OWTK KidLit + Comics

Kid’s Book Review (Summer Reading Edition): The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom

While it doesn’t pervade every morsel of my writing on OWTK, I make it no secret here: I dislike capital P princess culture. A lot. So when I heard of a three book series based on, or at least incorporating, the princess big 4 (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel), I was meh at best.  But then I saw who was behind the series (Christopher Healy) and thought, well, maybe.  Healy is a mad talented chap, as anyone who has read his work in Cookie Magazine (RIP), Parenting, iVillage, and Time Out New York Kids knows (hey, I too have bylines in some of those publications!), so if anyone could turn such royal material into books worth reading, it’d be him.  And then I discovered the backbone of The Hero’s Guide series: a deep dive into the previously-unknown/never before discussed attributes, failings, and personality quirks of the 4 princes behind these legendary princess tales, all wrapped around a shared angst towards the bards who slapped them each with a generic Prince Charming title.  Brilliant, I thought then, and Brilliant (bold noted) I think now, after reading book one The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom.

Healy’s wit drips from every single page as he first describes the numerous idiosyncrasies of the four princes charming, and then exploits their hilarious individual quirks (one who blurts out names for each wild animal he spies, another who’s flute is never far from his person), as well as the way our heroes interact with each other, their princesses, and the legion of goblins and goofy goons that await them.  I laughed out loud if not on every page, then on every other.  And I couldn’t help but reading random passages to the Mrs. and to the kids, doing so anywhere we found ourselves with me having the book in tow – at an ice skating birthday party, at bedtime (while the Mrs. was reading other books out loud to the girls), and in the car (while I was passenger, of course).  I just couldn’t help myself, the comedy within is too good for silent reading.  Even as stand alone moments, and devoid of plot point frame of reference, The Hero’s Guide humor I verbalized came through in spades.  The text is THAT good, the funny is THAT funny.

But all that said, Healy’s wisdom and exemplary brilliance in penning this untold story of popular fairy tales is no more evident than in the finale of an action-packed scene towards the book’s climax:

(Cinder)Ella had just made a brave rescue herself with a 1-2 punch of smarts & brawn, then immediately afterward, removed a pin from own her hair to resolve the dangling ringlet in another gal’s because, as she simply puts it, “it’s been bugging me”. That is all that is said on the matter.  It’s a subtle literary move, as quick and harmless as the repining of loose hair itself, something you may just read through without blinking but those four words are rather powerful.  You see, they allow Cinderella to retain some of her classic character shape in the midst of a complete rewrite of princess history. Bravo, Christoper Healy!

As the entirety of that scene indicates, Ella is bold and daring, yet still feminine and lovely (the same can also be said of a couple of the princes, actually, although their boldness comes more in their fashion choices than anything occurring on a battlefield). This mix, for any female let alone a Princess, is ultra rare in pop culture (Pixar’s latest movie BRAVE aside).  Healy’s decision to portray the famous figure as something more than a shivering wreck of lace and frill, as well as his move to make 1/2 of the princes dainty, help make The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom a must-read for 21st century lads and lasses.

Oh and my sincere apologies to the princes for yet another slight, as I just wrapped up my review of this amazing book by focusing on a princess and not on either Frederic, Gustav, Liam, or Duncan.  Sorry boys, maybe next time.

Fox Animation has picked up the film rights, so expect a movie version of The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom someday.  But for now, buy the book for some outstanding summer reading!

*OWTK received a copy of The Hero’s Guide To Saving Your Kingdom for review consideration.  The opinions above are unbiased and honest, as always.

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