Me and Robin McKinley

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Working in a library means I’m always surrounded by books.  I talk about books, think about books, and read about books.  This has made me acutely aware of how many books there are and how many I should read.  Because there is so much to read it is rare that I read anything more than once.  But what, you might wonder, do I reread the most?  Books by Robin McKinley.

Ms. McKinley’s first book, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast (DB 55360), was published in 1978.  It was named a Notable Children’s Book and a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.  Honor is a major theme in this adaptation of the classic French fairytale, as it is honor that leads Beauty to go to the Beast’s castle in her father’s place.  Honour is actually Beauty’s real name in McKinley’s story, and Beauty is the main character’s nickname (which she doesn’t like).  I first read this book while in middle school, but just last month I downloaded it from BARD to enjoy while commuting.  It was the third time I’d gone through the story and it felt like reuniting with an old friend.

McKinley’s best-known book might be The Hero and the Crown (DB 25926), which won the Newbery Medal in 1985, but that’s not the one I’ve reread the most.  The winner for most reads by yours truly is Deerskin (DB 37514), a retelling of the lesser-known French fairytale “Donkey-skin” written by Charles Perrault.  Princess Lissar is the heroine of Deerskin, and at the story’s start she is growing under the shadow of her perfect parents.  The King and Queen are intensely in love, incredibly attractive, and declared to be perfect by the people they rule.  But when the gorgeous Queen dies the King is grief-stricken and goes mad.  He believes his daughter is growing into the image of his wife and therefore wants to wed her.

The cover of the book Deerskin.

The story takes a dark turn, but then Lissar escapes and is out on her own with her beloved dog Ash.  They travel far from Lissar’s homeland to find safety, friends, and eventually love.  But there is also retribution.  And magic.  I’ve taken this book with me everywhere, including while waiting at the doctor’s office and on long road trips.  I’m not sure if it’s McKinley’s lyrical writing or the familiarity of the characters that keeps me coming back.  But if you’ve never read anything by her, now might be the time to start.