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SFF Author: Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli(1948- )
Donna Jo Napoli writes for children and young adults. Several of her novels are retellings of Greek Myths and Fairy Tales. Learn more about Donna Jo Napoli at her website.



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The Magic Circle: Poignant and thought-provoking

The Magic Circle by Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli’s trademark technique of fleshing out a fairytale is in fine display in The Magic Circle, her retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Napoli’s stories often reveal motivations behind some of the action that takes place in the traditional fairytales, reasoning out some of the fantastic elements and explaining the behaviour of the familiar characters; which usually results in the villain becoming more sympathetic and understandable. Such is certainly the case in The Magic Circle,


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Zel: Deceptively simple — deep and evocative

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

For readers who simply glance over the words and do no reading between the lines, Zel will simply read as a fleshed-out fairytale, in which the characters, settings and storylines are given more background and details. For those who take the time to read more luxuriously and deeply, they will find layer upon layer of meaning, symbolism, motivations and psychological breakdown that is simply intoxicating to discover. Underlying all of this is the concept of deep and powerful love, and its conflicting abilities to both nourish and destroy.


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Sirena: Powerful, beautiful, tragic

Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli

Now famous for her ability to take old, familiar tales and present them through new perspectives, Donna Jo Napoli tackles the subject of Greek mythology and the captivating mermaids of the oceans.

The Sirens were long thought to be deadly women, either humanoid or bird-like, who lured sailors to their deaths on the rocks with their enticing songs. But Napoli presents the Grecian Sirens as mermaids — half-women, half-fish, a hybrid creature who are just as cursed as the men they destroy. Due to a spiteful nymph’s curse,


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Breath: A good book, but not enjoyable

Breath by Donna Jo Napoli

Nearly almost all of Donna Jo Napoli’s books are based around a simple formula: to take a well-known myth, legend or fairytale, and retell the story from the eyes of a certain character (often the villain, allowing them to defend their actions). It has been a technique that has worked brilliantly for several of her stories.

In this case, Breath draws upon the German folktale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, though it is not told by the Piper himself. Instead,


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The Great God Pan: A little forgettable

The Great God Pan by Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli is famous for her retellings of fairytales; from Rapunzel (Zel), Rumplestiltskin (Spinners) and Hansel and Gretel (The Magic Circle), but she’s also done a couple of Greek myths as well: Sirena, and this, The Great God Pan. Taking inspiration from two mythological mysteries: the fate of Iphigenia (the king’s daughter sacrificed in order to ensure safe passage to Troy) and the goat-legged god Pan (of whom Plutarch wrote: “the great god Pan is dead!”),


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Next SFF Author: Jamil Nasir
Previous SFF Author: Pati Nagle

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