Sunday, February 24, 2013

Whatever After Fairest of All

Let me just say at the onset that the second grade me would have loved Whatever After Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski. I lived in a very Dick and Jane world. From my point of view, very little about my life was exciting. My Grandmother introduced me to fairy tales when I was four or five. She found beautifully illustrated books with exciting stories that fueled my imagination. I firmly believed that there was a door in my house that would lead me into the land of the Grimm Brothers. Turns out I should have been looking for a mirror that hissed.

Whatever After Fairest of All 

Abby and her brother Jonah have moved with their parents from Chicago to Smithville. Where is Smithville? Not sure, but it is somewhere where pop is called soda and tag is played in a strange way.  Abby is having a bit of a problem adjusting to her new home, so while her brother is pursuing activities like rock climbing, Abby is retreating into books. Her grandmother used to read the two of them fairy tales when they lived in Chicago, so to comfort herself she starts reading a book of fairy tales.

That night, seven year old Jonah wakes her up to tell her that the mirror in the basement is hissing. Abby tries to get her brother back to bed but winds up following him downstairs to show him that the mirror is just a mirror. Sure enough, after Jonah knocks on the mirror, it starts to hiss, then turns purple and then starts to suck the two of them, some furniture and her parents’ law books into the mirror. Very soon they land in a forest. After hearing what sounds like hungry animal noises, they start running.

Very soon they see an old woman carrying a basket. It turns out that it is the wicked queen who is trying to poison Snow White with an apple. Before Abby and Jonah figure this out, they keep Snow from taking the apple and eating it. When Jonah and then Abby figure out that they are in a fairy tale and that they prevented Snow White from eating the poisoned apple thus preventing her “happily ever after”. That would not be fair. So they decide to help Snow achieve her “happily ever after before they try to go home.

There are lots of delicious details in this story. Three of the seven dwarfs are girls. They have names like Bob, Tara, Alan, Francis, Jon, Stan and Enid. With Abby and Jonah’s help, Snow helps arrange her own happily ever after and even saves the prince, whose name is Trevor, with a kiss. Magic mirrors have a network like the paintings in Harry Potter books. The Queen’s mirror is happy to get brother and sister back home before their parents wake up. It is a delightful 21st century rendering of a very old fairy tale.

The Sonoma County Library has a few copies. The second book in the series Whatever After If the Shoe Fits will be available at the Yulupa Scholastic Book Faire March 4-8.

The AR reading level is 2.8.

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