I knew I had something special in my hands the minute I read through the first page of the book. Apart from being a lovely addition to our Fractured Fairytale theme this July-August, it is also one interesting book we can contribute to the regulars of Book Talk Tuesday being hosted by Kelly Butcher, Rock Star Librarian over at The Lemme Library.
Long, long ago (about six hundred and two years ago last Friday, at 7:00 P.M., Fairy Standard Time to be exact), the childless King Gluteus and his wife, Queen Esophagus, got lucky at last.
“A baby girl!” Queen Esophagus cried. “I’ll eat to that!” said King Gluteus.
For the rest of us – peasants and milkmaids and frogs – it was business as usual. Yada yada, hippity-hop.
Word play and Horrendous Names. In the tradition of the famous Sleeping Beauty [but in modern-day parlance] “The king and queen threw a big wingding for their daughter’s christening.” The name of Sleeping Beauty, however, is not the sweet-sounding Briar Rose or Aurora – in Bruce Hale’s version, it is the mouthful “Princess Drachmina Lofresca Malvolio Margarine” or Marge for short.
Even the fairies’ names are funky: “Hexus and Blexus, Nostrilene and Umpudine, Fleabitis and Tintinnitus, and Fred (who wasn’t really a fairy, but no one had the heart to tell him.” And as is the wont of fairy god parents, they each gave their special blessing:
‘She will be the most beauteous maiden in the land’ said Hexus.
‘She will be wittiest,’ said Blexus.
And on and on… best dancer blah-blah-blah, best singer blah-blah-blah, nicest penmanship blah-blah-blah…
Yada yada hippity-hop.
the uninvited fairy barges in, giving her horrible curse.
A Hearing-impaired Fairy [Tintinnitus] and the Garlic-Smelling Irate Beebo. One of my favorite parts from the book was the repartee between Beebo and the hard-of-hearing Tintinnitus:
She stuck her big bazoo into the crib and barked, “When this babe turns sixteen, she will be run over by a pie wagon and die!”
Tintinnitus returned just at that moment. ‘Eh, what’s that?” she said . “She’ll turn into a dragon and fly?”
“Die!” snapped Beebo.
“Spy?” asked Tintinnitus.
“DIE!” shouted the Garlicky One.
“Oh, my, said Tintinnitus. With a grumble and a growl, Beebo blasted off.
Tintinnitus turned to King Gluteus and Queen Esophagus. She could not undo Beebo’s gift. But she could bamboozle it.
“My blessing is that, um… instead of turning into a dead dragon -”
“But Beebo said–” the king began.
“Your daughter will become … a sleeping dragon!” Tintinnitus continued. “And one day, she’ll be awakened by … uh.. um..”
“A prince?” said the queen hopefully.
“A quince,” said the fairy. “Good idea.”
And, foof, she was gone.
When Perfect isn’t Enough. This book reminded me of why I lovelovelove fractured fairy tales – the astounding wit that would literally make you laugh out loud – regardless of where you are – causing you such undue embarrassment but unparalleled pleasure too.
The book has also highlighted one of the key flaws in fairy tales – if the well-meaning fairy godparents imbue their godchild with all the beauty, intelligence, talent, ladidah in the world – wouldn’t that make them insufferably perfect? Which is precisely what happened to Princess Marge:
The fairies forgot just one thing: She was too perfect. Nobody wanted to play with a girl who could do everything twice as well as they could.
Princess Marge was lonely.
And as all fairy tales would have it (this one though is narrated by a feathered-hat frog prince), the prophecy did come true, with Princess Marge turned into a Snoring Beast. However, our Narrator-Frog was quick to point out that what the legends say about the entire castle snoozing is just so wrong. How could they, when the dragon snored the entire day? Fair enough. Exactly how the spell was reversed, I shall leave for you to discover.
Teacher Resource. While I discovered quite a few links that look into how this amazing book can be used inside the classroom, I shall highlight only one. This downloadable pdf link is actually from Bruce Hale’s website and is a comprehensive handout which includes activities such as the creation of a Venn Diagram that would highlight parallels and divergences between the original fairy tale and this fractured one.
Bruce Hale described himself to be raised by wolves just outside Los Angeles and he started his writing career while he was in Tokyo, and he continued this when he moved to Hawaii in 1983. He also worked as a magazine editor, surveyor, corporate lackey, gardener, actor, and deejay before becoming a full time children’s book author (source here). In the jacketflap of the book, he insisted that no one in his family snores – especially not his beautiful wife who provided absolutely no inspiration for this lovely fractured fairy tale. If you wish to know more about Bruce and his works, this is his official website.
Howard Fine shared that he started doing illustrations at age two. In the jacketflap of this book, he denies that he has relatives who snore – except their family dog named Lucy “whose nighttime snorting and snuffling rivals that of the dragon in this book.” Howard is also the famous illustrator of picture books such as All Aboard the Dinotrain, Dinosailors, and the bestselling Piggie Pie. And surprise, surprise – not only is he an illustrator, he works as a dentist too! He currently lives in New York with his family. If you wish to know more about him, click here to be taken to his official website.
Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale and Illustrated by Howard Fine. Harcourt, Inc. 2008. Book borrowed from the Community Library