The fairy tale resolves predictably enough, with the traditional sign-off (“They all lived happily ever after”) and a splashy depiction of a royal marriage. Here's the twist: the wedding is actually the story's opener, occurring before any clue about the couple's identity or about why the nuptials are attended by bunnies, a dragon, a flying pig, two giants, an enormous tomato, and a pair of dancing lemons. Patience, dear reader; each subsequent spread portrays the action a beat before its predecessor, flowing backward to supply the needed context and reveal the tale's true beginnings-a reversal convention that extends the book's surprising placement of front matter as back matter. LaRochelle's text is all the funnier for its spare, deadpan statements of effect and cause, each taking maximum advantage of page turns, and Egielski's artwork exaggerates the zaniness of the reversed narrative by placing it within a mock-stately context, including decorative borders and graceful scrolls containing the hand-lettered text in a style reminiscent of nineteenth-century woodcuts. As fun as it is handsome, this offering will be a hit at storytimes, where it will pair nicely with the wild chain reaction in Remy Charlip's Fortunately (1964). The reversed-narrative idea may also inject energy into creative writing exercises.
Not to be confused with a recent Unfortunate Event of the same title, this funny, playful folklorish episode may be told front to back, but it's actually laid out in reverse. LaRochelle opens with the old “Happily Ever After,” then retraces a sequence of linked, thoroughly daffy events that leads up to it. Egielski supplies plenty of visual juice, beginning with a packed crowd scene featuring a knight, a princess, a dragon, a huge tomato, two giants, a pair of smiling lemons, a swarm of rabbits, a blue flying pig and more. Then he proceeds to show how each of these elements figures in as the story winds backward, with many “because” explanations (“An enormous tomato was rolling down the hill because . . . ”), past the copyright page and title spread to a peaceful pre-title prelude. The reversed narrative, hilarious turn-of-the-page plot twists and bright, comical, precisely drawn art add up to an uncommonly clever outing that invites readingin either direction. (Picture book. 6-8)
This reverse fairy tale begins with a wedding, a regal cast of fantasy characters and a parchment-colored banner with the requisite words "And they all lived happily ever after." Readers inevitably wonder how this happy ending came to be. Never fear: LaRochelle (The Best Pet of All) and Egielski (Jazper) provide a second banner that heralds, "They lived happily ever after because...," leading to a scene of "the soggy knight" holding hands with the lovestruck princess. But how did the knight get soggy? And why are two giants, eleven rabbits and a scaly green dragon at the door? Subsequent "because..." pages reveal, in backwards order, the events that led to "The End." When readers finally arrive at the title page, wordless endpapers show the lonesome princess in her garden. Readers then can rewind from back to front, to discover the machinations of an elfin cupid and his winged blue pig, who set the mischief in motion. LaRochelle keeps the plot simple, the better to trace the inverted order, and leaves the excitement (the dragon's fiery snort, the giant's temper tantrum, etc.) to the intertwining images. Egielski illustrates in buoyant hues of royal blue, scarlet, daffodil yellow and white, framing each spread with a knobby brown vine motif. He alludes to a deck of cards and to Caldecott's The Queen of Hearts with the diamonds and clubs on the royal wardrobes, and he gives timely visual hints to past and future moments in this nicely realized puzzle. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)