Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Holding Out For A Hero

Fairy tales have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  After several summers of attending storytelling workshops and classes as part of the National Storytelling Association (now the National Storytelling Network) in Jonesborough, Tennessee, I became fascinated with the variants connected to the cultures from which they came.  And I am not alone.  If I had a dime for every request for a princess story I've had over the duration of my career, I could completely restock the shelves in the library media center. 

But even after collecting numerous variations on some of my favorites, nothing could have prepared me for Christopher Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Walden Pond Press, May 1, 2012).  His take on the princes from Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, none of whom are actually named Prince Charming, is offbeat and downright hilarious.  Princes's personalities, fully disclosed, stray considerably from what readers know to be true from the original stories.

Although Frederic from Cinderella, Gustav from Rapunzel, Liam from Sleeping Beauty and Duncan from Snow White hail from different kingdoms in the realm, with demeanors as diverse as night and day, each has been a victim of the notorious storytellers of the time, bards.  These bards have a habit of leaving out the crucial details of events especially the given names of the heroes. As events unfold these four will combine their talents, or lack thereof, to partake in an adventure full of mischief, mayhem, and a crazy cast of characters straight from Healy's land of fairy.

It all begins with Prince Frederic, a lover of style, dance and the more sedate functions of his status such as picnics, strolls among art and listening to music, who sets off to find Ella (Cinderella).  Once freed from the clutches of her stepmother and stepsisters, spirited Ella is in search of high adventure, leaving her finance, to find Rapunzel, who in reality saved her rescuer from certain death.  Who should Frederic meet but Prince Gustav, trying to salvage what's left of his precarious, at best, reputation.  It's a little hard to be heroic with sixteen older, bigger brothers.

After a complete fiasco involving Zaubera, the wicked witch with more dastardly plans up her sleeves than ants in a hill, and her giant sidekick, Reese, the duo in pursuit of Ella come upon a sleeping Prince Liam.  Having discovered Briar Rose's snooty, snottiness Liam has fled his kingdom after announcing the marriage is off.  Joining forces on horseback the trio rides through the woods to save Ella but who do they find first?  It seems Prince Duncan is lost after Snow White said she needed some quiet time.

As the foursome journey through the realm their initial quest becomes the least of their worries; an army of bandits lead by a boy, a bounty hunter called Ruffian the Blue, a trio of cranky dwarfs, a fire-breathing dragon, and yes, Zaubera and Reese, as well as a tavern filled with cutthroats figure into the scheme.  Each encounter becomes more convoluted with plot twists, turns and comedic terror.  Spiraling to a fever pitch the ending will have readers gasping for breath for obvious and unexpected reasons.

With this debut as a children's book writer, Christoper Healy, has hit a grand slam right out of the park.  Perfect plot pacing, lovable, fully developed characters, and snappy dialogue heaped with humor make for a captivating read.  His witty way with words is the real magic in this title. 

Here are some examples of Healy's writing from the book.  (It was harder than you can imagine to limit myself to just a few; my book looked like the proverbial porcupine with sticky notes instead of quills.)

"Hero, singular," Zaubera replied.  "One of them is a complete coward.  And yes, the hero will follow us.  That's what heroes do.  We'll just be ready for him.  When we catch him and his sidekick, you can grind their bones into bread.  Now come."
"Yes, ma'am," the giant intoned in his booming voice, "But bread made from bones sounds awful, you know."
"I didn't hire you to be a meal planner, Reese," grated the witch. "Start walking."

Still half-asleep, he squinted through his drowsy haze at two figures standing before him.  One was wearing an ornate but ragged white suit that made him look like the leader of a zombie marching band.  The second was twice the size of the first and appeared to be half Viking, half bear. "Hey, you!" barked the bigger of the two.  "Wake up!"

"Whawadoo, whuwedow?" the out-of-breath Frederic tried again.  He sounded like an asthmatic cat trapped inside an accordion.

Drawings by Todd Harris, his first in a published book, compliment the storyline well.  Working mostly in digital they pop up among the pages exactly when you are wondering what someone or something might look like.  Check out this interview of Harris prior to the book's release.

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom written by Christopher Healy with illustrations by Todd Harris is the most fun I have had reading a book this year; maybe ever.  Continually laughing aloud I imagined how great a read aloud this title would be.  Do yourself a favor read this book, read it now and read it with someone else. 

This book is the first in a series of three.  The movie rights have already been acquired by Fox Animation.  Christopher Healy tweeted about a list of books that his four heroes might have on their book shelves.  I've read almost all of them but I've some new ones to add to my TBR stack.

Enjoy the prologue for the book below.

Update:   July 24, 2012--Enjoy this new book trailer.

More good news for fans, or soon to be fans, of this memorable book.  Christoper Healy announced this week, September 17, 2012 about an official website.  Follow this link.

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