Blackberry Blue

By Jamila Gavin
Illustrated by Richard Collingridge
Published by Tamarind


Price £6.99
Publisher Tamarind

Jamila Gavin has fashioned her own set of fairy tales, drawing principally on the European traditions with which she grew up. With the expressed aim of increased inclusivity, she has created characters who are people of colour. For example, the heroine of the title story, which has elements of the Cinderella variant Mossycoat, has 'skin as black as midnight' and 'lips like crushed damsons'. None of the stories is a direct retelling of a traditional story but each incorporates tropes recognisable from folklore and fairy tale. ‘The Golden Carp’ has similarities to the tale Diamonds & Toads transposed to a Chinese setting and has sons rather than daughters as protagonists. In ‘Emeka the Pathfinder’ a prince and princess are trapped in animal form and the Green Man plays a significant role – there is a strong evocation of natural environment throughout these stories. ‘The Night Princess’ includes an uninvited guest who brings a curse, a maiden imprisoned in a tower and a heartrending sacrifice. Abu must take a gruesome journey, without the sense of sight, to recover the bones, eyes & soul of his beloved sister Leyla, snatched by ‘The Purple Lady’.  This beautifully packaged collection is enhanced by delicately drawn pencil illustrations.