Title: The Duchess of Whimsy
Author: Randall de Seve
Illustrator: Peter de Seve
Age Group: 4-8
Synopsis: The Duchess of Whimsy is fun and creative; Nigel is sure he’ll never be able to catch her attention by being himself.
I like to think I’m a little odd, in a good way. If someone said, “You’re quirky.” I’d say, “Thank you!” And so a book that has whimsy in the title just calls to me. The fact that it was by Randall de Seve, a new-found favorite of mine, just cemented even higher in my esteem. I wasn’t disappointed either. With a great fairy tale sort of story and fun, imaginative illustrations, this is definitely a new gem.
The story begins emphasizing how spectacularly whimsical the Duchess of Whimsy is. She has exotic pets, extravagant parties, and creative hobbies. Compared to her, Nigel is…well, normal. He has a dog for a pet, wears normal clothes, and talks about the weather or politics. That doesn’t stop him though from adoring the Duchess from afar. He does all sorts of things to try and impress her. He changes his clothes, brings giraffes to her parties, and tries reciting poetry (really terrible poetry). None of this sets him off to an advantage. Then one night at the Duchess’ party the cook falls ill. While all the other guests fall over themselves making extravagant dishes, Nigel whips up a grilled cheese sandwich. The Duchess is intrigued and pretty hungry, so when Nigel offers her a bite she takes it readily. And find she loves it! They talk as the other guests spend the remaining hours cooking and find that Nigel has things that make him unique and the Duchess has things that make her normal. A fabulous friendship and possible romance blossoms.
The illustration possibilities are endless but Peter de Seve doesn’t disappoint. His imagination is given free reign in this book and he meets the challenge by having the Duchess carted around by fairies, sea creatures floating in bubbles, the coolest roller skates ever invented, and a dozen other wondrous things that’ll encourage readers to stare at the pages in awe. The characters themselves are perfect embodiment of their qualities. Nigel is nothing extraordinary to look at and the Duchess is over the top flamboyant. The small details on each page and the strategic use of white space really bring the story to life and add the action to make it even more engaging.
The combination of the fantastically imaginative illustrations and the ever-important message, of staying true to yourself are an incredible combination in this delightful story. It’s a great combo that speaks to me and is a message that I hope to continually remind Bug of. Something I feel I’m succeeding in, as he wore a sweater vest paired with a Renaissance hat and jeans with a skull and cross-bones on them to school today. It’s an easy thing for little kids to embrace but becomes increasingly difficult to keep in place as they grow older and more influential to peer pressure. I hope though that he’ll always remember though to embrace his inner quirkiness but still appreciate the simplicity of a grilled cheese sandwich. Because who are we kidding? Grilled cheese sandwiches are phenomenally delicious.
- Have a grilled cheese ready to go for post-story reading.
- Spend time examining the details and guests on each page.
I need more!
Check out the review on Mathilda and the Orange Balloon for more info on Randall de Seve.
Peter de Seve also has illustrated a book called Finn McCoul, a story about an Irish giant and links with the legend regarding the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Check out more of his work at: http://www.peterdeseve.com.