Classroom Connections is a recurring series meant to introduce teachers to new books.
Anna Staniszewski’s My Very UnFairy Tale Life
releasing November 2011
Please tell us about your book.
Is your magical kingdom falling apart? Twelve-year-old Jenny is on the case, whether she likes it or not. Saving the world might sound exciting, but for Jenny it’s starting to get old — even staying in the real world long enough to take a math test would be a dream come true! And when you throw in bloodthirsty unicorns, psychotic clowns, and the most useless gnome sidekick ever, Jenny decides that enough is enough. She’s leaving the adventuring business and not looking back. Or…is she?
What inspired you to write this story?
I was stuck on a different project and wanted to distract myself with something light and funny. When I sat down to write, a scene about a girl and a talking frog emerged. What interested me about the scene was the girl’s reaction to the frog: she wasn’t surprised or excited to discover a magical frog in her bedroom; she was annoyed. I knew I had to keep writing in order to discover her story. That story eventually became My Very UnFairy Tale Life.
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?
When I was working on My Very UnFairy Tale Life, I thought about stories in which the hero is called to action and asked to save the day. I wanted to explore that idea further, to see what would happen to the hero after she’s been saving the world every day for years. Once I knew who my main character was, I wanted to use magical clichés (talking animals, magical sidekicks) as obstacles for her to overcome. I also wanted her to be a strong heroine, one who saves the prince instead of the other way around. In that respect, I think I was inspired by the fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” which is one of the rare traditional fairy tales that features a heroine going on a quest to save her prince.
What are some special challenges associated with spoofing a genre?
My goal was for my story to be a spoof on a traditional fantasy quest, but the challenge with putting your own spin on a classic story structure is that it can come off as derivative. I tried to make the story feel fresh by weaving in humor, and creating unique and memorable characters. Ultimately, I wanted my story to feel familiar yet unexpected.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
As I mentioned above, I was greatly influenced by fairy tales and traditional quest fantasy stories. I wanted to take those conventions and make them my own. In class, students could identify the fantasy and fairy tale conventions used in the book and examine how those conventions have been changed and manipulated. They could also consider how humor plays a part in the story, specifically how subverting story conventions can be funny and enjoyable.
Thanks, Anna, for stopping by today. Please visit Anna at her website.