What is the most wonderful thing in the world? You’ll have to read this Perfect Picture Book to find out! But I think anyone with a child will understand (and run out to purchase this book).
Title: The Most Wonderful Thing in the World
Written By: Vivian French
Illustrated By: Angela Barrett
Publisher/date: Candlewick Press, 2015
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: fairy tale, love, love of family, wonder
Opening: “Once, in the time of your grandmother’s grandmother, there was a kingdom.”
Brief Synopsis: The king and queen search for a husband for their only daughter by running a contest: whoever can show them the most wonderful thing in the world will become her husband.
Links to Resources:
- What do you think makes something wonderful? Think about/list/draw pictures of what you think is wonderful (note, the word is not beautiful; unique; biggest; or strongest – but are any of these features part of your wonderful something?)
- This story begins in the time of your grandmother’s grandmother: how long ago was that? Explore time by building a paper-plate clock or a paper-chain calendar.
Why I Like this Book:
Both the words and the images in this book transported me to another place and time. Set in the Edwardian era in a place with Venetian overtones, the lyrical prose and lovely watercolour vignettes work together to tell a story of “love of family as the center of life” while including “a playful undercurrent of both whimsy and irony.” (Kirkus Reviews, 4 Aug 2015). And while written in the “then and there” classic fairy tale tradition, The Most Wonderful Thing in the World also incorporates some of the here and now in both words and subtle (and some not-so-subtle) images.
A Note about Craft:
Although The Most Wonderful Thing in the World reads like a newly-written fairy tale, in the endnotes Angela Barrett mentions that she had remembered a story of that name from her childhood and convinced Vivian French to retell it. Reading this makes me want to pore through old books to find a “new” old fairy tale to rewrite!
I also love how both author and illustrator weave allusions to today into the story. You’ll have to read the book to see what the illustrator hides in plain sight, but I can’t resist sharing my favourite lines of the book:
The last of the suitors had sailed away to his kingdom, his weapons of mass destruction rejected.
“How can anyone believe weapons are the most wonderful thing in the world?” asked the queen.
The king shrugged. He was too tired to answer.
Finally, to bring this review full-circle, look again at the opening. I love thinking about “the time of your grandmother’s grandmother” as a way to show that this story happened long ago. I can’t wait to write about a past event and figure out a way to anchor it using an equally understandable measure of time that resonates like this.