The Most Wonderful Thing in the World by Vivian French

The Most Wonderful Thing in the World

Written by Vivian French
Illustrated by Angela Barrett

5+ readers   3+ readers   
Download an extract Add to wishlist Share this book

The Lovereading4Kids comment

Venice provides the background for this delightful fairy-tale. Its king and queen realise that their daughter needs a husband to be king when she’s queen. But how to choose one? Find the young man who can show you the most wonderful thing in the world, advises the wisest man they know. As suitor after suitor arrives at the palace, the princess is out exploring the city with a charming young man. He it is who finally shows her parents the most wonderful thing in the world. It’s a satisfying story, cleverly told and Angela Barrett has great fun with the fabulous array of marvels presented by the suitors. The ending will leave everyone happy. ~ Andrea Reece


The Most Wonderful Thing in the World by Vivian French

From the author of the Tiara Club series comes a gently satirical fairy story for our times, illustrated by one of today's finest artists, Angela Barrett.

When a king and a queen promise to marry their daughter Lucia to the man who can show them the most wonderful thing in the world, suitors descend on the palace bearing gifts. Roses, jewels and exotic birds; dancing girls, wind machines and mythical beasts - but nothing feels quite right. As the last suitor leaves, his weapons of mass destruction rejected, the king and queen are exhausted. But when a shy, young man, who isn't a suitor at all, steps forward, they finally understand what the most wonderful thing in the world really is.

Vivian French's masterful retelling of a forgotten story is both funny and heart-warming, and Angela Barrett's breathtaking illustrations give life to an enchanting and romantic fairytale city.


Barrett's paintings are exquisitely dreamy and delicate. -- Amanda Craig The Times Vivian French is a sublime story-teller. The Sunday Telegraph Exquisitely heartfelt -- The Independent The Independent Angela Barrett's breathtaking and nostalgic illustrations give life to an enchanting fairytale city full of subtle surprises while French's masterful retelling of the magical story makes this a perfect wedding gift for true romantics. Lancashire Evening Post The Most Wonderful Thing In The World is a stunningly beautiful story, both visually and in terms of its content. It's a gorgeous fairy tale about knowing and understanding the true value of things, which is something we all need to be reminded of now and again. Vivian French's satirical story is firmly tongue-in-cheek, but it's also romantic, heart-warming and utterly absorbing. It's a perfect book for readers aged seven and older, who will enjoy the captivating story and pour over the highly detailed drawings by award-winning illustrator Angela Barrett. Junior This charming and amusing fairytale set in Venice, and beautifully illustrated by Angela Barrett [...] is a very satisfying story with an equally satisfactory end. Inis Reading Guide ...beautifully complemented by Angela Barrett's exquisite illustrations, painted with the skill of a miniaturist. The warmth of the colour palette, the atmospheric use of light, the sumptuous scrollwork and the ornately-framed vignettes result in a rich visual experience. The School Librarian The Most Wonderful Thing in the World may also be one of the most beautiful books of the year. In this lovingly crafted fairy tale, the King and Queen decide that they must find a husband for their much-loved daughter. [...] Vivian French tells an enchanting story of love and happiness, stylishly illustrated by Angela Barrett in soft, muted tones. The whole is a joy sure to be enjoyed by readers of all ages. The Scotsman This book lives up to its name, for it is a beautiful book brimming with the finest, most magical illustrations. Cotswold Preview

About the Author

Vivian French

Vivian French is an acclaimed children's author who has written over forty picture books for Walker. Her non-fiction titles include Yucky Worms, Growing Frogs and T. Rex in the Nature Storybooks series and she has written numerous retellings of fairytales and folktales as well as the Stargirl Academy series. Vivian teaches on the illustration course at Edinburgh School of Art and is beginning a PhD on picture books at Newcastle University. Vivian lives in Edinburgh.

Vivian French - as a child

Vivian doesn't remember her schooldays with any affection at all. "I had a nightmarish imagination," she says, "and I could always see exactly how things could go wrong. I ended up scared of everything - games, teachers, lessons - and I was always sick on Sunday nights if there was school the next day. My best times were when I went to stay with my grandparents; they had a huge garden, and I lived a blissfully happy fantasy life in among the trees."

As an adult

Vivian's first job ever was at the National Book League (now BookTrust) where she was always reading children's books. She left to have her first daughter, then joined a travelling theatre company. "My whole life changed," she says. "I loved the acting, and I loved touring. I began to write plays for us to perform, but it never occurred to me to write stories.

As an artist

Vivian has written dozens of books on all subjects and for all ages, including the board book Lullaby Lion, the picture book Polly’s Pink Pyjamas, the non-fiction picture books Yukky Worms, Chocolate and Caterpillar Butterfly, (shortlisted for the 1993 Kurt Maschler award), the fabulous comic fantasy series Tales from the Five Kingdoms and six first experience books about the Buttons family (publishing in 2012). She says, "I like to move between picture books and teenage angst, between fiction and non-fiction, between retellings and new ideas. Someone wise once told me that it's all right to be a free wheeler (at the time I was earnestly searching for a defining label) and I'm happy with that.

Vivian has been writer-in-residence at libraries, schools and festivals, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Wordplay, Swansea. She was a regular reviewer for The Guardian for six years, and travels all around the world swapping and sharing ideas with children and adults.

Things you didn't know about Vivian French

1. When she was little she had an imaginary lion called Jesus.

2. She is absolutely no good at cooking at all; all she can make is macaroni cheese.

3. She's written three books under the name of Louis Catt - her cat's called Louis.

4. She once got muddled and told a school that she had five daughters instead of four, and had to make up a whole story about the extra daughter.

5. She hates mince pies, and beetroot with vinegar on it.

6. Her favourite journey is the number 22 bus route in Edinburgh; it trundles along beside the Water of Leith and takes her home.

7. She really likes cars, and would LOVE to have a Mark One Ford Cortina (she used to have one but it fell apart.) If anyone's got one going spare, please send it c/o Walker Books.

8. She is rather nervous of cows, especially when they stare at her.

9. Her favourite food is mango sorbet. Or raspberries. Or both together.

10. She is usually hopeful.

More books by this author

Loading similar books...

Other Formats

Book Info


32 pages
Interest Age: From 4


Vivian French
More books by Vivian French

Author's Website


Walker Books Ltd

Publication date

4th June 2015




It’s a community united by a passion for books and promoting the best there is in children’s literature.

Sam Bateman and family

We love Lovereading4kids because it promotes reading choices, new authors and a sense of community for children of all ages!

Rachel Bridgeman

Lovereading is just a convenient way to find new books and hear others opinions on them.

Sarah Murray – age 15

It’s really exciting to read and review new books, thrilling to see my reviews online and I love finding the final published copies on sale.

Sam Harper – age 10

It’s so easy to find the right book for your child. Such an easy-to-use, yet in-depth website. 100% reliable.

Pippa, Jack, Liam & Matthew Wils

I love Lovereading4kids because I get an opportunity to put my opinion forward and to try new books

Elosie Clarkson – age 11

Love “Lovereading4kids” as my son gets to hear about & read new books before his mates which keeps him interested in reading=a very happy Mum

Liz Evans

I have told all my friends, family & teachers to see for themselves just how great the site is. Without fail, they are hugely impressed.

Alexander Boxall – age 11

Lovereading 4 schools