Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

More fairy tale fun from Vivian French! (say that 3x fast)

Tom and Tallulah and the Witches’ Feast, by Vivian French/Illustrated by Marta Kissi, (Sept. 2018, Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 9781610677349

Ages 7-11

The latest fairy tale outing from Vivian French and Marta Kissi has a brother and sister duo working against time to save their poor grandmother from becoming a chicken after falling under an evil spell. Tallulah Tickle wants to be a witch, but her apprenticeship has not been going well. She’s always late, her food is terrible, and – unbeknownst to her – Gertrude Higgins is secretly plotting against all the witches in her coven, starting with Talluah’s grandmother! Tallulah has one more chance to complete her apprenticeship, and it’s a toughie: she has to guess each witch’s favorite food, and make it. Flawlessly. In three days. Lucky for Tallulah, her brother Tom has a gift in the kitchen, but she’s going to need some help figuring out what everyone likes to eat, too. They’ll have to think fast, though – they need to save poor Grandmother from an awful spell that’s turning her into a chicken! Add a wily cat (or two) and crow to the mix, and you have a heck of an adventure!

Earlier this year, I read The Cherry Pie Princess and The Adventures of Alfie Onion, also by Vivian French and Marta Kissi, and enjoyed this new generation of fairy tale characters. Tom and Tallulah are a smart sibling team that work together to get the job done. Tallulah stubbornly tries to do it all on her own, but she has to grow up enough to understand reason and admit her weaknesses. We’ve got villains with ulterior motives, talking animals, and a loving grandmother that needs saving; all good story elements that come together to give readers a magical adventure. Black and white illustrations throughout bring the text to life and create a relationship between readers and characters.

The Cherry Pie Princess and Adventures of Alfie Onion are already popular with my library kids. I can’t wait to introduce them to Tom and Tallulah! Give these to your fairy tale readers and your fantasy fans.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Vivian French creates fun fairy tales!

The Cherry Pie Princess, by Vivian French/Illustrated by Marta Kissi, (March 2018, Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 9781610677332

Recommended for readers 7-11

Peony is the youngest of her princess sisters. She’s also the one with manners, and who loves to read. When a baby brother is born, her parents are thrilled and demand a huge celebration, but Peony’s father – who may be a tyrant – only wants people who will give good gifts and who are the “right” kind of people at the party, which leaves out The Hag, a powerful witch who doesn’t take kindly to being ignored. It’s up to Peony to use her brains to save the town librarian and an aspiring court jester that her father locked in the dungeon, her baby brother, and the entire kingdom. No pressure!

Vivian French’s fairy tales are so much fun to read. They’ve got wonderful heroines and heroes, and a dramatis personae of dramatic foils that are generally (comically) awful people. In this case, Peony, who loves the library, borrows a cookbook and learns how to bake while her father has the librarian thrown in the dungeon for daring to speak directly to Peony. Who discovers this years later, when her own father locks her up for daring to talk back to him. It’s Peony’s book smarts and sense of decency that combine to help her take charge of the situation when The Hag shows up to cause trouble, and save the day. There’s humor, fun and diverse characters – the three good fairy godmothers appear to be African-American – and Marta Kissi’s entertaining black and white artwork make this a fun read for fantasy fans, princess fans, and readers who love a book with a message. Plus, there’s a talking cat and a librarian. So, bonus.

Props to Marta Kissi for nailing a picture of me at the end of a day at the library, without even knowing me:

 

The Adventures of Alfie Onion, by Vivian French/Illustrated by Marta Kissi, (March 2018, Kane Miller), $5.99, ISBN: 9781610677325

Recommended for readers 7-11

Alfie Onion could really have had a chip on his shoulder, and no one would blame him. He’s the eighth son of a seventh son, an inconvenience to his mother, who lavishes all her attentions on her seventh son of a seventh son, Magnifico. You see, his mother grew up obsessed with fairy tales, and was convinced that the seventh son of a seventh son was destined for greatness; Magnifico is his mother’s long-tail get-rich scheme. The thing is, Magnifico is a spoiled brat who pretty much knows how to eat. And that’s that. So when his mother pushes him off to start his great adventures, Magnifico takes Alfie (and his dog, Bowser) along to carry his luggage. Guess who the real hero is going to be?

I am so happy to read that these two books are the beginning of a new stand-alone series; they are so much fun to read and address modern-day problems in a fairy tale setting. Like The Cherry Pie Princess, Alfie Onion has a positive hero with overwrought, melodramatic antagonist foils. Alfie is always respectful and kind, where Magnifico is selfish and rude; when danger lurks, Magnifico expects Alfie to protect him: some hero! The humor is light and fun, with all the fantasy dressing: forests, trolls, talking birds and mice, a lovelorn ogress, a faithful dog, and a hero’s quest. Marta Kissi’s illustrations just add to the fun here, especially when the adventure takes a turn into an ogrish rubbish pit.

Do you have readers who love Whatever After? Grimmtastic Girls? Hand them these, and tell them to enjoy. Have boys who think fairy tales are for girls? First, tell them they’re clearly not reading the right fairy tales, and hand them these, too.