The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears
Alastair Chisholm and Jez Tuya
Walker Books

This is essentially a bedtime story treasure trove – a fairy story with a very clever twist or two, or even more.

It begins with Dad asking son Jamie what kind of bedtime story he’d like. Jamie requests “A made-up one!” to include the titular characters and so Dad does as he’s bid and begins to tell his tale within a tale and a right rambling yarn it is into which Jamie insists breaking with questions and interjections. Dad then weaves these into his telling, no matter how far off piste they might be or how irritating. “Why couldn’t the Princess rescue the Prince? … Mum says Princesses in stories are rubbish.” Dad eventually concedes only for Jamie to decide, “No actually I want the Prince.” …

The Princess has been incarcerated in a tower by “her wicked aunt, a Witch with an Evil Eye, ” Dad continues and so it goes on.

We discover that the castle is made (to Jamie’s disgust) entirely out of broccoli and the Witch is really a Ninja. Uh-ha! And if that’s not enough topsy-turvyness, then I’ll have you know that as they approach Castle Broccoli the Prince is actually carrying the horse

and the Princess isn’t all she seems.

Nonetheless all ends happily – twice over- in this splendid romp of a bedtime tale telling experience that will delight both receivers and deliverers. It well and truly flips the traditional fairy story right on its head and not only is it a smashing bedtime offering (albeit not a brief one); it’s absolutely bursting with classroom potential too; and not simply because Dad promises a continuation involving the Bears on the following night.

Yes, Alistair Chisholm’s telling is terrific, but Jez Tuya’s illustrations are pretty cool too – or should that be hot – certainly so here …

and full of hilarious, chortle worthy details.

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