November 2003

Cleaning up Cinderella’s kitchen

By Lauren Child
Review by
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What would happen if you accidentally fell into your favorite fairy tale? In Lauren Child's latest story, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book?, a young boy does just that and learns a valuable lesson. Drifting off to sleep after reading a book of fairy tales, young Herb awakens in one of the Three Bears' beds. He realizes his predicament when the shrill voice of a very annoyed Goldilocks shrieks, "How dare you be on this page? I am the star and I say you are not allowed in this story!" Herb quickly runs to the next fairy tale, where he encounters Hansel and Gretel eating pieces of the Gingerbread House. But meeting characters like the Wicked Stepmother and the Fairy Godmother is not Herb's only eye-opening experience. As he ventures through the pages of the book, Herb realizes that all is not quite right in fairy-tale land: the queen wears a pen mustache, telephones adorn every room, some of the stories are upside-down, and Prince Charming is missing. All the while, young Herb has a sinking suspicion that he might be the perpetrator of this chaos. His scribbling (of mustaches and telephones) in the book, his cutting (holes and Prince Charming!) of the pages and crumb-spilling (all over Cinderella's kitchen) have changed the course of events in the stories.

By portraying her young protagonist in such an imaginative and creative way, award-winning author and illustrator Lauren Child brings a wonderfully original tale to life, and in doing so teaches a time-honored lesson. Returning to his bedroom, Herb works diligently to right the wrongs he has done: he rubs out the mustaches, turns the wicked stepmother's room right-side up and cleans out the crumbs. With her trademark humor, creative illustrations and wonderful use of collage, Child has created another whimsical, one-of-a-kind story for readers of all ages.

Heidi Henneman writes from New York City.

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