Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

I picked up three amazing graphic novels at Chapters recently and they happened to all be by Canadian authors: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, and Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley. I had read other standalone publications by Tamaki and Tamaki and O'Malley, but not Emily Carroll (although I'd read one of her short comics in a collection!). I found Carroll's collection shelved in the YA Graphic Novels category at Chapters, and the five truly terrifying stories inside are perfect for teenage readers. 

Through the Woods is a collection of short, illustrated stories that lean into the horror category, while also connecting to many traditional fairy tales and folk tales. They intially reminded me of Neil Gaiman's short story collections Fragile Things and Smoke and Mirrors because of the mash up of horror and fantasy and real life. 

"Our Neighbour's House" is the first story in the collection, and it ended up being my favorite. Three sisters are left alone in their isolated house. Their father disappeared seven days before, giving the sisters a single command: if he doesn't return in three days, they are to pack up their things and go to their neighbour's house. The sisters don't follow their disappeared father's instructions, and they slowly start disappearing, too - one by one. The story provides an amazing tie-in to "Little Red Riding Hood," showing that Carroll can twist traditional fairy tales to suit her stories. 

"A Lady's Hands Are Cold" is one of the most gruesome stories in the collection, Carroll's take on the "Bluebeard" tale. A young woman has just wed a rich man who lives in a large house, where "The halls of her new home were tall…and cold, papered with stiff stripes." When she goes to bed at night she is haunted by a "soft, sad song," one that leads her to find the previous bride of her new husband.

"The Nesting Place" feels more contemporary than any of the other stories, which have more of a medieval feel. A young woman goes to stay with her brother and his fiancee in the country. While she's there, she realizes that her brother's fiancee might not be all that she seems, and slowly uncovers the mystery of her past. 

I loved this collection and I'm looking forward to sharing it with teachers in September at the University of Lethbridge's Lit Fair, organized by the Faculty of Education!

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