The title is a tongue-twister: "Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff," by Robert Paul Weston. The story is simple with an important moral: There's more to people than how they are dressed. It's in the telling that the beauty of Weston's writing is seen, or rather heard, because this is a story that begs to be read aloud.
The entire story is told in rhyme -- clever, whimsical verse that is full of rich vocabulary and imagery. It's easy to imagine a teacher reading this part of the story to her students and having the students draw what they are picturing in their minds.
"With his glasses as thick as the base of a jar,
the lens for each eye in the shape of a star!
With his bristling goatee! His flowery robes!
The jingle of earrings on both of his lobes!
His dreadlocks that hung like the strings on a mop,
and his fluffy red turban...with a daisy on top!"
Not only is the writing rife with imagery, there are idioms galore. This is a Language Arts teacher's dream book. Think of the fun that a classroom could have with a book that includes:
"And by old, I mean ancient. She was on her last legs.
If she were a drink, she’d be down to the dregs.
If she were a car, she’d be covered in rust.
She was close, I’m afraid, to BITING THE DUST."
Throughout the book, the author plays with fonts and spacing. When things drop in the story, the words literally drop on the page. The font is perfectly matched when the author talks about Miss Ruby La Rue, the premier leader of fashion in the kingdom of Spiff.
The two main characters are both individuals who do not conform. Princess Francesca is a bookworm ostracized in a kingdom where the only obsession is fashion, not literary pursuits. Puggly is anointed prince in a kingdom where the only obsession is dressing as strangely as possible.
Cleverly, the two outwit the fashion purveyors and followers in the kingdom of Spiff and escape to the kingdom of Spud. Their prank points out the foolishness of fashion and the lengths to which people will slavishly follow what they think is the latest trend.
This book cries out -- READ ME ALOUD! However, teacher beware -- this is not a simple task. It takes practice to get the rhyming and phrasing just right. Of course, stumbling over the words and rhythm occasionally is quite okay, too. It allows students to see that even adults sometimes need to reread something because we don't always get it right the first time.
I don't really imagine that many kids would read this book on their own. It's much more of a book that language lovers (and those who want to turn students into language lovers) will want to share. It's British, so there will be some words that will need to be explained (skivvies, for one), but the rich vocabulary will provide some fabulous words to teach the students. (Note, it's not really British the author just informed me -- but full of wonderful words, nonetheless!)
Every teacher from third grade to seventh should have this in their classroom. Another great way to use the book would be to have the students practice reading it aloud in order to present it to others. This could be a repeated reading practice that the students would love.
Even boys will love the Pilkey-ish humor:
"There was Francesca. She danced with her dad.
His outfit had changed, and now he was clad
in SPUDLIAN clothes, in trousers that drooped
(as if, in the back, he had recently pooped.)"
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader's copy provided by the publisher, Razorbill, for review purposes.
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