THE ADVENTURES OF THE PRINCESS AND MR. WHIFFLE: THE THING UNDER THE BED
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Prior to Patrick Rothfuss's not-a-children's book, The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed, perhaps the most enduring depiction of monsters under the bed in graphic literature was the long-running depiction by Bill Waterson in the adventures of Calvin and Hobbes. While there are some similarities between Rothfuss's book and Waterson's strips, the over-all mood of The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed, leading to a note on the cover flap indicating that despite its appearance, it is not a book for children.
The book opens with a quick introduction of the Princess, who lives alone in a marzipan castle with Mr. Whiffle, her teddy bear. The two of them have many wonderful adventures, allowing (we presume) her imagination lead her in the sort of unstructured activities. The reader is hardly given the chance to wonder why the Princess is allowed to live alone (or if that is just another part of her overactive imagination) before she is off battling pirates or exploring the world around her. Imagination, however, can have a dark side as well, which comes out when the Princess is alone in her bed at night in the dark. Suddenly, her companionship with Mr. Whiffle isn't enough to keep the monsters at bay and they must contend with the unknown thing that lives beneath the bed.
Although Rothfuss provides an excellent potential description of the unseen monster, the real horror is more in the gray scale illustrations by Nate Taylor, which show, not the monster itself, but rather the various ways the monster appears to the Princess's imagination. Horror is not the only style Taylor uses, depicting the Princess, Mr. Whiffle, and their various adventures with just the right amount of whimsy that the pictures and words complement each other equally.
As a note, when my twelve-year-old daughter read the book, she enjoyed the book, laughing when appropriate and finding the scenes which showed the monster the be wonderful. When the final twist came, she looked up from the book and insisted, "that's just wrong," in a tone of voice that clearly showed her approval with the story's denouement.
It is to be hoped that the fact that Rothfuss included an overarching title and a subtitle means that the Princess and Mr. Whiffle will have additional adventures, illustrated by the magnificent artwork of Nate Taylor, and showing more of this girl's vivid imagination, and perhaps explaining a little more about who she is and why she is able to live alone in such a wonderful place as the Marzipan Castle.
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