Book Reviews

Review: Brave Red, Smart Frog: A New Book of Old Tales by Emily Jenkins

Brave Red, Smart Frog is a collection of fairy tales that are told more faithfully than the versions we might be aware of from the Brothers Grimm, for example. Before these tales they existed as oral versions, passed around campfires. Retold with insight from the author, these fairy tales are not only more authentic to how they were born, but also told with a special point of view.

There’s no traditional summary here, but I can tell you which tales are in the book: Snow White, The Frog Prince, Three Wishes, Toads and Pearls, Red Riding Hood, The Three Great Noodles, and Hansel and Gretel. At the beginning I was reading into these like they were re-tellings or re-imaginations, but don’t get caught in the same trap I did. These aren’t.

Reading the author’s note gives you some more perspective as they are returning back to their roots, before Perrault and the Grimm versions. Having done some work with fairy tales in my studies, I am aware of their evolution and the ways that Perrault and Grimm have influenced the older versions with their own special gleam or purpose for them. Not only that, but these are the tales that have become more widely known to us today. So in that similar vein, Jenkins indeed highlights certain aspects of the tales more than before.


That being said, I enjoyed the book, especially the tales we didn’t know before, but felt that its coverage of the ones that are well known was redundant. The differences are not large and you have to really be looking for them, like I was to notice them. Like the fact that Snow White’s parents were not happily married, unlike the impression that so many have because of shows like Once Upon a Time and other popular culture stories. There may have been subtle changes made by Jenkins in the other tales, but since I am not so familiar with them, I couldn’t spot them.

While this is a charming collection in and of itself, perhaps if you’ve never heard of them, and it does have a great purpose – to bring them back to how they were before – I think that reading a version of the oral tale before would be more beneficial. You can find them online, with a little work. And I think the differences would be much more shocking. Would I discourage this entirely? No, I just wouldn’t add it to my permanent fairy tale collection.

You can find Brave Red, Smart Frog on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review on Netgalley.


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If you like re-tellings you might like The Seafarer’s Kiss

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