As young kids, it wasn’t unusual to have picture books and fairy tales read to us, and when we were old enough, we starting reading these same stories on our own. For many, this was the beginning of our reading lives, and as a result of this, we tend to assume that picture books, generally, are for children.
The Adventures of the Princess And Mr Whiffle: The Thing Beneath The Bed, by Patrick Rothfuss (yes, that same Patrick Rothfuss who wrote the brilliant fantasy novels The Name Of The Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear) and illustrated by Nate Taylor, is not a picture book for children. While the book certainly seems sweet on the outside, The Princess being a little girl and Mr Whiffle being her teddy bear, the book is actually a darkly comical tale with three different endings, and the whole thing is a sort of tribute to children’s picture books and the older style fairy tales.
The three different endings are definitely the stand out aspect of this book. The first ending is the happier, sweet ending one would expect from such a story, but for the second and the third endings the story simply continues on from the same point. The second ending is quite a horrible one, almost the opposite of the first in terms of the feelings it evokes. But the third ending is the real one, and there is something deliciously wicked and funny about the way they have chosen to end the story fully. But of course, you’ll have to read it yourself to find out.
This book was first published in 2010, and stupidly I waited too long to buy it and it went out of print entirely. Luckily a few months ago it was reprinted with a slightly different cover, new author notes from Rothfuss, and at the back is a new section with some of Taylor’s original sketches, covered in handwritten notes about what was and wasn’t working for each of the two contributors, which is awesome just to see the idea in progress. Naturally I haven’t let myself miss out on this a second time, and it was well worth the investment to have this in my collection.
For anybody who is already a fan of Patrick Rothfuss, I can’t recommend this quirky little book enough. It is very much his style of storytelling and his sense of humour, although in a way you’ve never seen before. And even if you haven’t read anything by Rothfuss, I’d still recommend giving this a whirl – it is fun and different, and certainly memorable. Just remember not to read it to your kids.
What were your favourite picture books as a child?
Do you know of any other good picture books for adults?