Thursday, September 5, 2013

A gently satirical fairy tale

The Adventures of Gremlin
The Adventures of Gremlin, by DuPre Jones, is a fairy tale for adults.  Sort of.  It's quite short, with fantastic illustrations by Edward Gorey (who also did the cover of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, another book I just recently finished reading).  It was written back in the 1960s, before the wave of alternate interpretations of fairy tales really came into vogue in the 1980s and 1990s (i.e., The Three Little Pigs from the Big Bad Wolf's point of view, Goldilocks from the side of the Three Bears, etc).  It's also very referential - if you catch them, there are tons of puns, lots of wordplay and all sorts of literary allusions.  It's kind of like Shrek, before Shrek was a twinkle in someone's eye.

It's about Gremlin, a woodcutter's daughter (of course), who decides to leave home with her brother, Zeppelin, to explore the world around them.  They promptly find a gingerbread house, are kidnapped by a giant, spend some time with a horrible (but hilarious) limerick writer, and then learn that Gremlin is actually the long-lost princess of the royal despots.  And of course, there's a little bit of (thoroughly unconventional) romance thrown in.

While this book won't make my list of favorites, it was a lot of fun to read.  It's exactly what I needed after a tough day of work.  I read it in one sitting (it's very short) while drinking some wine, and I can't say there is anything else I'd rather have been doing instead.  I loved how subversive the story was.  Instead of being a child of wonderful or evil parents, Gremlin's parents are just not even there.  And rather than the king and queen being kind and just, they are much as you'd expect absolute rulers to be.  And the knight in shining armor who is questing after the Holy Grail realizes that there are better things to seek out in life.  It's great fun!

I don't want to give too much away, but here's a limerick example:

A mariner bound for Good Hope
Found a shrimp at the end of a rope.
     Or was it the hemp
     At the end of the shrimp?
Is the question worth pondering?  Nope.

And some of the wordplay:

"Then I have no recourse but to have your head cut off."  The king turned to Gremlin.  "I hope you consider that sufficient punishment."
"Oh, yes," Gremlin said.  "That's capital."

Note:  I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from the publisher.


  1. This sounds like something I'd definitely enjoy! Loooove those illustrations, too.

  2. Sounds delightful! And I cannot wait to hear what you thought of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase -- I am steeled for the possibility that it's not as awesome if you read it for the first time as an adult. (I have a sister called Bonnie, and in my family it is not infrequent that one of us will cry "Cheese, Bonnie! Wonderful cheese!" like the little orphan girls.)

    Oh dear. A search for the Edward Gorey cover of Willoughby Chase has just turned up evidence that Britain reprinted all of Joan Aiken's books with matching covers. I should not expose myself to such temptation.

  3. Oh, the limerick! Oh, the pun!

  4. OOOh, this sounds like fun. I really like Edward Gorey's illustrations, and the wordplay cracked me up.

  5. Why is it that reading and wine after a long day are just the best possible combination of things? Love the cover of this, will have to keep an eye out!


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