CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 9. . . .November 4, 2016
Beauty Queen. (Whatever After).
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2016.
167 pp., trade pbk., $7.99.
Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.
Review by Crystal Sutherland.
“Okay. This doesn’t seem that hard. I have to take Rocky Path to Winding Path to Straight Road to Highway to Boulevard to Main Street.
“Giddyup!” I say, which seems to work, because Pony moves, bumping down Rocky Path.
I bounce a bit from side to side. Prince grabs my leg with his paws.
I start to worry. Did I really just leave my brother alone with a beast? A beast who threatened to kill him? Am I seriously riding a pony into a forest I’ve never been before? That does not seem very smart to me.
“I don’t know if this was my best decision,” I tell Prince and Pony.
Prince barks. Pony whinnies.
We continue trotting down Rocky Path.
“Not smart at all,” I add. “It’s not totally my fault, thought, is it? I barely had to time to think my decision through.”
Abby loves fairy tales and is lucky she knows them inside-out. If she didn’t, she might never find her way out of her adventures. Her parents don’t know about the magic mirror in the basement which, after Abby knocks on it three times, transports her into a fairy tale that needs a little help. Abby, her brother Jonah, and their dog Prince have to get the fairy tale ending right this time, or they’ll be held captive in a cold, dreary castle forever.
When they knock on a castle door, it quickly becomes clear they’ve fallen into Beauty and the Beast. The giant, smelly beast that answers the door, who goes by the name Beast, has no intention of letting them go until Abby says she knows how to undo his curse and turn him back into a handsome prince. Beast lets Abby go but keeps Jonah and Prince to make sure she returns with what’s needed to undo his spell: someone beautiful who’s willing to marry Beast. Abby’s not happy leaving her brother and dog behind, but it’s better than all of them being stuck in the fairy tale forever. They need to be back home before their parents wake up!
After asking villagers where she could find the most beautiful person in the village, Abby meets Beauty who is not only the most beautiful person, but also the nicest person Abby’s ever met – beautiful inside and out. Before introducing her to Beast, Abby asks Beauty if she would marry him to help undo the spell. Being the nicest person ever, Beauty says yes; Beauty will do anything to help.
Although they are complete opposites (Beast loves cheese, but Beauty’s allergic; Beauty loves reading, but Beast can’t stand it; Beauty wants to live in town, but Beast loves the countryside), Beauty and Beast get married, and, as promised, Beast turns back into a handsome prince. Abby is hopeful that the transformation will help Beauty fall in love with him, but the results are something very different: the prince misses the heightened sense of smell he had as a beast, along with his warm coat of fur and enormous appetite he has as ‘Beast”. Abby can’t believe she has once again tried to help a fairy tale along but has only caused more problems.
The problems don’t end there: Jax, the fairy who cursed Beast out of jealousy, crashes the wedding. When Jax learns Abby is the reason Beast is no longer a beast, he turns her into one. Luckily for Abby, Beast misses his beastly form and offers to switch places with Abby, becoming a beast again so Abby can return to her regular self.
Beast may be stuck being a beast, but it’s never too late for a fairy tale ending. When Beast is back in his beastly form again, a late wedding guest arrives: Freckles, the owner of the town’s cheese shop, and it’s love at first sight for her and Beast. Once again the fairy tale ending has been unintentionally changed, perhaps even improved.
Beauty Queen is another great installment of Mlynowski’s “Whatever After” series. Abby, Jonah, and even their dog Prince take their mission to help a fairy tale along very seriously and doubt their ability to find the perfect match for the curmudgeonly, smelly Beast only for a moment. Compassion quickly outweighs fear, and Jonah’s persistence in getting Beast to play with him and stop dwelling on his appearance is key in securing a happy ending.
Abby and Jonah change each fairy tale they enter, and the fairy tales always change them, too. When Abby sees how Jax’s jealousy scared away all of his friends, she feels terrible for ruining a classmate’s painting simply because it was so much better than she could ever do. When she apologizes the next day, her classmate is still angry but willing to try being friends if Abby promises not to ruin her art or be mean again. Abby’s promise to do her best, but recognition that she might make mistakes is something anyone, regardless of age, can relate to.
A MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate, Crystal Sutherland is a librarian living in Halifax, NS.
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