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Forgotten Fairy Tales and Unlikely Heroes

Authored by Mary Sebag-Montefoire
Illustrated by Anastasiia Nesterova, Wazza Pink, Diana Renzina and Sara Ugolotti
Published by Usborne Publishing Ltd

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Forgotten Fairy Tales and Unlikely Heroes is the third of Usborne’s illustrated collections of Forgotten Fairy Tales, and the second authored by Mary Sebag-Montefoire, who has a proven track record in adapting classic tales for younger readers.

The collection contains seven tales, five of which are traditional and two based on literary stories. The traditional tales are drawn from the Indian, Estonian, Romanian, and Norwegian traditions with the Indian, Estonian and Romanian tales being based on English source texts by Nora Alleyene and Andrew Lang. The literary tales are based on works by Marion St John Webb and Juliana Ewing.

The book is illustrated throughout and populates the stories with an ethnically diverse collection of characters that are rendered in a simple cartoon-like style. Each story begins with a full-page illustration which summarises the opening section of the tale, and then almost every double-page has either a picture inset within the text, or a topping or tailing image.

The writing of Forgotten Fairy Tales and Unlikely Heroes would suit a Key Stage 2 reader and audience, with the occasional challenging vocabulary perhaps making it more suitable as a read aloud for children in Lower Key Stage 2. The adaptation of the stories will make them appeal to children who enjoy Disney adaptations, with lots of affirming emotions and lessons learnt (which are for the most part missing in Alleyene and Lang). Interestingly, the collection does, however, fly in the face of current trends in fairy tale adaptation by changing two of the female protagonists in the source texts to male characters (and I would certainly be interested to know the reasoning behind this). If I was using this text with children in Upper Key Stage 2, I would certainly want to use the source texts alongside it so that the children can see how traditional tales are adapted and examine some of the choices that authors make.