Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Puppets of Spelhorst

A Norendy Tale

by Kate DiCamillo

illustrated by Julie Morstad

The Puppets of Spelhorst

A Norendy Tale

by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Julie Morstad

Review posted November 14, 2023.
Candlewick Press, 2023. 150 pages.
Review written November 8, 2023, from a library book.
Starred Review

Hooray! Kate DiCamillo has started a series of original fairy tales!

Now, mind you, I'm a fairy tale fan, and this wasn't my favorite ever. There's not much magic -- well, except puppets that can talk -- and no fairies at all. But the feel does fit fairy tales, and I definitely would like to read this book aloud to an audience of primary grade kids. There's a musical quality to the words and the atmospheric illustrations fit perfectly.

The story itself is about five puppets -- "a king and a wolf and a girl and a boy and an owl." An old sea captain named Spelhorst buys them because the girl reminds them of someone he loved once.

But when the sea captain dies, their adventures begin. The puppets want to be in a story. The wolf keeps going on about his sharp teeth. The king is very proud of his kingly nature. The owl is full of wise sayings. The boy has a quiver full of arrows. And the girl has beautiful eyes that want to see the world.

And the puppets do indeed find a story, complete with some danger in the middle, but ending up with adventure.

To give you an idea of the flavor, here's a section when the puppets are in a dark trunk on the cart of a rag-and-bone man who takes things that aren't wanted:

The puppets lay together in the chest. They could hear the rag-and-bone man's song.

"Who are we?" said the owl.

"Well, I suppose we're something that's not wanted," said the girl.

"Nonsense," said the king. "Everyone wants a king. That's the very definition of kingliness."

"It's so dark in here," said the boy.

"Darkness means nothing when your teeth are as sharp as mine," said the wolf.

"Into the darkness, there sometimes comes a light," intoned the owl.

I'm definitely looking forward to more idiosyncratic fairy tales from the quirky mind of Kate DiCamillo. (Honestly! How does she think of these things?) This one left me smiling.