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A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy
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Review: Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge, illustrated by Andrea Dezso. Candlewick Press. 2012. Reviewed from ARC from publisher.

The Plot: Fairy tales retold in free verse.

The Good: I love retold fairy tales, especially when they twist and tweak and turn inside out. You may remember that from my post about the TV show Once Upon A Time. Take something you think is familiar, look at it from a new direction, what new truths are there?

Most of these tales live in a world that is both modern and fairy tale. The first one is The Stepsisters, from Cinderella, and begins “I write this on a brailler, a kind of typewriter/ for the blind.” Like some (but not all) of these stories, it takes the viewpoint of a secondary character (the stepsisters) and makes references  that are both non-fairy tale (a brailler) and classic (the birds pecking out their eyes.) It gives a different perspective: “Mother turned us against our stepsister,/ belittling her.”

My favorite of the short tales in Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses is Hansel and Gretel, perhaps because I’ve never quite liked the father: “Their parents want to kill them./ Not the father so much, but he’s a beaten dog./ A jellyfish, a limp noodle, a nobody.” Honestly, what type of father allows the abandonment of his children?

Readers who don’t just like fairy tales, but like when there is a bit of a different approach, will enjoy what Koertge does to old favorites.

Other reviews: Guys Lit Wire; and Professor Nana.

About Elizabeth Burns

Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is


  1. I’m not a big fan of free verse, but will probably make an exception for this one as I am a big fan of fairy tale retellings particularly from the pov of a different character. I like these details you’ve revealed. Also, I love the title.

  2. Free verse isn’t for everyone; and I admit, that one of the reasons I like it is that it makes a book shorter/ quicker to read. Let me know if the fairy tale aspect makes up for the free verse.