I'm not your average hero. I actually wasn't your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.
It all started with a curse. And a frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.
There wasn't a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I've ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Everglades.
Don't believe me? I didn't believe it either. But you'll see. Because I knew it all was true, the second I got cloaked.
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Being the fan of fairy tales that I am, I had heard of Alex Flinn, of course. But for whatever reason, I had never read anything by her, so Cloaked is my first. And I have to start by saying: SHE USED THE ELVES AND THE SHOEMAKER!!!
Let me set the scene for you:Misty, as a small child, had 3 books she was obsessed with. One was The Velveteen Rabbit, which we don't need to discuss here, other than to say she still has it, of course. The other 2 were fairy tales: somebody's beautiful version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (?), and 2 copies of The Elves and the Shoemaker (one was a Little Golden Book, the other was part of a fairy tale series).Misty read The Elves and the Shoemaker constantly, and always hoped to catch little cobbler elves doing something -- anything -- to her shoes.Misty dreamed about the day she'd see them, and even though it would make her sad to see them go, she wanted to make tiny clothes for them.(If you don't know what Misty is talking about, go read the story)
[I'm now done speaking in creepy 3rd person; you can relax.]
So, years later, I've often said "I wish someone would do something with The Elves and the Shoemaker. But I'm afraid they'd make it creepy, and I liked my Elves."
Well, among other tales (this is a mash-up), Flinn uses The Elves and the Shoemaker, and she didn't make them creepy! It's incorporated in such a sweet, cute way. I just had to start with that, because it made me endlessly happy to see the tale even included. And I think it was a good indicator of the story over all. It makes use of some lesser known tales right alongside the more obvious ones, and it uses them all in a way that I can't help but describe as cute.
It's sweet, it's wholesome, it's completely kid-friendly -- but this isn't to say that it's saccharine or boring. One of the things I discovered reading my first Flinn is that she is genuinely funny. Like really lol funny. Her writing has an air of playfulness and silliness that's enjoyable to read, and makes for a nice balance to the darker, more depressing tones many fairy tale retellings take. It's fun and refreshing and thoroughly modern, and I think will appeal to a variety of readers because of that. In a strange way, it reminds me of The Sea of Monsters, the 2nd book in the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. That's partly due to the location and the quest aspect of it, and some of the character interactions. But it's also got the same silly/funny style that works for lots of age groups and style preferences.
There are a few things I want to point out quickly: Alex Flinn writes in accents. If you watch my video, you'll see what I mean -- I'm reading it as written (albeit a little over the top and ridiculously...) There are characters with French and German (?) accents in the book, and things are spelled/pronounced accordingly. I found it amusing, and think it adds to the charm and silliness, but it bears keeping in mind because I know things like this can irritate or frustrate some readers. I would suggest popping online somewhere, like Amazon, where you can look inside, and see if this bothers you before you decide to buy it.
Also, I think some people may find Johnny irritating. I liked him, but he can be completely bumbling and clueless. I found this to be in keeping with fairy tales in generally, actually (men in fairy tales seem to be either riding up on white horses to save the day, or doing incredibly stupid things), but some readers may wish for him to wake up a bit and use the brain we know he has. But the great thing about him being kind of clueless is Meg -- Meg is a great foil for Johnny, and she's intriguing and strong and really interesting. It's fun to watch them work through things together, and to know what's really going on when Johnny is completely lost.
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Alright...now onto the part where I can never show my face again. The unveiling of my..."french" accent.
* I would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize to my French teacher, who, after having me every other day for 4 years, knows I can do better than this quasi-French/Russian thing I've got going on here...Sorry, Madame Harkey!