Friday, June 29, 2012

Happiness is.. a good book (Summer Reading edition #5)

The Hero's Guide To Saving Your Kingdom
Author: Christopher Healy
: Todd Harris
Published: 2012
Pages: 438
Age Range: 8-12
Genre: Fantasy/Adventure
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: G
First sentence: Prince Charming is afraid of old ladies. Didn't know that, did you?

Prince Charming is tired of all the stories going around about him. They all are.  There are actually 4 princes (Duncan, Frederic, Liam and Gustav) each with their own talents, quirks and stories to tell.  But the bards who tell the tales seem to find pleasure in giving all the glory and great bits to the princesses and relegating the heroics of the princes to over generalized sentimentality. Ironically they find themselves being shunned by their various princesses for a number of different reasons and even being thrown from their kingdoms. So, separate from each other they each set off to hunt down the bards and change their stories.

Eventually they all meet up with each other and stumble on a wicked plan by a dastardly witch to kidnap the bards and have them tell of her exploits making her the most famous (and evil) character in history.  Determined to re-gain their hero status they combine forces to combat the witch with a little help from Cinderella, some dwarves (and please don't call them dwarfs), a giant, a dragon and more. Together they overcome a few of their personality quirks (or learn to use those quirks for good) and personal trials making them better people in the end, of course. The bards are also rescued but even in the end they don't seem to be able to get things right.

This was an utterly charming (pun intended) story with thoroughly enjoyable characters. As I read it I kept seeing a Disney movie running through my head (and I mean that in the best way possible) especially the newer versions with a bit of sarcasm and spunk and slightly off-kilter portrayals of typically stereotyped characters. Briar Rose was a spoiled brat, Snow White was a ditzy granola tree-hugger type, Rapunzel was shy and more of a loner and Cinderella (the primary princess) had a lust for adventure and a bit of a hero complex herself.  But it was truly the princes' story.

The dialogue was witty and quick full of banter and narrator asides and commentary that made me laugh out loud in spots.  Here's a sample:

I've got some important news about the royal wedding."
"Will there be cheesecake?" someone shouted.
"No, I'm sorry. No cheesecake. Actually--"
"Will you be taking your vows in a hot-air balloon?" another voice called out.
"No, of course not.  Why would someone do that?  So, about the wedding--"
"Will there be little sausages on toothpicks and a choice of dipping sauces?" yet another person yelled.
"What about cheesecake?"
"I already said there'd be no cheesecake. Look, people, please let me--"
"Will you ride up the aisle on a unicorn?"
"There's not going to be any wedding!" the prince blurted out. (pg 84)

The princes waved good-bye to the trolls and galloped off for their climactic showdown with Zaubera. Together again, and having had a little taste of victory, they were more optimistic than ever--which they probably wouldn't have been if they'd known that one of them was not going to walk away from that battle.
Oops, sorry about that. I probably should have said, "Spoiler alert." (pg 344)

Obviously my ideal Disney is tainted with touches of The Princess Bride, Stardust, some mild  Monty Python and the like. :)

In true fantasy fashion there was a map of the land and kingdoms at the front but I wish there'd been a list of the cast of characters as well. I kept getting interrupted in my reading (for days at a time) and when I'd go back I'd mix up which prince was which and the princesses they belonged with.  But that's pretty much my only complaint. It was just good, plain fun! Boys and girls will both love it and it would make a fabulous read aloud (though it is a bit on the long side.)  This would also make a fantastic audio book with the right reader.  And while there was a neat and tidy ending the author could easily pull a loose thread here or there to spin out a sequel or two.

And now fair readers I am off to enjoy a fabulous outdoor concert. Who will I be seeing?  Why, these amazing people...yes, again!

And I've also made a judicial decision. Rather than posting a book review every single day I am hereby declaring weekends 'review free'! I've just had so many other things coming up lately I don't think I'll be able to keep up.  So, you'll still get a review each day Monday through Friday until our Summer programs end in August but I may be MIA Saturday and Sunday.  I know you'll miss me but I'm giving you time to get some of these books to read for yourself!  So get busy! :)

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