Candlewick Press, July 2012.

There are two things that pretty much guarantee my interest in a book I haven’t yet read:

1. Fairy tale retellings.

2. Ron Koertge.

I have yet to read anything by Koertge that I’ve disliked — poetry or prose, adult or young adult.  And his latest, LIES, KNIVES AND GIRLS IN RED DRESSES, is no less than what I’d expect from a fairy tale book by Ron Koertge.

Cleverly blending the classic, gruesome, Grimm-style folklore with a few modern references, each poem in Koertge‘s short collection is a mini retelling of a fairytale.  Spanning from classics like “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella” to lesser known tales like “The Little Match Girl” and “Diamonds and Toads,” each poem takes on a distinctive, artful voice to carry the short narrative.

Among my favorite pieces are “Rapunzel, a Story in Five Parts,” a suite of poems in which each player from Rapunzel’s mother to Rapunzel herself gives testimony.  There’s also “Memoirs of the Beast,” in which Beauty’s beau recounts the tale, including the after Ever After part.  The Red Ridinghood retelling is brilliant, with a Red who confesses a bit of a naughty side.

Accompanied by beautiful cut-paper illustrations by Andrea Dezsö, this is a book that both teen readers and adults will want to read over and over again.  It’s the sort of book that one must buy in hardcover and keep in a drawer in a nightstand.  I hope you’ll go find a copy for yourself.