5. Outlaw: The True Story of Robin Hood by Michael Morpurgo
This is a YA retelling of the classic legend by the author best known for the hugely successful War Horse. Homeless and lost in a dark, strange forest, young Robin is rescued by a motley crew of misfits. He yearns to avenge the death of his father and seek justice against cruel oppressors, to finally defeat the Sheriff of Nottingham, once and for all. Through his friends, Robin Hood finds the courage to become a legendary hero. There’s no dramatic deviation from the original story here, but Morpurgo’s simple, warm writing breathes new life into characters you’ll root for until the very end.
4. Alice by Christina Henry
This retelling and continuation of Alice in Wonderland is not for the faint-hearted. When Alice emerges from the rabbit hole, bloodied and disfigured, sexually assaulted and only able to mutter the words “the rabbit,” her family send her to a lunatic asylum. She spends ten years confined until eventually escaping, and then she sets about rediscovering who she was, what really happened and who she might have been. It’s dark, disturbing and endlessly gory, but with clever nods to the original and a belated coming-of-age tale at its core; one of an adult Alice adapting to life outside the asylum that has all the ingredients to break your heart.
3. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
This is the ultimate satire of The Pied Piper of Hamlin in which Maurice the cat, his band of con-artist rats and their intellectually-challenged flute-playing human travel from town to town, faking plagues and swindling the unsuspecting inhabitants before moving on. It overflows with Pratchett’s usual charm, knowing humour and playful language but also raises philosophical and ethical questions about human nature with the lightest of touch. The message, however, that Pratchett never lets go of despite his taunts and ridicules, is his fondness for people and the importance of hope.
2. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Described as ‘Brothers Grimm by way of Patricia Highsmith and Stephen King’, this graphic story collection blends fairy tales with epic, gothic horror. The illustrations are extravagant and undeniably beautiful, but the book’s real strength is in how powerfully it depicts the mind as complicit in uncovering the darkest meanings of fairy tales. Those who are already guilty or hiding secrets, it says, always have the most to fear.
1. Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Boy Snow Bird is part retelling of Snow White, part complete critical reimagining. It uses the bones of the original story to examine racial tension and gender in 1950s America, with captivating language and without the hint of a lecture in sight. The twists of the narrative are entirely unpredictable and the characters never develop as you think they might, instead challenging the reader to consider the fluidity of identity, and whether redemption can ever truly be achieved.