Two and Twenty Dark Tales

Title- Two and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes
Authors- Karen Mahoney, Lisa Mantchey, Georgia McBride, C. Lee McKenzie, Gretchen McNeil, and more...
Stand Alone
Format- ebook
Publisher- Month9Books
Published- October 16th, 2012
Pages- 312
Source- NetGalley

Mother Goose's classic tales are turned into short stories by twenty authors. From Jack and Jill to Sing a Song of Six-Pence these tales will show you the dark side of the fairy tales we've grown up with.

This book took me way longer than I thought it would. Most of the stories are intense and going from world to world was a struggle. We don't know it when we are young but later on we realize how grim fairy tales and nursery rhymes really are. Despite the long time it took me to read this book I enjoyed most of the stories. There were a couple where it was like eh but there was an even greater amount that impressed me. When I went back to look at some stories I wanted to show off and review individually I realized that there was a lot more stories I really enjoyed that I wanted to review. Overall most of the stories were tragic/tragically beautiful but some were sad but more than that they were hopeful. I don't know any of these authors and that needs to change. These stories were so well crafted that in some I was left in awe and in one in particular I was left happily crying. Here are five out of many great Mother Goose nursery rhymes turned into short stories:

Sing a Song of Six-Pence by Sarwat Chadda

"Sing a song of sixpence, A pocket full of rye; Four and twenty blackbirds Bakes in a pie.
When the pie was opened, They all began to sing.
Now, wasn't that a dainty dish To set before the King?
The King was in his counting house, Counting out his money; The Queen was in the parlor Eating bread and honey. The maid was in the garden, Hanging out the clothes.
Along there came a big black bird And snipped off her nose!"

Here a big black bird sits waiting for it's next victim. A maid enters and asks for a trade. The bird is used to souls as a trade but the maid isn't dumb. She wants something worth living to see. She must steal a dish filled with the brethren of the big black bird and in return he must take her over the wall where nothing but misery will befall her. She doesn't care. In the end they both get what they want but of course it ends in pain but it's such a great ending. This was the first short story I was truly impressed with. I knew after reading this one that this book was going to be great.

Life in a Shoe by Heidi R. Kling

"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, Who had so many children she didn't know what to do. So she gave them some broth without any bread And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed."

I've never read the end of that poem. I guess most authors retelling nursery rhymes thought it too messed up to add it into a book for little kids. I actually thought this rhyme was very whimsical and fun...before. In this short story the setting seems very post-apocalyptic. Men are away at war but they come back fairly regularly and to get their women pregnant. So here's this woman, angry and uncaring that she has so many kids she can't feed in this tiny apartment. The kids are the ones that suffer the most. The kids make a decision. It's a very hopeful sort of ending. It's a story I won't soon forget.

The Well by K.M. Walton

"Jack and Jill Went up the hill. To fetch a pail of water. Jack feel down And broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. Up Jack got And home did trot As fast as he could caper. Went to bed And plastered his head With vinegar and brown paper."

This one's crazy awesome. I mean of course it's going to be the bloodiest of them all. Jack breaking his crown has always meant him cracking his head open. This is another dystopian. A virus broke out and Jack and Jill are the only ones left in their town. They just happen to mention how their father racked with pain and sorrow after his wife died in childbirth threw himself in a well where his bones remain. Now with that terrifying image in your head aren't you worried what will happen with that well and the two siblings? I already knew. This wasn't going to be a hopeful ending. It's not exactly tragic. It's a horror story and it was unbelievable. Jill was such a pain throughout. She hates her brother for being the cause of her mother's death. Not only that, everyone treats him like he's the greatest person ever. Now boys and girls this is why envy is one of the seven deadly sins. Don't mess with envy because it's going to bite you back... hard. Craziness ensues. Loved it all.

The Wish by Suzanne Young

"Star Light Star bright, The first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight."

Lauren just had her relationship end not to long agonand she's not taking it well. Not only that but her parents are constantly fighting and don't see her so one day she wishes that she was dead. Pretty pathetic right? Peter, the mysterious boy who shows up by her certainly thinks so. It was a bit dramatic - her reasoning. I couldn't quite feel her pain so that part of the story wasn't very compelling but Peter made up for it all. He has a black bracelet or string to remind him of something. But before he needs to be reminded of anything he whisks her away and makes her feel happy and loved for the first time in a long time but then she reminds him... Loved the ending. I have questions about it too like what happens with them now? Their relationship I mean. It got me excited because that was the perfect ending. It's an ending that will give you goosebumps.

A Ribbon of Blue by Michelle Zink

"A Bunch of Blue Ribbons, Oh, dear, what can the matter be? Johnny's so long at the fair. He promised he'd buy me a bunch of blue ribbons, To tie up my bonny brown hair."

This was the last story. The story that made me cry. The story that I think some people might take offense to but I'm not one of those people. Ruby has cerebral palsy. She has a sort of limp or different way in which she walks that get people annoyed when they are behind her. I honestly didn't understand that. How some people looked at her like she was lower than them. She's not dumb. She just can't move as well. So already she had my heart. There is a fair that comes around every year. Years ago she went to the fortune teller who told her that she would meet a boy that would make her feel happy, free, something like that. He will give her a whistle, a ticket, and a blue ribbon. She finally meets that boy and every day he gives her something new but not just those tangible gifts but the gift of happiness. The end was a bit of a shocker for me. The controversy lies there but I absolutely loved it and it was the very best ending to these short stories possible.


  1. This sounds like an interesting book. As an adult I have enjoyed revisiting fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The certainly aren't as happy and sweet as I thought they were when I was litte! Thanks for sharing this one- it sounds like there are some really good stories in the collection.

    1. I enjoyed reading the rhymes again too. I felt like a little kid again (:

  2. This sounds interesting, and I have heard good things about it. Like you said, a lot of nursery rhymes do have subtle dark meanings, and that seems like a wonderful concept to explore.

    1. I'm surprised it hasn't been explored like this before. At least I'm not aware of any book similar to this one.


Post a Comment

back to top