Ian Lendler's An Undone Fairy Tale
Illustrated by Whitney Martin
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
"Slow down! You're reading too fast!"
That, in a nutshell, is the premise of An Undone Fairy Tale. Ned, the fictional artist and scene designer, is painting the backgrounds and wrangling props for the pages ahead WHILE you're reading.
Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but you, kid, are too fast a reader. You keep catching Ned with his pants down, so to speak.
Ostensibly, An Undone Fairy Tale is about a princess locked in a tower by her evil stepfather, the gluttonous king. He values her services as a pie-baker, and he wants to keep her right where she is.
Of course she's beautiful and wonderful, so there are knights a-plenty hoping to rescue and marry her. Unfortunately, the king requires that they accomplish a series of tasks to win the princess's hand, and the tasks are nearly undoable.
That's the conventional outline of the story, but it's not really the story that's central here. It's the silliness that occurs when your child keeps turning the pages too fast!
No time to find the king a crown, so Ned puts a doughnut atop his head. Sir Wilbur, the most persistent knight in pursuit of the princess, is lacking an outfit to wear and horses for him and his men to ride because of your ridiculous speed-reading, so Ned (with an unnamed behind-the-scenes guy, presumably the writer) dresses Sir Wilbur in a tutu and outfits his army with some sturdy fish with which to ride into battle.
Of course, things only get screwier from there. Ned quits and the writer ends up drawing in a childish hand as we see the princess rescuing tutued Sir Wilbur from the chaos of a battle featuring fish, monkeys, a giant snail and a river of melted grape popsicles.
Translation: just the sort of highly inspired silliness that a young reader is likely to adore. Not only that, but chaos caused by your little troublemaker and his/her insistence on turning the pages when told not to!
Yes, An Undone Fairy Tale does a masterful job of letting your child wreak complete havoc...without leaving any actual damage behind.
Artist Whitney Martin's "undone" illustrations are a joy, with detail and silliness galore, capturing entirely the insanity of a makeshift production due to open many days too soon.
Please. Ned's exhausted.... The forest isn't ready. Plus the knights aren't here. They're off eating lunch. No one thought you'd read this quickly.
So you CAN'T go on, right?
Let's face it: our children spend their days with adults telling them what to do. An Undone Fairy Tale offers the chance for your child to take charge. There's great joy to be had in the simple act of paging ahead despite the adult figure on the page pleading with you not to.
That makes this a book that your child will keep wanting to come back to!
Webmaster's note: There's another book I recommend highly in the "giving children control of the story" genre, and that's Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Read the review.
Read more of Steve's reviews.
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