Wild Swans

“An adaptation triumph...A must-have for all fairy-tale-lovers” --Kirkus Reviews, starred review


Wild Swans chapter book cover



Wild Swans

For 10 years, Eliza has lived with a foster family far from home, protected from the plague that has been ravaging her parents' kingdom. But when her stepmother the Queen dies of the plague, her quiet life changes forever. With the kingdom in chaos, it's up to Eliza to find her long-lost brothers, save their homeland  and claim her rightful place on the throne. An ingenious, feminist update of the Andersen story that bursts with adventure, all the way through to the thrilling climax.

978178253626 | 5 1/2 x 8 1/8 IN

$9.99 USD 

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What makes this book different


A bold, empowered, feminist retelling of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale of the lengths a brave young girl will go to for her family. Protagonist Eliza uses her bravery, loyalty, persistence and skill in weaving to solve a problem and save the day.


Eliza's relationships with her brothers, stepmother, foster family and the King of the South are all positively depicted, overturning the common fairy tales tropes of the evil stepmother and heroine rewarded with marriage.


Illustrated with great detail by French artist Charlotte Gastaut. Both the interior and cover includes a special effect: accents of a shimmery metallic gold ink. Charming text by renowned English storyteller Xanthe Gresham Knight is full of quirky dialogue and poetic flourishes to delight young readers.


What people are saying

“A feminist story of hope” --School Library Journal

 "With its insightfully altered storyline and eye-popping illustrations, this latest lush illustrated collaboration by Knight and Gastaut (Thumbelina, 2016, etc.) is an adaptation triumph that brings new depth to its subject matter while also maintaining its integrity and sense of magic. . . Every detail, from the piercing blue of the night sky to the redness of Eliza's overworked hands, is utterly breathtaking. The tale's focus on friendship rather than marriage transforms Eliza from a caricature of female sacrifice into a nuanced and empathetic three-dimensional character whose struggles demonstrate the depths of her love and compassion. . . a must-have for fairy tale lovers

Kirkus Reviews, starred review


"[A] feminist story of hope . . . A gorgeously designed package housing a fresh, feminist retelling of a classic
School Library Journal  

"This retelling of Andersen’s classic tale has a more modern perspective, while Gastaut’s ornate, goldflecked folk-art-style illustrations hearken back to a fairy tale atmosphere"
— Booklist

"[B]oth magical and down to earth . . .The illustrations are breathtaking. . . this lovely short chapter book should appeal to independent readers who like fairy tales, especially modern retellings"
Youth Services Book Review


"[A]n extraordinary retelling of a Hans Christian Anderson classic . . . Knight builds on Anderson's story: editing, embellishing, and refining the original to create an interpretation that is familiar, yet fresh and new. Gastaut's stunning illustrations defy any specific style, combing Art Nouveau with elements of Northern European and Middle Eastern art. This version of an Anderson tale is destined to become a new classic"
—Barbara Moon, blogger, Reading Style Guide


"The book defies the usual fairy tale archetypes of females in favor of painting them as strong leaders"
—Belinda Outwater, Library Manager, Auburn Public Library


"A beautiful fairy tale! Eliza is a strong character who demonstrates love, devotion, understanding, intelligence, and courage. Through focus and determination, she proves that girls can do great things. The artwork of this book is stunning and helps bring the words to life. This will make a beautiful addition to any collection"
—Brian Kemp, Librarian / Media Specialist, St. Louis Catholic School


About the contributors

Xanthe Gresham Knight author photo


Xanthe Gresham Knight used to save her bus fare for school by walking through the park, memorizing beautiful things. She is now an acclaimed writer and storyteller who performs across Europe and North America. Xanthe lives in East Sussex, England. She has written Thumbelina and The Princess and the Pea for Barefoot Books.


Charlotte Gastaut illustrator photo

Charlotte Gastaut is one of France's best-known illustrators of children's books and previously illustrated Thumbelina for Barefoot Books.


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