The Emerald Circus

Jane Yolen

2018 World Fantasy Award winner

“The best book I’ve read in a long time.”
—Brandon Sanderson, author of Mistborn

Where is Wendy? Leading a labor strike against the Lost Boys, of course. In this first full collection from Jane Yolen (Briar Rose, Sister Emily’s Lightship) in more than ten years, discover new and uncollected tales of beloved characters, literary legends, and much more.


The Emerald Circus

by Jane Yolen

ISBN: Print: 978-1-61696-273-9 Digital: 978-1-61696-275-3

Published: November 2017

Available Format(s): Trade Paperback and Digital Books


Where is Wendy? Leading a labor strike against the Lost Boys, of course.

A Scottish academic unearths ancient evil in a fishing village. Edgar Allan Poe’s young bride is beguiled by a most unusual bird. Dorothy, lifted from Kansas, returns as a gymnastic sophisticate. Emily Dickinson dwells in possibility and sails away in a starship made of light. Alice’s wicked nemesis has jaws and claws but really needs a sense of humor.

In Jane Yolen’s first full collection in more than ten years discover new and uncollected tales of beloved characters, literary legends, and much more. Enter the Emerald Circus and be astonished by the transformations within.

Praise for The Emerald Circus

2018 World Fantasy Award winner

Publishers Weekly’s Big Indie Books of Fall 2017
A School Library Journal All-Star pick, Adult Books for Teens
Foreword Reviewer’s Choice—Favorite Books of 2017
Locus 2017 Recommended Reading List

“An impressive overview of the author’s breadth and career, this collection will appeal to the author’s existing devotees—or to anyone who has ever thought that “happily ever after” left too many questions.”

[STARRED REVIEW] “Beauty sneaks out to get a Christmas gift for the Beast, the first of several wrong decisions in ‘The Gift of the Magicians, with Apologies to You Know Who.’ In ‘Blown Away,’ Dorothy’s twister takes her away, not to a magical land but [T]he Emerald Circus, and she returns home as a gymnastic performer who changes many lives. Wendy leads a labor strike against the Lost Boys in ‘Lost Girls.’ After more than a decade, Yolen (Briar Rose; Sister Emily’s Starship and Other Stories) returns with 16 stories that take readers sideways and upside down through beloved fairy tales and classic tales such as Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz, while also reimagining the lives of famous storytellers such as Hans Christian Anderson, Edgar Allan Poe and ­Emily Dickinson. VERDICT: These delightful retellings of favorite stories will captivate newcomers and fans of Yolen as she once again delivers the magic, humor, and lovely prose that has attracted readers for years.”
Library Journal

[STARRED REVIEW] “Though only one of the 16 stories in Yolen’s latest story collection is newly published, the selections are anything but haphazard. The central vision of the compilation is the reimagining of folktales, legends, literature, and history. More than that, the volume feels unified by themes and imagery. The most obvious connections are three retellings of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and three takes on the quasi-historical basis of the King Arthur myths. But even these seemingly discrete blocks of stories feed into the rest of the volume. One of the Arthur tales, for example, features the story of Merlin being told to Geoffrey of Monmouth, the real author of some of the earliest Arthurian legends. Yolen takes up this thread of focusing on the creative process again and again as she weaves stories of the magic behind Hans Christian Andersen, Edgar Allan Poe, and Emily Dickinson. And of course, every entry contains Yolen’s crystalline prose, which captures the magic in reality, and vice versa, with ease and grace. Each tale is accompanied by a brief note from Yolen and a related poem, almost all written newly for this work. VERDICT: These highly entertaining retellings are perfect for teens fans of fairy tales and classic literature, though they are easily enjoyed without any background knowledge.”
School Library Journal, starred review

“Jane Yolen’s Emerald Circus may be my favorite book of the year, period, with apologies to Jeff Vandermeer’s Borne. Many years ago, when I had my own blog, I wrote a post celebrating the versatility of Yolen—one of the few authors who can write top-shelf books at any age level. Emerald Circus is a perfect example of her fluid but rock-solid prose.”
—Mark Flowers, School Library Journal

“Ever the wordsmith, Yolen dazzles with her first short story collection for adults in years.”

“Marvellous and entertaining.”

“This excellent collection reimagines folktales, fairy tales, and sometimes historical people in new and surprising light.  It is a brilliant example of short-form storytelling by one of the treasures of the science fiction community.”
—Brandon Sanderson, author of Mistborn

“Jane Yolen’s The Emerald Circus is full of marvels.  She introduces familiar acts and actors into her rings and then tricks us into seeing them from complex, unexpected angles.  She turns toads into witches, Sir Lancelot into a 600-year-old monk, Dorothy into a tightrope walker, and Emily Dickinson into a spacefarer.  The stories themselves change between one reading and another, always revealing more, always at a different slant than before, in language that is rich, unholy, and, like the tales themselves, beautifully unpredictable.  From Snow Queen to spaceship, The Emerald Circus is a delight.”
—Patricia A. McKillip, author of the Riddle-Master trilogy and Wonders of the Invisible World

“5/5 stars – Not only is [Yolen’s] writing style engaging and captivating, but the stories themselves are magical and fantastic to read . . . I loved every moment of this book and I couldn’t find anything wrong with it.”
The Joycean Booknerdery

An excellent collection of fairy tale ‘retellings’ written by Nebula Award-winning author Jane Yolen . . . a collection I would recommend to everyone.”
Infinite Text

“Jane Yolen is a consummate storyteller, weaving old and new threads to create tales rich in wisdom and depth. The Emerald Circus is an utter delight.”
—Juliet Marillier, award-winning author of Sevenwaters series

The Emerald Circus dances at the border between bucking tradition and paying homage to the great stories and figures of ages past. The result is a brilliant assemblage of narratives with the potential to leave an audience spellbound.”
Foreword, starred review

“Talk about imaginary gardens with real toads in them! In this wide-ranging short story collection, Jane Yolen’s scholarship and creative genius combine to bestow upon the reader fantastic new intimacy with venerable tales and persons.”
—Nancy Springer, author of The White Hart and I Am Mordred

“Jane Yolen facets her glittering stories with the craft of a master jeweller. Everything she writes, including The Emerald Circus, is original and timeless, deliciously creepy and disturbingly lovely.”
—Elizabeth Wein, author of Code Name Verity

 “In this masterful collection, Jane Yolen draws upon myth, fairy tales, history, poetry, and children’s classics from Alice to Oz to fashion new tales from the bones of the old. There is simply no better storyteller working in the fantasy field today. She’s a national treasure.”
—Terri Windling, author of The Wood Wife and The Essential Bordertown

“What a joy it is to watch Jane Yolen burrow into the hearts of familiar stories and dwell in possibilities we’d never imagined. It’s all done with Yolen’s trademark wisdom, a healthy dollop of subversion, and a twinkle in the eye. A delight!”
—Susan Fletcher, author of Dragon’s Milk and Shadow Spinner

“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. 5/5 stars”
YA Books Central

With over 350 books, Jane Yolen is a legend in the world of children’s and young-adult literature, but her acerbic and witty adult fiction and poetry offer their own pleasures. The 16 stories here, each accompanied by a related poem and notes, revisit some iconic classics, but always from a new, thought-provoking angle. . .”
Chicago Tribune

“An excellent collection.”
Fantasy Literature

Definitely one worth reading. I loved it . . . I was excited to read The Emerald Circus, and was not disappointed in the least.”
Confessions of a Book Addict

“Honestly, I don’t know when Jane Yolen finds time to sleep but I’m selfishly glad she’s been able to produce wonderful stories filled with deft turns of phrases, palpable atmosphere, and interesting, flawed characters.”
Sabrina’s Library

“In this collection you will be surprised, shocked, intrigued, and awed both by new tales and by new perspectives on old, well-loved tales. 5/5 stars”
Imagine a Book SF

“Oh Boy!  I did love this book . . .”
YA Lit Ramblings

“The best book I’ve read in a long time.”
Amazon, Celebrity Picks, Brandon Sanderson

“I loved the stories in The Emerald Circus. . . I’d  highly recommend this collection. 5/5 stars.”
The Book Lover’s Boudoir

“It’s always a treat to read a new Jane Yolen tale, but it’s especially rewarding when you thought you read them all, and then along comes The Emerald Circus collection.”
True Review

“This is a book to go back to for a writer so you can pull it apart and learn technique . . . one to keep.
Strange Alliances

“Fantasy with a feminist twist.”
Book Skill

“Deeply modern, marvelous and magical.”
Why Words Work

“A master storyteller’s riff on various well-known tales including The Wizard of OzPeter PanAlice in Wonderland, and of course the Arthurian legend . . . [A] literary extravaganza.”
—Emerald City Book Review

“A writer who has perfected [her] own voice. If you enjoy reading fresh, sometimes subversive, but always affectionate takes on the stories that we all grew up with, I recommend this collection without reservation.”
—SF Revu

“If you are a fan of short stories, collections, witty fairy tale retellings, and magical realism, I highly recommend this!”
Waves of Ink

About the Author

Jane Yolen has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century. She is the author of over three hundred and fifty books, including children’s fiction, poetry, short stories, graphic novels, nonfiction, fantasy, and science fiction. Her publications include Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, Briar Rose, Sister Emily’s Starship and Sister Light, Sister Dark. Among her many honors are the Caldecott and Christopher Medals, multiple Nebula World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, Golden Kite, and Jewish Book awards; the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Science Fiction Poetry Grand Master Award. Yolen is also a teacher of writing and a book reviewer. She lives in Western Massachusetts and St. Andrew, Scotland.

Praise for Jane Yolen

“The Hans Christian Andersen of America”

“The Aesop of the twentieth century”
The New York Times

“Jane Yolen is a gem in the diadem of science fiction and fantasy.”

Praise for How To Fracture a Fairy Tale

“Readers will find most of these stories relatable and powerful in their messages, and Yolen’s notes about each work’s origin are so interesting that they’re worth rereading in their own right.”
Publishers Weekly

“Humor, tragedy, violence, and adventure create a strong emotional arc to this substantive anthology.”
School Library Journal

“A pioneer of the modern fairy tale retelling, Yolen’s work is foundational. This latest collection records the template on which the genre was built.”

“Yolen takes well-known fairy tales and splits them apart, sometimes leaving them still quite familiar and other times shining a light from an unfamiliar angle to reveal new truths and possibilities”
—Margo Kelly, author of Unlocked

“Every page was a treat to read.”
The Book Lover’s Boudoir

“A master storyteller at her best. I’ve been a fan of Jane Yolen and fractured fairytales for years and this collection doesn’t disappoint.”
—Chanda Hahn, New York Times bestselling author of Reign (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale)

“This collection is Jane Yolen at her best, telling stories you’ve never seen before but have known all your life, and stories as familiar as your left hand that you barely recognize, spun from shadows and moonlight and breathed through silvered glass. This is magic.”
—Patricia C. Wrede, author of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles

“Yolen’s deftly-flowing prose highlights each unique perspective or imaginative speculation. Her tales, once fractured, don’t splinter—they sparkle.”
—Alex Flinn, author of Beastly and Beheld

“Yolen’s writing bone-deep sort of magical, where you find yourself unsure where the original fairytale ends and her interpretation begins. These stories got into my skin, and my head, and my heart—the perfect blend of beautiful and frightening.”
—Jackson Pearce, author of Cold Spell and Sisters Red

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale is a fascinating exploration of how old stories we all think we know can become fresh and new and stunning in the hands of the masterful Jane Yolen. So many of Yolen’s stories here are like origami—with expert snips and twists and turns, she transforms the ordinary into fantastic art. This book can be read just for sheer pleasure or as a study for other writers in what is possible.
—Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of The Missing series and The Shadow Children series

“No one can spin a tale as magical as Jane Yolen, full of beauty and wonder, and more than a few sharp thorns!”
—Jessica Day George, author of the Rose Legacy series and the Dragon Slippers trilogy

“Ever the master storyteller, Jane Yolen weaves and spins and fractures her way through a far-ranging, culturally diverse array of fairy-tales.
Ranging from the comic (various famous fairy tale wolves kvetching in an Old Wolves Home) to the disturbing (a take on Cinderella involving incest) to the poetic (a lovely version of the Native American tale ‘The Woman Who Loved a Bear’), each tale is a finely crafted gemstone. Readers will be filled with wonder and delight, pain and joy, and may even be inspired to try their own hand at fracturing a fairy tale.
I particularly loved Yolen’s explanatory ‘How I Fractured These Stories’ section at the end, identifying the origin tale, each one accompanied by a luminous poem.”
—Edith Pattou, author of West and East

“Deeply moving and poignant reimaginings of the tales many of us know and love.”
Reader Fox and a Box of Books

“This collection of fractured fairy tales is a must-read for any lover of folklore. All of the stories are beautiful in their own way, and some are truly amazing. If you like fairy tales, especially retellings of them, you need to read this book.”
—Hazel G. Evans

“Last year I read and reviewed The Emerald Circus and fell in love with Jane Yolen’s storytelling. Having just closed the back cover on How to Fracture a Fairy Tale I can’t help but wonder how such levels of creativity are possible.”
Infinite Text

“Since Jane Yolen understands and appreciates the art of the fairy tale, studying all the classics and then some, she obviously knows the adage that when you know all the rules, you can break them. So breaking those rules, boundaries and expectations is what the How to Fracture a Fairy Tale collection is all about. Yolen breaks them in the right places.”
True Review

“Yolen is a master of the fairy tale form – you’ll find her writing style both enchanting and enticing as you wind through these modern adaptations to discover her unique perspective. The collection is a masterpiece of fairy tale storytelling.”
Reviews and Robots

“Overall, this was quite an eclectic collection, and it was wonderful “catching up” with Ms. Yolen again. Highly recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings!”
Llama Reads Books

“Yolen is a master of the fairy tale form – you’ll find her writing style both enchanting and enticing as you wind through these modern adaptations to discover her unique perspective. The collection is a masterpiece of fairy tale storytelling, one that should be read by lovers of fairy tales and those new to the genre.”
Reviews and Robots 

Yolen has long been a major voice in children’s literature, and this story collection offers a chance to meld fairy tales with fantasy with the same brilliance of The Emerald Circus.”

“Jane Yolen has an impressive array of devices in her writer’s toolbox; she truly is a master of her craft.”
Way Too Fantasy

“I absolutely fell in love with this collection of short stories.”
Epilogue Reviews

“These Tachyon volumes are an invaluable reminder of Yolen’s central role in contemporary fantasy, and perhaps an equally invaluable start­ing point for readers.”
Locus on The Emerald Circus and How to Fracture a Fairy Tale

Praise for The Devil’s Arithmetic

“The book’s simplicity is its strength; no comment is needed because the facts speak for themselves. This brave and powerful book has much it can teach a young audience.”
Publishers Weekly

“A triumphantly moving book.”

[STARRED REVIEW] “[Yolen] adds much to understanding the effects of the Holocaust, which will reverberate throughout history, today and tomorrow.”
School Library Journal

Praise for Sister Emily’s Lightship

“This is [Yolen’s] first collection of genre stories for adults and it has been worth the wait.”
Publishers Weekly

“An outstanding collection.”
Voice of Youth Advocates

Praise for Briar Rose

“Terrifically moving.”
The Washington Post

“Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, Yolen’s novel is a compelling reminder of the Holocaust as well as a contemporary tale of secrets and romance.”

Praise for Stone Angel

[STARRED REVIEW] This story provides a wonderful addition to materials about World War II and the Holocaust, and is appropriate for even the gentlest of readers.”
School Library Connection

Visit the Jane Yolen website.

Table of Contents

Andersen’s Witch
Lost Girls (Nebula Award Winner)
Tough Alice
Blown Away
A Knot of Toads
The Quiet Monk
The Bird  (Original story)
Belle Bloody Merciless Dame
Jewel in the Toad Queen’s Crown
A Gift of Magicians
Rabbit Hole
Our Lady of the Greenwood
The Confession of Brother Blaise
Wonder Land
Evian Steel
Sister Emily’s Lightship (Nebula Award Winner)