Once Upon a Time…

When asked what my favorite book is, I mentally sifted through several. But my favorite of all books? One single book that enthralled me as a child, travelled with me no matter how many times I moved, and defined me as both a reader and a writer? That was an easy choice, once I weeded through all the books that came after.

I don’t know where my copy of The World’s Best Fairy Tales came from, but judging by the careful cursive and muddy check marks penciled onto the index pages, I couldn’t have been more than seven. It’s likely I’ve had it even longer. Today, I would never write in a book. Blasphemy! But the fact that it was only on the table of contents (checking off which ones I’d read and which ones I wanted to read again) and that it was done in pencil shows even as a child I didn’t want to wreck the beautiful book.

There are hundreds of stories in it. Many are so obscure that most people have never heard of them. And the ones people do recognize are not the versions they’re familiar with. I walked the lonely halls of the Beast’s castle with Beauty, exploring the rooms filled with birds, colored paper, musical instruments, and yarn. I wept when the prince didn’t return the love of the Little Mermaid and she turned to sea foam, and I waited, breathless to see what the tiny glow from the Little Match Girl’s flame would reveal.

Nearly 40 years later, that book is still near my bed. It’s big enough to be a doorstop, but every story has been read and reread a hundred times. I have leather-bound, gold-embossed Easton Press fairy tale collections. My kindle has a whole folder of fairy tales. I’ve gathered collections, retellings, and single stories in all different forms.

But still, that one single book I had as a child is my first stop if a question comes up about the the type of lettuce Rapunzel’s mother craved while she was pregnant (rampion, in case you’ve ever wondered).

Every story I write is influenced by those stories in some way. If they’re not peopled with odd creatures, they’ll at least have a tendency to follow the rule of three somewhere in the plot. I’ve tried to write mainstream stories about real life, but I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it.

To me, everything I see, everything I do, and everything I write must have at least a tiny spark of magic.

Because magic makes anything possible.

Rachel is the author of the urban fantasy Monster Haven series from Carina Press. She believes in magic, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks, and putting things off until stress gets them done faster at the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas.


  • I’m going to have to check this out.

    I love reading different versions of fairy tales. My favorite are the Grimm brothers stories. My sister is upset with me for “ruining” some of her favorite fairy tales because I like to correct her on how they’re supposed to end.

    • R.L. Naquin says:

      Ha! I do that. Though, I was relieved that Disney didn’t have The Little Mermaid float off into the ocean as sea foam. That would have been a horrible ending. Disney gets a pass across the board. Still, I’d love to see a version of Cinderella where the stepsisters chop off their own toes to fit into the shoe. Fairy tales are brutal.

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