Welcome to Audio File, a podcast dedicated to providing audiobook recommendations from Camrose Public Library’s collection. In our third episode, we recommend five titles connected to fairy tales and folklore. Thanks for listening!
Hello everyone and welcome to Audio File, a Camrose Public Library Podcast Series. On this podcast, we recommend audiobooks that are truly music to the ears and available right here at CPL. Today’s episode will be focusing on five titles that deal with fairy tales and folklore. This means everything from re-tellings and re-imagining to fairy tales for a new generation. Let’s get to it!
Our first pick is the Adult Horror/Speculative Fiction The Girl in Red by Christina Henry. It's not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She’s just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn't look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.
There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there's something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined. Red doesn't like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn't about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods.
Henry has published many re-imaginings of fairy tales with this one being a worthy stand out. This post-apocalyptic take on Little Red Riding Hood takes the seeds of the original story and has them blossom in a much grittier direction, but with more depth too. The characters are human in the best and worst ways and do a good job of making the environment seem more realistic, and thus making the situation all the more frightening. While this story might feel a bit closer to home give the current climate, the story veers sharply away from reality into a worst-case scenario with a disease that is markedly different from anything real.
The 2019 Penguin Random House Audio production of The Girl in Red is read by January LaVoy. LaVoy does a spectacular job here by perfectly inhabiting the character of Red and doing an equally impressive job at portraying the other characters. Her smooth delivery shifts to provide emotion in all the right places and her naturally great speaking voice ties the whole thing together. The use of first person here lends itself well to the audio format and makes the story feel like it’s being told around a campfire. If you’re looking for a little red riding hood with more bite, try The Girl in Red.
Our next pick is the Young Adult Unbirthday by Liz Brazwell. What if Wonderland was in peril and Alice was very, very late? Alice is different than other eighteen-year-old ladies in Kexford, which is perfectly fine with her. She'd rather spend golden afternoons with her trusty camera or in her aunt Vivian's lively salon, ignoring her sister's wishes that she stop all that "nonsense" and become a "respectable" member of society. Alice is happy to meander to Miss. Yao's teashop or to visit the children playing in the Square. She's also interested in learning more about the young lawyer she met there, but just because she's curious, of course, not because he was sweet and charming.
But when Alice develops photographs she has recently taken about town, familiar faces of old suddenly appear in the place of her actual subjects—the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar. There's something eerily off about them, even for Wonderland creatures. And as Alice develops a self-portrait, she finds the most disturbing image of all—a badly injured dark-haired girl asking for Alice's help. Mary Ann. Returning to the place of nonsense from her childhood, Alice finds herself on a mission to stop the Queen of Hearts' tyrannical rule and to find her place in both worlds. But will she able to do so before the End of Time?
This tale is more sequel than strict re-telling, but it does also twist the story into a darker version of itself. In “Unbirthday”, the characters are subjected to much more violent and tyrannical horrors from the Queen of Hearts than ever before while still being appropriate for a Young Adult audience. The events of the original Alice in Wonderland have still occurred and I would recommend being familiar with those events at least loosely before tackling this story. The political undertones of Alice In Wonderland become overtones here, but manage not to take away from the bizarre and fantastical adventure of teenage Alice in what, I feel, is a worthy successor to Lewis’s vision.
The 2020 Blackstone Publishing production of “Unbirthday” is read by Lorna Bennett. Bennett, being a British actor with a talent for numerous regional accents, is ideal here in this follow up to a very British fairy tale. Her range also suits the large cast and makes each encounter with a new character feel unique. She’s a pitch-perfect Alice and her overall performance makes this new, dark version of Wonderland come alive. If you’re curious as to what happened to Alice in her later years, try Unbirthday.
Next, we have the one, the only Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, adapted for audio by Diane Vanden Hoven. In this classic tale of good and evil, Snow White is pursued by a vengeful Queen who is jealous of her natural beauty and goodness. Undeterred, the Queen learns of Snow White's hiding place with the Dwarves in the woods and prepares a plan to poison her with an apple.
This dramatized version features a full cast of characters, music and sound effects. Join Snow White, played by Georgia Lee Schultz, as she journeys into the world of The Evil Queen, Udo the Huntsman, the Magic Mirror, the Prince, Deidre the Dove, Albrecht the Owl, and the deep dark woods.
Sometimes the best fairy tale is the original, and this 2016 Voices in the Wind Audio Theatre production proves that. While the story clocks in at a mere sixty minutes, this story is a true experience and makes you feel like a fly on the wall watching the whole thing unfold. The execution is utterly charming and quite engaging as well. It’s designed as middle grade level fiction, but can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. If you’re in the mood for a fairy tale radio drama for the whole family, try Snow White.
Moving back into the Young Adult realm, we have Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon. For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya's little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she'll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya's annoyance, Grey's brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There's simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending...right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he's doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta's International Academy, he's lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can't shake the feeling that she's hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck... As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it's possible to write your own happy ending.
This contemporary spin on Beauty and the Beast brings in interesting new elements to the story, such as the Belle character becoming an heiress to an old Indian kingdom and thus a Princess in her own right. Given its roots, the ending might feel a bit inevitable but that doesn’t make the journey any less enjoyable.
There are not one, but two narrators for the 2020 Simon and Schuster audio production for Of Curses and Kisses: Shiromi Arserio and Jason Carpenter. The book has alternating first-person narratives and having a duo provide the voices makes the experience much richer than what a single narrator could provide. Arserio and Carpenter have nice vocal chemistry, and while some listeners might prefer one voice over the other, they ultimately work together to craft a well-rounded narrative that gives listeners two distinct sides of the story. If you’re a fan of Beauty and The Beast but are tired of booting up the Disney movie, try Of Curses and Kisses.
Our last pick is in the land of middle grade fiction, where one fairy tale stands out, and that would be The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.
The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed—Sophie's dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are?
This story is a great example of how to subvert expectations and has fun by turning traditional fairy tale concepts on their heads. It encourages a deeper look at our assumptions based on looks and background while also being humorous and entertaining. This is a great choice for readers of any age and is the first is in a series.
The 2013 HarperCollins audio production of The School for Good and Evil is narrated by Polly Lee. Lee’s talent is apparent from the beginning and she has ample experience and accolades to her name. She’s narrated over fifty nonfiction and young adult fiction books and has received numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards for her work. In addition, she’s narrated over sixty romance novels under the name Ashford McNab, receiving multiple Audie nominations for her work on Elizabeth Hoyt's Maiden Lane series. Lee brings her A game here to give listeners a fantastic overall performance. She is also the narrator for the next two audiobooks in the series so it’s nice to know there’s some auditory continuity to look forward to if listeners enjoy the first book. If you’re in the market for a world shaped like a fairytale but with a twist, try The School for Good and Evil.
That’s it for this episode of Audio File. All audiobooks discussed are available at Camrose Public Library in audio CD or downloadable audio format. Thanks very much for listening and remember to stay curious.