I won an ARC of this book via the awesome giveaway section of Goodreads, and I did a little happy dance because this whole process is so new to me and I actually WON something. So, please don’t shoot me (I’m specifically looking at you, sj) when I admit I don’t know much about Phillip Pullman. I don’t, um, actually know anything about him. After receiving the book, I did a quick search to see what else he’s written, and I’m outside his primarily fantasy demographic, having read maybe one fantasy book ever (I am definitely counting A Wrinkle in Time here).
What drew me to this book is my interest in oral and traditional stories that are constantly reworked, even still today. In that regard, the work does not disappoint. Pullman’s book is less a collection of fairy tales than it is a research project; most, but probably not all, of the individual stories readers will be familiar with, but Pullman’s end notes show the work he contributes in the form of categorization and authorial input. What the volume lacks in eloquence or originality it makes up for in research potential.
That said, reading the work was a special kind of blend of nostalgia and slight annoyance; I am not usually drawn to simplistic prose, and these tales are told in the kind of straightforward, accessible manner that I associate with very YA works. I could more easily see myself reading this to my children than I could rereading it alone, which has its own appeal. And with an impressive 50 stories included, my young kids and I could easily spend months going through all the stories. Taking a literary trip back to my childhood through these tales was enjoyable in its own right as well, so while I don’t foresee myself diving back in alone, Pullman’s work would be great for family reading (and potentially academic research, in the right context).