I am often shocked at how good books aimed at kids are these days. The one area that is still struggling, but getting better all the time, is books aimed at young readers who are quite strong. These are often considered transitional books and will have fewer pages and sometimes contain some pictures. So when I find a good one, I just have to share it.
The Adventures of Alfie Onion, by Vivian French, is a very funny take at the concept of fairy tales and heroes and a great read for kids 7+.
The book opens by focusing on Aggie French. At the age of 10 she is given a book of fairy tales and they shape her life – she is going to live the fairy tale dream. When she realizes she isn’t going to marry a prince, she sets her sights on finding a hero who would bring back everything to allow her find her “Happily Ever After and Glorious Luxury.”
Fourteen years later she has married the seventh son of a pig farmer and has a seventh son of her own – the seventh son of a seventh son being fairy tale hero material. She has pampered him and spoiled him and he is a great big oaf. She also has an eighth son, Alfie Onion.
The majority of the book focuses on Alfie Onion and his great adventure … carrying his brother’s luggage as Magnifico Onion sets out to find a princess and bring back her wealth to the Onion family. As their travels begin, it becomes very obvious that Magnifico isn’t half the hero he’s cracked up to be, and that Alfie’s character is much more admirable. With a dog, horse, 2 mice, and some meddling magpies who all talk, Alfie tries to save the day. Add in some trolls and ogres and you have a recipe for an entertaining book.
This book was entertaining and I liked the lessons of doing things for yourself and going after what you want rather than what someone else wants for you. In addition, it strongly shows that if you want something, you have to make it happen, not wait for someone else to do it all for you. Magnifico was spoiled and lazy, but that was from years of his mother doting on him feeling that he was her only hope for happiness. Alfie had been neglected and forgotten for years, but he agreed to go on this trip in the hopes of getting a bedroom rather than sleeping in the barn.
There is also the comical look at fairy tales themselves. Aggie is so bored with her life, that she truly believes that fairy tales are real. When the princess finally does enter the picture, she is smart and sassy. Yes, there is the negative idea of the princess needing to be saved by a prince, but really, she doesn’t allow just anyone to become her prince.
Alfie Onion is published by Kane Miller, part of the Usborne Books & More family. I am an independent consultant for UBAM, but all opinions are my own. If you are interested in purchasing this book, please visit my site or email me.