Marr, M., & Pratt, T. (2013). Rags & bones: New twists on timeless tales. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Plot Summary: This is a collection of short stories put together by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt. The stories are all new twists on classic tales these range from fairy tales like The Sleeper and The Spindle by Neil Gaiman which was based on the story of Sleeping Beauty to science fiction like That the Machine May Progress Eternally by Carrie Ryan based on E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops. The varied genres used as inspiration in the book provide great variety as do the chosen authors. While the authors all share a common popularity in YA their writing styles are all different and varied. Many of the stories share creepy or sad elements but overall the selection is very diverse.
Critical Evaluation: The selected stories show a good amount of diversity in genre including fairy tales, horror, science fiction, myth, adventure and fantasy. There was less diversity among the actual characters in the stories with most being either white or the writer was ambiguous about their race. The book also features artwork by Charles Ves between some of the stories. These pictures are representative of different stories and feature a paragraph explaining the author’s inspiration for the picture. The pictures as well done they simple black and white drawings but are very detailed and interesting. As they are their own standalone interpretation of stories they do not add to an overall narrative but do add some cohesiveness to the overall collection. Each short story also features a paragraph written by its author to explain their inspiration for the story they wrote. This once again adds cohesiveness to the overall collection and provides interesting insight into how the collection was put together. This also adds context for readers who are not familiar with the original story that the short story was based on. Even for more well-known stories it adds context as to how that particular interpretation came to be. Overall the stories chosen for this collection fit well together united by the artwork throughout the book and the artist and author explanations of their inspiration.
Reader’s Annotation: You may know these classic tales but you have never heard them told this way. Rags and Bones offers unique retellings of classic tales written by popular young adult authors.
Author Information: Rags and Bones was edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt who asked writers to retell stories that had moved them or fascinated them to make something new. The collection includes stories by these authors as well as: Carrie Ryan, Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Rick Yancey, Margaret Stohl, Kelly Armstrong, Kami Garcia, Saladin Ahmed, and Gene Wolf. There are also illustrations by Charles Vess.
Genre: Short Stories, Fiction
Curriculum Ties: This book could be assigned reading for learning about short stories.
Book Talk Ideas: 1) Which of the inspiration stories were you famillar with and how did the retellings compare?
2) If you were going to rewrite a tale that has fascinated you which story would you pick and how would you change it?
Reading Level & Interest Level: Barnes and Noble lists the age range for this book as 13-18 which seems appropriate and in sync with the interest level for this book. I think some younger readers familiar with Holly Black and Neil Gaiman, who write for both YA and Middle grade readers, may be interested in the book. Younger readers possibly will still enjoy the book but the language and writing style is clearly geared toward older readers.
Challenge Issues: While some of the stories are a little dark there is nothing in the stories that stands out as graphically violent, sexual or otherwise objectionable. The authors are popular with teens and many have written award winning books.
Why is it included?: I wanted to include at least one book of short stories due to a discussion I had in one of my classes about how short stories are shelved and how much teens actually read short stories. Based on this discussion, it seems that short stories are not particularly popular with teens though no one was sure why that was. Rags and Bones is a really interesting collection and features so many great and well-loved YA authors so I think it would be a great tool to use to promote short stories to teens.