Patricia Santos Marcantonio. Red Ridin’ In the Hood and Other Cuentos. Illus. Renato Alarcão. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2005.
This collection was a neat idea by Marcantonio, who wrote it as an “answer to her childhood desire to see Latino culture embodied in the stories she cherished.”* Her Roja (Red) lives in a Hispanic neighborhood in the city, taking a shortcut down Forest Street to her abuela’s apartment. “El Día de los Muertos,” an Orpheus and Eurydice story, takes place in the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlán. The Beauty in “Belleza y La Bestia” is the daughter of a Mexican revolutionary.
My favorite stories were “Jaime and Gabriela,” a re-imagined “Hansel and Gretel” set in a desert where the witch lives in a house made of pan dulce and tamales, and “The Piper of Harmonía,” about a town infested by lizards and the ungrateful citizens who cheat their savior. I also liked how Marcantonio reworked “Sleeping Beauty” with a sympathetic witch and a twist at the end.
My least favorite story was “Emperador’s New Clothes”; Veronica’s plan to teach the vain Emperador a lesson comes together too easily, and his sudden change of heart is too unrealistic. I know these are fairy tales, but when a story is given a more modern setting, I expect it to follow more modern narrative logic as well. I also would’ve liked it better if the “wolf” in the title story was more creatively re-interpreted as a human villain instead of a literal wolf.
Otherwise, these are fantastic examples of re-imagined fairy tales.
I recently started a new job as a library shelver, and as I was returning books to the children’s cookbook section, I discovered these two gems by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple:
Food and stories are a time-honored pair, according to Yolen and Stemple.
From the earliest days of stories, when hunters came home from the hunt to tell of their exploits around the campfire while gnawing on a leg of beast, to the era of kings in castles listening to the storyteller at the royal dinner feast, to the time of TV dinners when whole families gathered to eat and watch movies together, stories and eating have been close companions.
So it is not unusual that folk stories are often about food: Jack’s milk cow traded for beans, Snow White given a poisoned apple, a pancake running away from those who would eat it.**
And so, these two unique cookbooks match fairy and folk tales with fitting recipes – “Cinderella” and pumpkin tartlets, “The Little Mermaid” and seaweed stuffed shells, “The Loaves In the Ark” and challah bread. In the margins or after each story, Yolen includes information about the story’s origins and variants, and the recipes are enriched with facts about the main ingredients – like the history of apples in ancient Greece and Rome, or the origin and varieties of beans. One recipe I definitely want to try is the one for pomegranate couscous in Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts. Yum!
* from the back jacket flap
** from the Introduction to Fairy Tale Feasts: a Literary Cookbook For Young Readers & Eaters. Tales retold by Jane Yolen. Recipes by Heidi E.Y. Stemple. Illus. Philippe Béha. Northampton, MA: Crocodile Books, 2006.
The other book is Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: a Literary Cookbook. Illus. Sima Elizabeth Shefrin. Northampton, MA: Crocodile Books, 2013.