cover image Once upon a Tim (Once upon a Tim #1)

Once upon a Tim (Once upon a Tim #1)

Stuart Gibbs, illus. by Stacy Curtis. Simon & Schuster, $12.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-5344-9925-6

Diverting from anything seen at the Round Table, Gibbs (the Spy School series) brings his lighthearted touch to medieval times in this energetic series starter. When a nefarious monster absconds with Princess Grace of a neighboring kingdom, cowardly Prince Ruprecht seeks knights to join him on his rescue. Since, according to self-described peasant Tim, “the worst part of being a peasant isn’t really what we don’t have. It’s what we can’t do,” he and his best friend Belinda sign up for tryouts, hoping to change their fates. In doing so, they enter into a dastardly plan concocted by Ruprecht and court advisor Nerlim, who aren’t actually seeking knights (the kingdom can’t afford them following a bad investment) but “people who they could fool into thinking that they were knights.” A comic quest follows, with scares and laughs abundantly on offer. Sketch-style b&w art by Curtis (Penguin and Moose Brave the Night) visualizes the cast, portrayed in cover art as having brown-skinned and white members. Tim’s chatty, entertaining narration, which includes ample potty humor and the occasional vocabulary “IQ booster,” also touches on lessons about stereotypes and unconscious bias throughout the chatty, madcap adventure. Ages 7–10. (Mar.)

The text of this review has been updated to reflect the final book.