Week 8, Ash by Malinda Lo
Lo, M. (2009). Ash. New York: Little, Brown and Co.
Ash, the main character, has just suffered through her father’s death and is left to fend for herself with her cruel and violent stepmother. To heal her grief, Ash spends her time rereading fairy tales her mother once told her. One day, Ash meets a dangerous fairy named Sidhean, who can grant wishes for a price. Next thing Ash knows, she meets another impactful soul Kaisa, the King’s Huntress who begins to change Ash’s heart. Eventually, she must make a choice. Who and what will she choose? Her fairy tale dream or the possibility of true love?
Keywords: fairies; huntress; fairy tales; true love; Cinderella
What I Think:
I very much enjoyed this retold fairy tale for a two different reasons. First of all, I can always appreciate and enjoy a plot or story that is familiar to me, especially if it is familiar from childhood. This book, Ash, has many similarities to the classic version of the fairy tale, Cinderella. For example, both stories have a character who is truly an evil stepmother. similarity of characters to cinderella. “The candlelight beneath Lady Isobel’s face made her look like a monster. Her lip curled in anger and she said, ‘You have been absent all day and you expect no punishment? Come her!'” (Lo, 2009, p. 70). This is said directly before Ash is shoved into a dark cellar to be alone in the cold for the night.
I also enjoyed this retold fairy tale because it included twists and turns that the original or traditional version of Cinderella did not include. For example, Ash does not have a fairy godmother like in Cinderella but rather a dark fairy named Sidhean. This fairy does not grant Ash wishes just to be kind and helpful, yet has his own agenda. This is confirmed when Ash inquires if there is a price to pay for her wish to be granted and Sidhean responds, “There is a price for everything, Aisling” (p. 162). This makes the decision Ash has to make even more intense knowing that, in return, Ash will belong to Sidhean. This intensity attracted me to the book and kept my attention so that I finished it quickly!
What the Experts Think:
An unexpected reimagining of the Cinderella tale, exquisite and pristine, unfolding deliberately. Aisling—Ash—knows the fairy stories and lore told her by her now-dead mother, but she does not know if she believes them. When her father dies and her stepmother and stepsisters move her away from the Wood to the City, she finds herself returning to her mother’s grave, where she meets the fairy Sidhean. Ash barely notes her harsh treatment at the hands of her stepfamily, as she both longs for and fears her glimpses of Sidhean. He longs for her, too, in ways she is slow to understand. Ash also is slow to see Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, as the source of her own desire. When she does, Ash turns to Sidhean to make it possible for her to spend time with Kaisa, despite the price Ash knows she will have to pay. Ash and Kaisa’s dance at the King’s Ball is a wild and gorgeous moment, no less so than the night Ash must spend in Sidhean’s Wood. Beautiful language magically wrought; beautiful storytelling magically told. (Fantasy. 12 & up)
In order to use retold fairy tales to engage readers, I would first inquire about if Cinderella was a fairy tales the readers were exposed to. I would want to determine if this fairy tale would be of interest to the students to revisit and reconnect with from their childhoods. Next, I would allow the students to read a short, picture book version of the fairy tale to refresh their memories about the fairy tale. Additional activities could also be implemented to remind the students of the fairy tale, like sequencing or retelling. Finally, I would engage the students in the book, Ash, while guiding the reader to compare and contrast this story to the picture book version read. I find that analyzing the similarities and differences between the classic and retold fairy tales can be engaging to discover. Finally, after reading Ash and comparing it to the picture book version, I would allow the students to watch the movie version and add this to the comparison of the other versions. I think it would be interesting both for the student as well as for myself to discover the similarities and differences between all of these different versions of the same story!