Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed, a Review

So long ago I don't remember when I first heard about Patrick Rothfuss' not-for-children children's book.  What began as a bedtime story he told his girlfriend made its way to publication through Subterranean Press.  I put my copy on reserve months ahead of time and, eventually, the book arrived at my house.

At a cursory glance, The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle seems like any other children's book.  The cover has a cute little girl and her stuffed teddy bear playing in a creek.  Even the names "the Princess" and "Mr. Whiffle" imply all is well within the pages.  But, as the author, the publisher, and the accompanying sticker tell the reader, this book is not for children.

The Thing Beneath the Bed is a story of three parts, that is to say it has three different endings.  One ending is a sweet, happy ending that may be read to appease the lighthearted or those in need of a happy ending.  One ending leaves a bit more to the imagination and has horrifying ramifications to the story.  And the third ending, Pat's "true ending," as he calls it, hearkens back to an older style of fairy tale ending.  Of the three, the third is certainly my favorite, as it captures both my type of humor as well as offers a shock value that can let the reader think.

But what about the plot?  What about the illustrations?  Both of these work hand-in-hand together in this book (as they do in any comic or picture book).  Illustrated by Nate Taylor, each page is beautiful and conveys a certain message or feeling.  Some pages require background investigation to pick up on things in the Princess' kingdom.  One thing about the illustrations that I particularly liked was the use of black and shadows, especially when dealing with the Thing.  I also liked the sweet caricatured facial expressions of the Princess.  As for written plot, the story is simple.  There is a Princess that lives alone with her stuffed teddy bear, Mr. Whiffle, in a castle, and together they play and try to avoid the Thing that lives beneath the bed.  The duo have adventures and fun together during the day, and at night they keep the lights on.

One thing that greatly intrigued me about this book was the prospect of three completely different endings.  I was intrigued to see how the story would end, and I'm glad to say that Pat did not meet any of my expectations, but instead well exceeded them.  I was thoroughly pleased with all endings, and I think that if one were to stop at the first then it would be a fine book for children.  The latter two endings still may be fine for children, depending on maturity levels and faith in the world, but to be on the safe side I'd recommend the multiple warnings to keep from kids.

Overall, I really enjoyed Patrick Rothfuss' picture story book.  It was short, dark, twisted, and bittersweet, and it fit right up my alley.  I read the book aloud to my wife, showing off each page like a kindergarten teacher.  (My wife preferred the first ending.)  If you didn't get your hands on a copy of The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle, know that this book is currently only available through Subterranean Press.  It was one of Sub Press' fastest selling books of all time, and they currently are offering a signed 2nd printing for $25.  (Makes me feel conflicted.  I have an unsigned 1st printing...)  So, if you've the money to spare and are interested in reading Pat's delightfully dark "children's" story, click the above link and order your copy today. 


Jay Belt said...

It was an absolute delight of a book. The illustrations were wonderful, with some subtle bits tossed into the background that, upon second reading, you can really pick up on and enjoy.

David Wagner said...

I read the book while waiting in line at the book signing I went to recently. A person in line beside me had it, and offered it to me for a quick read. Very cool book. Another great review, Logan! You = The Man!

logankstewart said...

@Jay: Agreed. Well said.

@David: Excellent deal, man. And thanks.

Okie said...

I read some of the buzz about this a while ago and was really intrigued by it. It sounds like a lot of fun and definitely something right up my line.

Sadly, between vacation and other endeavors, I've spent my book allowance for the time being but hopefully they'll have some copies left when my wallet is flush again. :)

logankstewart said...

@Okie: Aye, lots o' buzz surrounding it, and I think it's worth the hype. A fun, quick read it is. Maybe you'll get it one of these days, eh?