Written and Illustrated by Brian Anderson
Roaring Brook Press, 2011
It was Prince Viridian’s birthday.
“What a miserable day,” he sighed, and watched as the smogafiers blotted out the sun and the royal painters sloshed the countryside with a fresh coat of gray paint.
This castle contains: A king and a prince
Prince Viridian lives in a world without color because his father banned all color from the kingdom after his mother’s death, hiring a color catcher to ensure all color is removed. A mysterious package arrives at the prince’s birthday party, containing a multi-colored animal called a wooglefoof. The color catcher throws it into the sewers. Prince Viridian confronts his father with the miserable state of their colorless world and vows to change things when he becomes king. The prince goes into the dungeons and finds the wooglefoof, imprisoned with the former court painter. Trying to free them, he runs into the color catcher, who is bent on taking over the kingdom. Together, the prince and wooglefoof knock the color catcher off a cliff, igniting some banished fireworks and bringing color back into the kingdom.
This book just didn’t work for me. I think I can see what author/illustrator Brian Anderson was trying to do with this story, but I felt that there were too many missing pieces and it just never came together. Some of the story is conveyed through pictures and some through text narrative, which is a storytelling style that I usually enjoy. But I found this story hard to follow and I flipped pages back repeatedly, looking for plot points that I felt were missing. I found the ending contrived and unsatisfying, with no explanation as to why everything changed so abruptly after the unexpected fireworks. I would have liked to have seen what changed the king’s mind on the subject.
As you may imagine, the art style is mostly gloomy and dark, in shades of grey and black, and reminiscent of Edward Gorey. I did like the artwork and thought that the introduction of the brightly colored wooglefoof into the drab environment provided a nice contrast. The artwork makes good use of shadows and darkness to give us glimpses into scenes and make us guess at what might be happening. Ultimately, though, there was just too much I had to guess at in the book and I just didn’t enjoy it.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that trying to banish everything that reminds us of those we’ve lost is a very unhealthy way to mourn them.