This Halloween, you might see some trick or treaters on your doorstep wearing either all pink or all black costumes. If so, they are probably dressed as characters from a popular new book series called The School for Good and Evil. We talk with author Soman Chainani about how he was inspired to correct what he felt were all the “wrong lessons” in the fairy tales he grew up reading.
In Chainani’s best seller, every four years two children are abducted from the town and sent off to an institution where ordinary boys and girls are trained either to be fairy tale heroes at the School for Good, or villains at the School for Evil. The books begin as two friends, Sophie and Agatha get whisked off to seemingly the wrong school. Good girl Sophie can’t understand why she’s been assigned to the School for Evil, and Agatha, with her shabby clothes, horrible pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, is surprised to be taken to the School for Good. Clearly, there’s been a mistake. The story then continues as each of them must discover exactly why they ended up where they did, with the lesson being that some things are more complex than they might seem at first look.
Each book in the series plays with a simplistic dichotomy that Chainani wants to examine, whether it’s good vs. evil, boys vs. girls, or truth vs. lies. Chainani’s goal is to encourage readers to challenge the stereotypes and preconceptions found in many of the fairy tales we grew up with.
- Jodi Sedlock, Associate professor of biology, Lawrence University
- Don Mitchell, author of Flying Blind: One man’s adventures battling buckthorn, making peace with authority, and creating a home for endangered bats