Book Review: Dangerously Ever After

Author: Dashka Slater
Illustrator: Valeria Docampo
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (September 13, 2012)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience: Ages 4 to 7 years
Fiction * Princesses * Gardens

Description from GoodReads:
Not all princesses are made of sugar and spice--some are made of funnier, fiercer stuff.

Princess Amanita laughs in the face of danger. Brakeless bicycles, pet scorpions, spiky plants--that's her thing. So when quiet Prince Florian gives her roses, Amanita is unimpressed . . . until she sees their glorious thorns! Now she must have rose seeds of her own. But when huge, honking noses grow instead, what is a princess with a taste for danger to do?

For readers seeking a princess with pluck comes an independent heroine who tackles obstacles with a bouquet of sniffling noses. At once lovely and delightfully absurd, here's a story to show how elastic ideas of beauty and princesses can be.

My thoughts on this book:
Since my schedule is busy and I often have a stack of books to read, I have found myself being more selective of books I accept for review.  When Dashka Slater contacted me about reviewing Dangerously Ever After, I didn't hesitate to accept.  I had read this book when it came out and liked it.  During my first read, I remember liking the whole twist on the princess and prince and happily ever after concept.  Additionally, it made me laugh.  

Of course, I wondered about how it would stand up to a second more closer read.  I am happy to report that I still enjoyed this one.  It still made me chuckle in places, and even though I knew what was coming, I still loved the twist at the end.   

Slater has created a story that simply works on many levels which I suspect was not as easy as it would seem.  I can imagine that there would be a temptation to take the parody of princess fairy tales to an extreme.  However, I never felt this as I read through the story.  Instead I was struck by her choice of words and the injection of just the right amount of humor.  

I love this line when Prince Florian meets Princess Amanita:
"His name was Florian and he was out looking for a dragon to slay, or a knight to challenge -- or at least someone his own age to talk to."
Or this great exchange when Florian returns with roses and an apology:
"But what do they do?"

Prince Florian was puzzled. "Do?"

"Are their leaves as sharp as razors?" Amanita prompted.  "Do they stink worse than a giant's armpit? Do they climb up the roof and pull off the shingles?"

"They...uh...smell nice." Prince Florian answered at last.  "And they're...pretty."

"Oh," said the princess, and rolled her eyes.
Even if I didn't have the illustrations while reading this section, the text provides the visuals needed to imagine exactly how the exchange happened between the two characters.  

There is a strength in a picture book when the text can convey significant meaning even without the illustrations.  However, when outstanding text is then paired up with an illustrator who gets the the underlying meaning and emotions of the words, there is a move from good to great.  Slater's text finds its perfect mate in Docampo's illustrations.  Docampo's brightly colored whimsical illustrations are just as quirky and odd as Slater's imagination.  From the start, readers are met with Amanita's scorpion-tail hair style and metal hoop skirt worn over her skirts.  The facial expressions of all the characters also convey an added dimension of emotion.

Whether you are a fan of princesses and happy ever after endings or prefer your princess stories with a tad-bit more edge, Dangerously Ever After should be a good match for both audiences. 

Look for Dangerously Ever After at your local bookstore or public library.  When possible, please support independent booksellers.   

Check out this interview with Dashka Slater over on Carter Higgin's Design of the Picture Book Blog. 

For More Information about Dashka Slater: website | facebook | twitter | blog 

For More Information about Valeria Docampo: website | blog