The Wild Swans by Jackie Morris

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The Wild Swans by Jackie Morris

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Madeline Wheatley
Reviewed by Madeline Wheatley
Summary: A moving retelling of the traditional tale of the wild swans, embellished with a treasure trove of luminous illustrations by Jackie Morris. An ideal gift for family story telling.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: October 2015
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781847805362

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The most well known version of the wild swans is probably the one penned by Hans Andersen. This extended retelling by Jackie Morris adds depth, emotional resonance and a number of new twists to the tale. As in most versions, Eliza and her brothers live a happy and privileged life until their father's remarriage brings jealousy, mistrust and trouble in its wake. The brothers are magically changed into wild swans and it is up to brave Eliza to rescue them.

So far, so typical fairy tale, but what makes this version unique is the underlying drive to show the reader why the characters act as they do. There are rarely shades of grey in traditional tales, princesses are generally beautiful if bland, knights are brave, mothers are marvellous (though probably dead), stepmothers are evil and so on. It is a rare treat to find a tale where people's behaviour is much less clear cut. Morris's characters are multi-layered. Eliza's stepmother acts out of jealousy brought on by loneliness and isolation rather than being just plain wicked. Events arise out of misunderstanding and lack of communication every bit as much as out of magic.

Morris is also an astute observer of the natural world and the places visited by Eliza are vividly described. Moving from a forested area to the sea, for example, is chronicled in terms of landscape, but also evoked by sounds and even the changing quality of the light. In addition, the book is richly illustrated, giving the reader a perfect picture of Eliza's world. I particularly liked the many different bird illustrations and the small drawings of individual feathers, realistic enough to make you want to pick them up off the page.

So who would enjoy this book? Though I've put it into the genre group for confident readers, it would also make a great family read aloud as it gives so much food for thought and talk. It will definitely appeal to Jackie Morris's many adult fans and it is overall a beautifully produced book, so those who value that quality should take a look. Finally, it would be great if some of those librarians who nominate books for the Carnegie and Greenaway book awards (yes, I do mean both) would read it and act accordingly!

You might like to try another title by this author The Ice Bear or The Wild Swans.

Or maybe another traditional tale with a clever heroine at its heart The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen and P J Lynch (Illustrator).

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Buy The Wild Swans by Jackie Morris at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wild Swans by Jackie Morris at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Wild Swans by Jackie Morris at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wild Swans by Jackie Morris at


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