I read an interesting article today by Daniel Zalewski. “The Defiant Ones” ran in the October 19, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, and it is really thought provoking. The article had been in my “to be read” pile, but I just got to it today. Zalewski’s point is that many new picture books portray families where the child truly runs the show. Gone are the days of parents telling their children when it is time to go to bed. Now, some of the most popular characters not only decide for themselves, but if they want a cupcake to bring along—no problem. Zalewski made me want to take another look at a few books on our library shelves.
I closed the book and got to my computer as fast as I could. My goal was to let you know about The Duchess of Whimsy by Randall de Seve as soon as I could and to encourage you to get this book. In fact, if you are looking for a good picture book for holiday giving—this is it.
Let’s back up. Earlier this fall, I heard that Peter de Seve, one of my favorite cover artists of The New Yorker was illustrating a book by his wife, Randall. On that basis alone, I ordered the book. I know—it could be considered a flimsy reason to purchase a book sight unseen. But this time, the gamble more than paid off. What a delightful story—and it even has a moral to it, but not one that bangs the reader over the head!
The text and illustrations work beautifully together and even include a few fun jokes for the careful observer. My guess is that the two fairies that appear throughout the book are the de Seve daughters. They mention the two of them in the author’s bio and they are so lovingly drawn that it leaves little question about their identity.
There are so many children who ask for stories about royalty and princesses, but many of them are just pink pages that reinforce the whole Disney idea of princess-dom. This is the one you want to give your little royalty watcher! And to any other child (or adult) who appreciates a good story which reminds us that the world would be quite dull if everyone were the same.