‘Whatever After: Bad Hair Day’ by Sarah Mlynowski: Fractured fairy tale


Rating: 4 stars

It’s Rapunzel’s turn to take a spin in Sarah Mlynowski’s middle grade series “Whatever After: Bad Hair Day.” Jonah and his sister Abby take a trip through the magic mirror in their basement to fairyland, where magic is possible. This is the fourth book in the series, and as in all the stories, there is a message to be had.

At the beginning of the book Abby is upset and frustrated. They have moved to a new town, and while Abby was the spelling champion in her old school, she came in ninth in her new school. She wonders if the fact that she did so poorly in the Spelling Bee means that she’s not smart.

She did get a certificate of participation, but it’s laughable (to her) when she is used to getting first prize. Her brother teases her about being a bad speller, which doesn’t help her feelings of inadequacy. To cheer her up, Jonah suggests a trip through the portal into a fairy tale.

When they do enter the mirror, the puppy they brought back from their last fairy tale adventure goes with them. Mlynowski has cleverly had them name the puppy “Prince” so whenever they talk about a prince when they arrive in the fairy tale, the puppy barks. So Abby and Jonah decide to call the “real” prince “Pickles.”

They end up in Rapunzel’s fairy tale, and as usual, something happens to change the story. In this case, Jonah climbs the tower with his soccer shoes (with cleats) on which rip Rapunzel’s hair. The trim that Abby gives her with nail scissors doesn’t help the situation.

They defeat the wicked witch, help Rapunzel meet her prince, and get home safely with Prince, the puppy. And along the way Abby realizes that Rapunzel didn’t need her hair to get the prince and be happy. Sometimes the thing that you think makes you special isn’t really that important. Like being a spelling bee champion.

That’s a great moral for kids in our society. Too many need the trophy or certificate to feel that they are successful. It’s the personal qualities that make a child special — being kind, helping someone, doing a good deed. And if this book helps get that message across, then it should be read in every classroom. Although it’s probably more appropriate for those in grades two through four.

Read all the “Whatever After” books starting with “Fairest of All, ” “If the Shoe Fits,” “Sink or Swim,” “Dream On,” “Bad Hair Day,” “Cold as Ice,” “Beauty Queen,” and “Once Upon a Frog.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Scholastic Press for review purposes.