The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears

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Alistair Chisholm (text) Jez Tuya (Illus.), The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears, Walker Books Australia, 1 Sept 2018, 40 pp., $24.99, (hbk), ISBN 9781406365139

What could be better than a story within a story?

Jamie, the protagonist, is ready to be tucked into bed. His dad is ready to read him his choice of story, but Jamie decides to have “a made-up one.” The title says it all – this bedtime fairytale is told especially for Jamie by his dad and in his desire to please, is an eclectic mixture of many of the themes associated with the genre: the valiant prince and his adventurous horse, a witch and her pet frog, a princess who is not what she seems and an ending that leaves the bears for next time.

This is a fun, quirky story with twists of plot, visual jokes and briefly even a change of main character combining to make this a very enjoyable experience. Colourful illustrations full of movement and energy, cute though fearsome bears and a creative twist on the double page spread have the reader amused, enchanted and engrossed as Jamie’s dad has the hero changing course many times to fulfil Jamie’s requests on the direction the story should take. This is a picture book that revels in the unexpected and breaks the conventions of storytelling. Expect to giggle though, as at one point the witch who has the princess in the tower at Castle Broccoli changes into a ninja!

Children between the ages of 4 to 8 will be amused and entertained, as will adults who may recognise the maze of character and plot changes needed when the young listener takes control of the story.

Reviewed by Grace Nolan

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