Written by David LaRochelle
Illustrated by Richard Egielski
Usually, that's how a story finishes. But not this one. It begins with a grand, satisfying Happily Ever After. It spins through a tale of a princess and lemonade, a dragon and bunnies, a flying teacup and a hungry giant, and a mysterious bag of gold. And it ends…when pigs fly.
YOU'VE NEVER HAD SO MUCH FUN GOING BACKWARDS!
"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 reading—in either direction." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"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."--Booklist, starred review
"Turning the standard fairy-tale formula on its head, LaRochelle begins his story at the end. The endpapers depict a princess and a knight waving goodbye to a long line of intriguing characters who are marching away from the castle. The text begins, “And they all lived happily ever after. They lived happily ever after because…” and proceeds backward through a madcap chain of events that includes a skittish dragon, a giant tomato, a pack of ferocious bunnies, and a fortuitous bowl of lemonade. Only on the last page are readers rewarded with the long-awaited phrase, “Once upon a time.” Egielski’s illustrations are a triumph. The flattened, static quality of the characters calls to mind Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen (HarperCollins, 1995), and the warm, muted tones evoke the fairy-tale art of Trina Schart Hyman, but the fanciful details–a blue, winged pig; a pair of runaway lemons–are completely original. The hand-lettered text, enclosed in streaming banners, consists of terse, declarative statements that are lavishly expounded upon by the illustrations. The tension between the simplicity of the narrative and the richness of the artwork allows this tale to transcend its clever gimmickry. Though the book can be appreciated in one reading, and would work well when shared aloud, multiple perusals are necessary to spot all of the details. When youngsters reach the beginning of The End, they will want to start all over again." -- School Library Journal, starred review
"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 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." -- Publishers Weekly, starred review
"…Each page holds a new surprise; the story never goes (comes from?) where you'd expect. The End is made even more charming by the fact that many plot elements are not spelled out in the text -- only hinted at in the retro-styled illustrations. You and your children will be sad to reach the beginning." -- Cookie Magazine
A New York Public Library Best Book for Reading and Sharing
A Parenting Mom-Tested Book of the Year
The Columbus Dispatch, A Best Book of 2007
Book Links Lasting Connections 2007
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Trim Size: 9" x 10 ½"
Page Count: 40
Foreign Rights: Scholastic
Translation Rights: Scholastic
Rights Available? yes
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