Staff Pick

From the assorted inks and fonts to the spacious pages, the gallery of vintage illustrations, the notes, the essays, the testaments by readers and scholars, and the stories, The Annotated African American Folktales (Liveright $39.95) is both beautifully presented and impeccably researched. Edited by eminent Harvard professors Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and American Research, and Maria Tatar, chair of the Program in Folklore and Mythology, both of whose detailed introductory essays could constitute a substantial book in themselves, the volume gathers close to two hundred tales. The editors build on the work of predecessors including Arthur Huff Fauset and Zora Neale Hurston, correct the distortions of popularizers like Joel Chandler Harris and Walt Disney, and extend the canon of African American folklore to embrace Caribbean and Latin American tales. The collection begins with its roots: four sections lay out African story-telling traditions, from trickster tales and the Anansi cycles, with their mischievous animal/human creature “who weaves webs of beautiful complexity and tells stories about the tangled webs we weave,” to today’s oral narratives. The editors follow Anansi and other foundational African motifs through the one-hundred-and-forty stories that follow, tracing a vital tradition as it changes and grows. Drawn from both songs and published texts, here are  familiar figures like the Tar-Baby, Brer Rabbit, and John Henry; people who can fly, heal, and disappear; casts of heroes, preachers, and shape-shifters; and here also are their descendants in the work of contemporary writers like Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison.

The Annotated African American Folktales (Annotated Books) Cover Image
By Henry Louis Gates (Editor), Maria Tatar (Editor)
ISBN: 9780871407535
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Liveright Publishing Corporation - November 14th, 2017

If you’ve only read Grimm’s fairy tales in their simplified, sanitized versions, then you haven’t read Grimm’s fairy tales. Philip Pullman’s new translation of Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (Viking, $27.95) includes all of my (and Pullman’s) favorite stories, including “Thousand Furs,” “Godfather Death,” and “Jorinda and Joringel,” and even some that, I must admit, I had never heard of before. The language is simple and vivid, just right for telling a fairy tale. Pullman provides an introduction, marvelous translations, and witty reflections at the end of each tale. For the folklore scholar, the book also includes the ATU (Aarne-Thompson) tale type, similar stories, and cites the source at the end. This is the perfect way to honor the 200th anniversary of the Grimms’ first fairy-tale collection.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version Cover Image
ISBN: 9780670024971
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking - November 8th, 2012

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) Cover Image
By Philip Pullman (Adapted by)
ISBN: 9780143107293
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Penguin Classics - October 29th, 2013

By turns grotesque, historic, charming, and witty, the fairy tales collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are timeless. While they exist in countless versions and adaptations, these tales are best as the brothers told them. In The Annotated Brothers Grimm: The Bicentennial Edition (W.W. Norton, $35), A.S. Byatt’s deep appreciation for the gift of these tales comes through in her introduction, and editor Maria Tatar’s analysis will expand every warm feeling or chill you experienced when first reading or listening to these stories. Filled with illustrations from various editions over the collection’s two-hundred-year history, this Bicentennial Edition is deserving of as much careful devotion as any enthralled child or still-wistful adult can muster.
The Annotated Brothers Grimm Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393088861
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - October 15th, 2012