Today, as many of us recover from turkey hang-overs (at least those in the US), and others rush around to score Black Friday deals, I chose a story that celebrates the bounty and community that are at the heart of Thanksgiving. While it’s not a new book, I think its appeal endures and make it a Perfect Picture Book:
Title: The Apple-Pip Princess
Written & Illustrated By: Jane Ray
Publisher/date: Candlewick Press/2008 (UK edition: Orchard Books/2007)
Suitable for Ages: 3-7
Themes/Topics: kindness, sharing, nature, community, princess, apple seeds
Opening: “Let me tell you a story about something that happened a long time ago in a land far from here – a land ruled by an old king who had three daughters.”
Brief Synopsis: An elderly king ruling over a bleak, barren kingdom sets each of his three daughters a task: to build in seven days something that will make her mark, that will make the king proud. Whichever of his daughters builds that thing will inherit his crown.
Links to Resources:
- Plant an apple-pip (seed) and watch it grow;
- Make baked apples or apple pie;
- Plan a picnic (indoors or out): what will you eat? Who will you invite to share your picnic?
- For older children, discuss the king’s system of choosing his successor. How else could he have done so? Discuss the attributes of a good ruler (or president!).
Why I Like this Book:
The Apple-Pip Princess is a modern fairy tale. Need I say more? Like the best fairy tales, it is an allegory for issues in our own 21st century world: caring for the environment; the hollowness of material possessions; the power of one person to better the world; the power of community. Told by a narrator speaking directly to “you” in lyrical language that flows like the best fairy tales do and accompanied by illustrations fit for a royal tale, including several collages incorporating digital art in a unique manner, The Apple-Pip Princess is a wonderful way to open discussions about our need to care for our world, the effect our actions have on our world and fellow beings, the importance of community, and why being the tallest or the most beautiful really doesn’t matter.
A Note about Craft:
Ms. Ray offers the usual array of fairy tale elements plus a few twists:
- An omniscient narrator who tells the tale and specifically brings “you” into the story, addressing the reader at the beginning, when the focus shifts to Serenity, the princess with the apple seed, or pip, and how she will complete the king’s task, and at the end;
- A dead queen, although no evil stepmother nor a fairy godmother;
- Three sisters with, you guessed it, three different ideas about how to complete the task;
- They are given seven days and nights to complete the tasks – a nod to Biblical creation, although without the day of rest;
- An ample dash of magic, in fact, seven dashes, but the magic works only after Serenity unleashes it;
- The characters are dark skinned, although wearing European-style clothing from an earlier era and living in houses that would be at home in Europe or even parts of rural or small-town America.
Incorporating these twists into the classic formula, I think, makes The Apple-Pip Princess a fairy tale that will endure.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!