In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.
Before I get started, I want to preface this by saying that I tend to be an enormous fan of retellings. Combine that with the fact that I am teaching nursery rhymes throughout this school year to my first graders, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that I was going to enjoy this book. Like most anthologies this one has its high and low points, but for the most part I’d rate the stories included in my e-galley 3 stars or above, with just a couple of exceptions. I’m not going to go into major detail on each of the individual stories, however; if you want to see my thoughts on most of the stories I read, please checkout my Goodreads status updates.
Just as a heads-up as well, my e-galley didn’t include all of the stories that are found in the completed version, so I can’t make any comments regarding Interlude: Humpty Dumpty, one of the versions of Sea of Dew, and The Lion and the Unicorn: Part the Second. All of the other stories, however, were included, and I did read all of them.
For me, in order to be a good retelling, you have to be able to see the original sourcework somewhere in the story. Because of this, some of the tales fell a bit flat for me, particularly if it was about a nursery rhyme I was familiar with. It was for this reason alone that Blue was not one that I particularly enjoyed. It was simply too confusing and not explained terribly well. On the other hand,Sing A Song of Six Pence and Wee Willie Winkie were extraordinarily well done. Other highlights for me included Tick Tock (fabulously creepy!) and I Come Bearing Souls (I am not ashamed to admit that I loved this one simply because it included Egyptian Mythology). And then you had Life In A Shoe, which was simply too short; it needed a lot more to allow for the necessary world-building, and ended too abruptly.
All in all, Two and Twenty Dark Tales is a solid anthology with some true gems. If you enjoy retellings – particularly of the creepy variety – you would most likely find at least a handful of stories in this collection to entertain you. I know it certainly made me look at some of the nursery rhymes a little differently!
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.