Fearless Fairy Tales

Fearless Fairy Tales
Konnie Huq & James Kay, illustrated by Rikin Parekh
Piccadilly Press

If like me you’re fond of fractured fairy tales, then this subversive collection of seventeen is a must have. Even the titles made this reviewer splutter with giggles and as for the important note before the contents page, I’ll say no more.

On closer reading it’s probably true to say the stories have been not so much fractured as entirely pulverised, pounded and then reconstituted adding new magic to the mangled mores of old, replacing them with modern reinventions for a more demanding, “I can change the world” generation.

I couldn’t resist turning first to Trumplestiltskin and sure enough there is the easily identifiable ‘Trumple’ hailing from the United States of Kraziness. Said little man is obsessed with gold and power mad. No need for me to regale the whole sorry story – it had me in stitches throughout – but having thrown the king and his daughter, Princess Marla into a dark dungeon, an aide lets slip that Marla can spin straw into gold.

Needless to say, Trumple cannot resist making the girl an offer and the princess being a pretty savvy person, eventually manages to out-trumple the Trumple. (Love the postscript.)
Rumplestiltskin has been my favourite fairy tale since as a youngster, I heard the late Sara Corrin tell it at a book event. She’s in my head narrating this new one even now.

There’s also Sleeping Brainy (‘a flipping genius!’) who aspires to become Chancellor of the Exchequer and does so – against all the odds.

Absolutely cracking is Mouldysocks and the Three Bears in which he of the stinky foot attire is computer crazy. This almost causes his complete undoing when Mummy Bear, Other Mummy Bear and the little baby bear return from their forest foray –

that and the disgusting pong emanating from a certain pair of socks bad enough to put Baby Bear off his porridge. All ends happily however with everyone, including Mouldysocks (newly named) living spotlessly ever after.

It’s impossible to talk about every story in this review but I must  mention that The Princess and the Snog is written entirely in verse. Herein we meet pink-haired Pandora and the frog that catches her punchball when it lands in his boggy residence. Does she want to grant him a kiss – err … not quite and the outcome is, ‘A very wise rule for a mister or miss: / You choose who you / hug and you choose / who you kiss.” No coercive control for this wily young miss.

Finally, another princess – Zareen by name – is only a princess because that’s what her stepmother Tania (a goodie rather than the usual kind) calls her. Actually she’s a normal girl residing in the ‘magical suburb of Crystal Palace and dead keen to follow the latest school playground craze and get a Zoom Peashooter (basically just an overpriced paper straw). Hence the title The Princess and the Peashooter.

She ends up having got her mitts on one, with a rather funky eyepatch due to an errant flying shot – not hers – and being the leader of the anti-peashooter side for the next school debate. Bring on the Zoom Bands, say I. Much less dangerous, or maybe not …

Make sure you read this corker of a book right past THE END, including the small print. I’m wondering who would score higher on the enjoyment scale, team Konnie and James and illustrator Rikin, or readers who guffaw their way through its pages, relishing every satirical story,

Marie Curious Girl Genius Saves the World / Cookie and the Most Annoying Girl in the World

Marie Curious Girl Genius Saves the World
Chris Edison
Orchard Books

This is the first of a proposed new series featuring twelve-year-old inventor Marie Curious.

Marie is mega-excited when she receives an unexpected parcel containing a message from one Sterling Vance head of a high-tech corporation in California, inviting her to spend her summer holidays at Vance Camp in his high-tech headquarters. Marie can hardly believe that her robot project has won her a place among thirty other mega-bright young scientists and the theme of the camp is to be robotics. Perfect.

There she and the other campers get the opportunity to attend tutorials and workshops given by the world’s top scientists, test some incredible gadgets and to build robot entries for the competition, the winner being given a year’s apprenticeship and an all expenses paid trip to the world’s biggest tech fair.

Something’s not quite right though. First there’s Marie’s roommate who is very standoffish and then it appears that somebody is sabotaging the campers’ robots. Vance had told Marie when she arrived that there was a spy in the camp but who could it be?

Next comes talk of a computer virus that will create havoc the world over. Competition or no competition, Marie decides that teamwork is key if they are to outwit the culprit and prevent a catastrophic outcome. No pressure then …

A gripping story that will keep readers guessing almost to the big reveal.

Cookie and the Most Annoying Girl in the World
Konnie Huq
Piccadilly Press

Cookie returns and now, as she celebrates her tenth birthday, she finds herself having to cope with the world’s most annoying girl, Suzie Ashby.

Disappointed in discovering that Suzie is holding her birthday party on the day of Cookie’s actual double figures birthday, the day she intended to hold her own party, and even worse, that she is inviting everyone in the class, is only the start of Cookie’s problems.

Next she discovers that her own mum has already committed them to spend the day at Uncle Mehdi’s house for a family reunion making matters worse. Plus, instead of the bike she really, really wants from her mum and dad, all she gets is a token for £25 for the local bike shop.

But then she’s given two tickets to see popstar, Aliana Tiny: perhaps things will start looking up after all.

Or perhaps not: enter Mrs Edmonds, supply teacher, who seems intent on dishing out detentions to Cookie and her pals – except that they’re not really all her pals right then for she’s managed to fall out with both her besties Keziah and Jake.

Then said teacher starts a misleadingly titled club that isn’t at all what Cookie et al. are anticipating. Turns out though that, ex army Mrs E. isn’t quite as awful as they’d first thought, especially as she organises a weekend camping trip; and pretty eventful that proves to be.

But can Cookie manage to win back Jake and Keziah, save the planet and get that much longed-for bike? Now telling would be story-spoiling so I’ll say no more other than there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in this enormously appealing sequel throughout which Konnie Huq has liberally strewn hilarious drawings to accompany Cookie’s narrative.