Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: The End by David LaRochelle

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Twist on a classic genre that works beautifully.  Pictures add to the fun and humor.
Cons: Very young kids won't quite understand how the book works
The Bottom Line
A future classic
Brilliant twist on familiar
For kids and parents

Travel from The End to Once Upon a Time 

The End proves to be a fun picture book that leaves you wondering what could cause what we’ve just seen.  It takes the fairy tale and tweaks what we already know about the genre.  And for those reasons, it’s a great book for all ages to read.

The pictures in this book are outstanding.  Richard Egielski did a fantastic job with them.  They are just on that border between realistic and fantastic, which is good when you are dealing with knights, princesses, dragons, and giants.  There is a hint of medieval to them, which helps draw you into the book.

I was originally looking at this book for my niece, who is almost two and a half.  I think she’s still a bit young for it, so I will remember it for when she’s another year or two older.  By then, she’ll be able to follow the backwards nature of the story.  Likewise, some of the words are harder than your average easy reading book, but parents will enjoy reading it to their young kids and can certainly help beginning readers sound out the more difficult words.

Not that the story is overly long.  Each two page spread features only one or two sentences of narration, and the pictures superbly support what we’ve been told.  But since this book builds its suspense from twisting cause and effect on its head, a child would need to be able to reason through those things to fully appreciate it.

In addition to the flipped nature of cause and effect, the story is also absurdly funny.  It twists all the fairy tale conventions around and leaves with a story and characters we never expected.  I loved that!  There are no cliches here.  There are also no villains.  Yes, some of the behavior by characters is inappropriate, but it’s not evil.  And everything loops back around by the time we hit Once Upon a Time in a clever way that made me appreciate the book even more.

You want to know just how committed David LaRochelle, the author, was to the backwards nature of this book?  The title page is actually the last page of the book instead of the first.

The story opens with “And they lived happily ever after.”  No, we aren’t about to find out what happened next.  Instead, we find out that they lived happily ever after because the princess threw lemonade on the knight.  Why would she do that?  You’ll have to turn the pages to find out, but it’s a tale filled with giants, bunnies, and dragons. 

I’m not quite sure how The End filtered across my radar, but I had it set aside on a list of books to look at as potential gifts for my niece.  I’m glad it did because it was a pure delight.

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