Jane Yolen’s collection THE EMERALD CIRCUS is pure delight for anyone who craves inspired retellings of classics from literature, or re-imaginings of the lives of real literary figures. Yolen takes a slanted look at the lives of Emily Dickinson, Hans Christian Andersen, and Edgar Allen Poe, and she creates some stellar “what if” moments for Lancelot, Dorothy (from Oz), Alice (from Wonderland), and others. Yolen’s writing is beautiful, her pacing is perfect, and the way she takes stories that have been done over and over again in a whole new direction is sublime. My favorite part of the collection (if I have to choose just one) is her take on Peter Pan and Wendy’s story in which Peter and the Lost Boys are pretty contemptible, and the girls of Neverland exist only to serve them until … well, you should read it and find out.
It’s rare to find a short story collection that doesn’t contain at least one “meh” story, but THE EMERALD CIRCUS nails it.