robust efforts have landed her a prestigious position as the spokesperson for the International Shifter Rights Organization. She has been selected to give the final address in Scotland before they vote on legislation that will grant protective rights to the shifter community. Because she is fundamentally changing the laws, she is also receiving death threats.

Oliver Reed is a by-the-book detective-inspector who has dealt with Emme’s borderline-illegal activism in the past, and there is little love lost between the two. When his superior tasks Oliver with guarding Emme around the clock to keep her safe until the summit is over, he is frustrated. He has several open cases requiring his attention, and his spare time is occupied with chasing down leads about the whereabouts of his brother, Vincent, a rogue vampire bent on causing trouble in Scotland.

When their airship is hijacked, Emme and Oliver are forced to parachute away before they exit British soil. They take refuge in Emme’s family’s hunting lodge where Oliver is introduced to her abusive stepsisters.

Together the pair must make their way to Edinburgh so as not to miss the summit meeting where Emme will be key in helping to pass legislation that will disband the corrupt PSRC. But between her vindictive sisters and Oliver’s rogue vampire brother, they face danger at every turn, not to mention dealing with their growing attraction for each other.

When Emme is kidnapped – leaving behind only one shoe as evidence – Oliver must find her before it’s too late – and the summit ends at midnight.

 

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Four Bargain Ebooks: Pax Arcana Series by Elliott James

 

The first four books in the Pax Arcana series by Elliott James is are on sale for $1.99 each right now to support the fifth book's release, Legend Has It. This is a fun series that plays with the Prince Charming archetype. It's compared to Supernatural and Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden. For me the biggest selling point is admittedly Patricia Briggs blurbing it since she is one of my current favorite paranormal authors.

I have featured the first book a few times on sale but not the other three. I didn't even own them yet in ebook format which shows they are not frequently if ever on sale.

Charming (Pax Arcana Book 1) by Elliott James

Sharp, sarcastic, and efficiently lethal, John Charming is set to join the ranks of your favorite fast-talking anti-heroes like Dean Winchester and Harry Dresden in the first book of this page-turning urban fantasy series.

John Charming isn't your average Prince. . .

He comes from a line of Charmings -- an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chain mail and crossbows to Kevlar and shotguns, John Charming was one of the best -- until a curse made him one of the abominations the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, John tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. That is, until a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar. . .

Charming is the first novel in a new urban fantasy series which gives a new twist to the Prince Charming tale.

Daring (Pax Arcana Book 2) by Elliott James

Sharp, sarcastic, and efficiently lethal, John Charming would feel right at home having drinks with Dean Winchester and Harry Dresden. DARING, the second book in the Pax Arcana series, is just as addicting as the first.

Something is rotten in the state of Wisconsin.

Werewolf packs are being united and absorbed into an army of super soldiers by a mysterious figure who speaks like an angel and fights like a demon. And every Knight Templar -- keepers of the magical peace between mankind and magickind -- who tries to get close to this big bad wolf winds up dead. No knight can infiltrate a group whose members can smell a human from a mile away. . .no knight except one.

John Charming. Ex knight. Current werewolf. Hunted by the men who trained him, he now might be their only salvation. But animal instincts are rising up to claim John more powerfully than ever before, and he must decide if this new leader of wolves is a madman. . .or a messiah.

Fearless (Pax Arcana Book 3) by Elliott James

Prince Charming rescues a student in a small college town in this fast-paced urban fantasy with rich world building and a strong female lead.

Someone, somewhere, has declared war on Kevin Kichida, and that someone has a long list of magical predators on their rolodex. The good news is that Kevin lives in a town where Ted Cahill is the new sheriff and old ally of John Charming.

The attacks on Kevin seem to be a pattern, and the more John and his new team follow that thread, the deeper they find themselves in a maze of supernatural threats, family secrets, and age-old betrayals. The more John learns, the more convinced he becomes that Kevin Kichida isn't just a victim, he's a sacrifice waiting to happen. And that thread John's following? It's really a fuse . . .

Fearless is the third novel in an urban fantasy series which gives a new twist to the Prince Charming tale.

In Shining Armor (Pax Arcana Book 4) by Elliott James

This fairy godmother's got claws.

When someone kidnaps the last surviving descendant of the Grandmaster of the Knights Templar, it's bad news. When the baby is the key to the tenuous alliance between a large werewolf pack and the knights, it's even worse news. They're at each other's throats before they've even begun to look for baby Constance.

But whoever kidnapped Constance didn't count on one thing: she's also the goddaughter of John Charming. Modern-day descendant of a long line of famous dragon slayers, witch finders, and wrong righters. John may not have any experience being a parent, but someone is about to find out that he can be one mean mother. . .

In is the fourth novel in a series which gives a new twist to the Prince Charming tale.

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Sunday, March 6, 2022

Lots of Fairy Tale Inspired Novels on Sale Today Only

There are several fairy tale related books on sale as Kindle Daily Deals which are probably price matched with other sellers today, too. There haven't been many sales in the last several months, but today makes up for it with a lot of recent releases for at least half off.

 

  Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim which is a Six Swans retelling

 
 
  A Wolf for a Spell by Karah Sutton has Baba Yaga in it

 

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente which has Bluebeard as inspiration

 

Malice: A Novel by Heather Walter is inspired by Sleeping Beauty

   

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber has nods to Tricksters (Jacks) tropes

There's also Holly Black's How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories and well, just check out the entire list at Kindle Daily Deals.
 

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Thursday, November 4, 2021

New Book: Little Thieves by Margaret Owen, a Goose Girl Inspired Novel


Little Thieves by Margaret Owen (Amazon Affiliate link) is a new release this month. It's more unusual since it is inspired by The Goose Girl, one of those fairy tales beloved by fairy tale aficionados and unknown by almost everyone else because it hasn't gotten the Disney treatment. 

Book description:

A scrappy maid must outsmart both palace nobles and Low Gods in a new YA fantasy by Margaret Owen, author of the Merciful Crow series.

Once upon a time, there was a horrible girl...

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love―and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele's dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself.
 
The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed. 
 
Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancĂ©, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life. 
 
Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Bargain Ebook: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer for $1.99


My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer is on sale TODAY ONLY for $1.99 in ebook format. I've owned this in paper for years but I like to get these in digital format, too, when they are priced to duplicate my paper library.

Book description:

The fairy tale lives again in this book of forty new stories by some of the biggest names in contemporary fiction.
Neil Gaiman, “Orange”
Aimee Bender, “The Color Master”
Joyce Carol Oates, “Blue-bearded Lover”
Michael Cunningham, “The Wild Swans”
These and more than thirty other stories by Francine Prose, Kelly Link, Jim Shepard, Lydia Millet, and many other extraordinary writers make up this thrilling celebration of fairy tales—the ultimate literary costume party. 
Spinning houses and talking birds. Whispered secrets and borrowed hope. Here are new stories sewn from old skins, gathered by visionary editor Kate Bernheimer and inspired by everything from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and “The Little Match Girl” to Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” and “Cinderella” to the Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rumpelstiltskin” to fairy tales by Goethe and Calvino and from China, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, Norway, and Mexico.
Fairy tales are our oldest literary tradition, and yet they chart the imaginative frontiers of the twenty-first century as powerfully as they evoke our earliest encounters with literature. This exhilarating collection restores their place in the literary canon.


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Saturday, September 11, 2021

Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes Airing 9/17/2021 on PBS Great Performances

 

Great Performances on PBS will be airing Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes on September 17, 2021. Bourne is well-known for his interpretations of Sleeping Beauty, The Red Shoes, Swan Lake and Cinderella. 

From PBS:

Experience Hans Christian Andersen’s dark fairytale from acclaimed director-choreographer Matthew Bourne with this Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation starring Ashley Shaw, Adam Cooper, Dominic North and Michaela Meazza.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Bargain Ebook The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall, $1.99 TODAY ONLY


The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall is on sale TODAY ONLY for $1.99 in ebook format. This isn't quite a folklore book but it's certainly an adjacent topic. I bought this last time it was on sale but unfortunately it still sits in my long TBR list as life keeps distracting me from my passions.

Book description:

Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It’s easy to say that humans are “wired” for story, but why?

In this delightful and original book, Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems—just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival.

Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?

Of course, our story instinct has a darker side. It makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories, advertisements, and narratives about ourselves that are more “truthy” than true. National myths can also be terribly dangerous: Hitler’s ambitions were partly fueled by a story.

But as Gottschall shows in this remarkable book, stories can also change the world for the better. Most successful stories are moral—they teach us how to live, whether explicitly or implicitly, and bind us together around common values. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.

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