Two fun new upper elementary fantasies by Vivian French

Two fun new upper elementary fantasies by Vivian French are now available here in the US! UK author Vivian French has written many enjoyable books for kids 8-10, and she really deserves to be better known here in the states.  The Adventures of Alfie Onion and The Cherry Pie Princess (both from Kane Miller) are top notch fantasies that are satisfyingly rich in plot and detail, but not so long as to intimidate elementary school readers who aren't ready for Harry Potter.

The Adventures of Alfie Onion

Alfie Onion's mum wanted a fairy tale ever after, but since there was no handy prince to marry, she settled for a seventh son, thinking her own seventh son was sure to be a hero and win wealth enough to keep her in style!  So she pinned all her hopes on her seventh son, Magnifico, and son number eight, little Alfie, got short shrift.  And when Magnifico, spoiled and lumpish, turns 14, his mother sends him off to find his fortune.  Alfie gets sent along too, to carry the luggage.

Magnifico is ill-equipped, both by temperament and physique, to be a hero.  It's a good thing that Alife is along to save the day and defeat the ogres outside the castle holding the enchanted princess!  And it's a good thing for Alfie that he has the help of a bevy of talking animals--a horse, two mice and two magpies, and the help as well from the trolls the ogres have been oppressing, and even from the ogre daughter, who is sick of the abuse her dad and brother have been inflicting on her.

The reader knows right away that Alfie's the hero, and it's a treat to follow along on his adventures, cheering for him and wondering just how pathetic Magnifico is going to be next.

The Cherry Pie Princess

Peony is the youngest of seven princesses, and unlike her sisters, she doesn't find being a princess particularly satisfying.  She wants to do things, like bake (cherry pies are her specialty) and check out books from the town's library, that are forbidden.  When she borrows a cookbook from the library, the king has the librarian arrested for "speaking out of turn."  And when she speaks up to her father about this, she herself lands in the castle prison, a place she never knew existed.

In the meantime, her baby brother's christening is approaching; three good fairies have been invited, and one bad one has not.  With the help of her fellow prisoners, Peony escapes, just in time to foil the bad fairy's enchantments with the help of a talking cat, and her father has a change of heart about her activities...only partly  because she bakes such delicious cherry pies!

It's a pleasant book, good for kids who enjoy baking in particular.  The king is perhaps a bit too much of a jerk for his change of heart to be believable, but Peony is a great heroine with enough integrity and strength of will to make up for her father!

It's a testament to Vivian French's way with words that I enjoyed reading these myself, in a quick, lighthearted way, and the target audience should be even more pleased.  There's nothing too scary for an even younger reader than 8....I would happily give them to my 7 year old ex-self!

disclaimer: review copies received from the publisher


  1. We really love French's "Tales from the Five Kingdoms," so I'll definitely have to look for these (especially Alfie.) Thanks.

    1. I too love Tales from the Five Kingdoms, so I think you will probably enjoy these too! I hope so.


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