The Prince and the witch and the thief and the bears by Alistair Chisolm
Ill. by Jez Tuya. Walker, 2018. ISBN 9781406365139
(Age: 4-7) Highly recommended. Themes: Storytelling, Fairy tales, Bedtime.
"What kind of story shall we have tonight? asked Dad . . . "A made up one! said Jamie.
As Dad tuck his son into bed, they are ready to share a bedtime story, a creative one filled with a cast of fairy tale characters. Jamie's level of excitement increases as he constantly adds another person and creature, changes the plot and questions then redirects the actions. Dad's enthusiasm and his willingness to accommodate his son adds to the delight of this story. The youngster even questions his father's choice of the prince riding off to rescue the princess trapped in the dark tower. They decide that the prince can do it, this time. They often digress: How evil is the witch? Can she turn you into stone or even jelly? When the villain falls to her death, Jamie's a little hesitant. Dad's imagination changes the fairy tale again because the former princess really a jewel thief uses her grappling hook to catch the falling evil witch-ninja.
Jez Tuya's vibrant digital illustrations imbue each character with attitude and make Alistair Chisolm's cumulative fairy tale comical. Inside a star-filled border, a handsome prince rides his dappled grey stallion whilst an ugly witch, a beautiful princess and a flying fire breathing dragon wait ready for the story to begin. Atop the tall mountain is a lofty castle and there's a large brown bear lurking at the edge of the forest. The stallion sits back on his hind legs, helps with the map and waits for the prince to work out how far away is his kingdom. When Dad mentions the fierce bears and dragons, Jamie needs a clear definition on their ferocity, so the illustrator adds enormous shaggy coats and vicious claws. Each double-page spread is filled with big, bold pictures that delightfully express Jamie and Dad's dramatic fairy tale.
Alistair Chisolm's fast-paced story is a perfect read aloud with many twists and turns. Jez Tuya completely captures the humour and builds the drama through his energetic and colourful visual storytelling.
The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears is an enchanting narrative for Junior Primary classes to engage with plot, setting and characterisation, stereotypes and the structure of fairy tales.