I hope you all have great books picked out for weekend reading. I have quite a few on my shelf at the moment. I also have a great review and author interview for you today, but first, what you’ve all been waiting for….drum roll please….
The winner of the Sleeping Bear Press and Jen Sattler giveaway is….Christina G.!
And now, on with the show!
My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella (2017, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book/Lower Middle Grade)
From the publisher:
Holden, what have you done?! It wasn’t enough to ruin Maddie’s report on Cinderella, but now you’ve somehow broken the ACTUAL fairy tale? The ugly stepsister is marrying the prince and there’s no happy ever after! You need to fix this and the only way seems to be by entering the story. But beware: if you can’t mend it, you can never return . . .
My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, written by Jerry Mahoney and illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, puts a new, and very modern spin, on an old favorite. When Maddie’s stepbrother Holden “breaks” the Cinderella story, they are both surprised to be sucked into his tablet and dropped into Cinderella’s story. Taking on the roles of foot soldier and wicked stepsister, Holden and Maddie must work together (easier said than done) to set things right or be stuck in the story forever. With a crazy cast of characters, it’s not just Cinderella in the spotlight. My favorite minor character was Darreth, the Duke of Darkness, who is locked away in the dungeon but thunder rumbles every time his name is uttered.
Not just focused on the fanciful, the book does take time to ponder serious issues such as divorce set against the background of wicked stepmothers and rotten stepbrothers. Not to mention, the perfectly captured reality of bickering among siblings, or step-siblings. Add in logical twists and real emotions, and the story develops into something surprisingly insightful with characters more real than those found in most fairy tales.
The reader might hope for more illustrations, but otherwise this one is sure to get lots of giggles from the target audience. Fans of fairy tale retellings will especially enjoy this fun, quirky read. Recommended for readers ages 8 to 10.
4 stars for Cinderella and friends!
Interview with Author Jerry Mahoney
Thank you to Jerry Mahoney for taking time to visit with me and share about his writing career and inspiration!
After reading My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, I’m super curious about the other books in this series. How did you come up with the idea for this series and how did you decide which fairy tales to “ruin”?
When my kids were younger and I would read fairy tales to them, I would sometimes have to hold myself back from rolling my eyes or making wisecracks. I mean, they’re great stories, which is why they’ve stood the test of time. Still, though, it’s inevitable that after hundreds of years, some of them will show their age. So I would find flaws, like the notion that a prince would try to find one specific woman by trying a glass slipper on random women all over his kingdom. Obviously, lots of people have the same size foot. Besides, she’s supposedly the love of his life, so shouldn’t he remember what she looks like?
I would bite my tongue, though, and not mention the issues I had with the stories, because I didn’t want to ruin them for my kids. That eventually led me to come up with Holden, a kid who doesn’t mind ruining stories for people. In fact, he loves it!
Through him, I could do what I was afraid to do and ask tough questions about stories that are pretty universally loved. The more I started picking fairy tales apart, the more plot holes I found, and I learned that a lot of them were issues that many people had with the stories. Maddie sprung from the other side of my personality, the part that loves being swept away by a good, romantic fairy tale and doesn’t mind making a few logical leaps along the way as long as she’s enjoying the read.
I wrote MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA first, because it’s probably the most well-known and also had the most obvious plot holes to me. Then, when my publisher ordered it as a series of four, I read a bunch of fairy tales, then thought what plot holes Holden would find in each one and how the stories might change as a result. Together with the publisher, we decided which ones would make the best stories for the first four books in a series.
Of course, I have ideas for many more. I’m hoping these books will do well enough that I’ll get to write them! 🙂
Have you always enjoyed fairy tales? And if so, what was your favorite fairy tale as a child?
Who doesn’t love fairy tales? I think on some level, even Holden does. Lots of boys think that it’s uncool to like them, but show me a boy who refuses to go see a new Disney princess movie, and I guarantee you he was belting out “Let it Go” everywhere he went when he was 3.
I think “Beauty and the Beast” has always been my favorite. Of course, what Disney did with it was magical — with the dancing dishware and those gorgeous songs. But even if you take all that away, at the heart of it, it has such a sweet message about accepting people for who they are. Also, it’s one of the few fairy tales that doesn’t subscribe to the notion of love at first sight. Belle has to work really hard to get to know the Beast before she falls in love. That makes it all the more fulfilling when it finally does happen. And that’s been my experience in life as well. Sometimes, you have to dig really, really hard to find the good in people.
When you imagine someone reading your books, what do you hope they feel during and after reading your work?
That’s a tough question, because as a writer, you want to take readers through a range of emotions — excitement, fear, sadness, joy. I consider myself primarily a comedy writer, but sometimes, the moments I’m proudest of aren’t the jokes but the emotional payoffs. (In MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA, it’s the moment where Beautianna gets into art school and tells Maddie that she’s realized she’s her fairy godmother. Oops, spoiler warning!)
Overall, though, I feel like if I’ve made someone laugh, I’ve done my job. There’s so much negativity in our world, so much conflict and so much to get down about. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I’ve made someone forget about all that for a few minutes and just have a good time.
Readers are always curious about what an author’s day to day life is like. When you are working on a project what is your day like and what are some hobbies you enjoy outside of writing?
My other job besides writing is being a stay-home dad. So my writing day starts after I drop my son and daughter off at school. Then, I try to do a few hours of new writing on whatever my main project is at the time. As you probably know, publishing is very slow, so what I’m writing now might not come out for two years or more. Or if it’s not working, I may scrap it and start something new instead until I have a manuscript I really believe in.
After working on new writing, I usually have some business to attend to, whether it’s writing a synopsis for the book jacket, approving a cover or answering a questionnaire like this. 🙂 This part is always much easier and more fun than staring at a blank page and having to fill it with something new.
By then, it’s time to pick my kids up, and my duties switch to checking homework, cooking dinner and losing to my kids at Mario Kart. Once they’re in bed, I usually try to squeeze in a bit more writing. Late night is a good time for brainstorming new ideas. Then I’ll read in bed, because I love hearing other writers’ voices and getting jealous of how good they are.
Anything else you’d like to share about your books or your writing career?
Yes! First of all — shameless plug alert! — my next book, BUTTHEADS FROM OUTER SPACE, comes out in March 2018. As you can probably guess from the title, it’s full of crazy, horribly inappropriate humor (yes, fart jokes), and therefore no one should read it under any circumstances. I like to think of it as a next step up for kids who grew up on the Captain Underpants books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s probably not going to impress anyone’s teacher if they do a book report on it, but it’s hopefully the kind of book kids will want to read just for fun — even if they have to hide it from their parents.
Beyond that, I’m very busy working on some new projects that I hope to be able to share with everyone soon. If you want to know more, come visit my website www.jerrymahoneybooks.com, or follow me on Twitter (@WhyJerryWhy), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jerrymahoneybooks/) and Instagram (@jerrymahoney). Most of all, thanks for reading!
Thank you to Jerry Mahoney for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.