In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

More post-modern princesses

Dear Annie,

Happy Mother's Day!

I too am quite fond of Little Fur Family.  It has provided us with another family literary reference, "the wild wild wood."  That's where the little fur child goes to play:
It was a wild wild wood.
Wild flowers grew all over the ground
and wild winds blew through the air.
When one is venturing into new territory, it occasionally gets referred to as the wild wild wood.

I'm venturing back to well-traveled ground today: princesses,  especially books about same that one can stand reading to one's child.  Two take-offs on The Princess and the Pea have recently appeared on our shelves at the store.  It seems to lend itself to parody more than most fairy tales. Ah, the overbearing mother...

The Very Smart Pea and the Princess-to-Be
by Mini Grey tells the tale from the point of view of the pea.  Mini Grey has the distinction of being named after the car she was born in (lovely interview with her here).  She does excellent slightly wacky illustrations: the prince goes on his search wearing jacket and tie and well-stocked backpack; the rejected princesses are a collage of Polaroid photos with captions -- "too energetic," "too grumpy," "too pink."  We keep seeing the gardener who raised the pea in the background hoeing, trimming trees, gardening.  She's the one who shows up at the door on the dark and stormy night.  The pea recognizes her snore, climbs all the mattresses, and whispers in her sleeping ear for three hours, "There is something Large and Round and very Uncomfortable in the bed under you."  This of course does the trick and Happily Ever After (with vegetables) follows.

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas
by Tony Wilson and Sue deGennaro has become a huge favorite at the store.  It's entertaining on many different levels.

Prince Henrik hopes to find a wife who likes the outdoors, camping and hockey as much as he does.  His brother tells him about the trick of finding a real princess with a pea, which worked for him.
"Did Princess Eva complain?" Prince Henrik asked.
"You bet -- she complained a lot," said Prince Hans.
And she's never stopped, leaving Henrik concerned about his own search for a real princess.  So he changes the rules:
Instead of twenty mattresses, Henrik found one thin camping mattress.
Instead of twenty eiderdown quilts, Henrik found one old sleeping bag.
And instead of a single pea, the prince decided to use a whole packet of frozen peas.
This leads to some seriously put-out princesses, and no true love. Then his old pal Pippa shows up, they play hockey and make fun of the princesses, and the light bulb finally goes off over Henrik's head.  He puts the packet of frozen peas under her mattress and waits with trepidation.  He asks her how she slept.
"Fantastically well, thank you." 
Pippa handed him a packet of mushy peas. "I found this under the mattress last night," she said. "It was the perfect ice pack.  I had a bit of a sore shin from playing hockey."
Needless to say, it's true love.  The last page is a sequence of pictures of the two of them trying to figure out how to put up a tent -- they succeed in the end.

The illustrations are charmingly off-beat, the writing is good, it's funny -- and it's about falling in love with a friend.  What's not to like?



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