I’m keeping with the theme of fairy tales and princesses this week. Today’s Perfect Picture Book is a retelling that celebrates Peruvian handicrafts with a sprinkling of Spanish text. Enjoy!
Title: La Princesa and the Pea
Written By: Susan Middleton Elya
Illustrated By: Juana Martinez-Neal
Publisher/date: GP Putnam’s Sons (an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group)/2017
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: bilingual (English/Spanish); rhyming; fairy tale
There once was a prince who wanted a wife.
But not any niña would do in his life.
When a young princess arrives in a kingdom where a prince seeks a wife, his mother, the queen, tests her by placing a pea underneath several mattresses.
Links to Resources:
- Check out the Glossary at the front of the book and then find the Spanish terms in this Word Puzzle;
- In a Note from the Illustrator, Martinez-Neal explains that the textiles in the illustrations were inspired by the weaving & embroidery of indigenous people of Peru. Learn more about the Andean communities where alpaca wool is woven into blankets and clothing;
- Add patterns and color to el Principé’s blankets;
- Find more coloring and activity pages on Martinez-Neal’s website.
Why I Like this Book:
La Princesa and the Pea is a delightful retelling of this classic fairy tale, with a fun twist at the end. With Spanish terms scattered throughout, this rhyming text is fun to read, and reread.
Martinez-Neal’s warm, colorful illustrations that draw on Peruvian weaving and embroidery designs further the Latino feel of this retelling. I think kids will love looking for and counting the small animals on every page, including two alpacas, several guinea pigs, and most notably, a very grumpy-looking cat.
A Note about Craft:
Rhyming well in one language is difficult. Sprinkling Spanish text into the rhyme makes it that much more challenging, but such fun to read. Elya manages this feat well, and I’d argue, this is a story that benefits from the addition of rhyme.
Elya added the Spanish text to the story, but Martinez-Neal chose the distinct setting: an Andean kingdom. As Martinez-Neal explains in the Note from the Illustrator, the indigenous peoples of Peru practice different types of handicrafts, so she was able to clothe the prince and his mother in fuzzy, alpaca wool clothing, while the princess appears in lighter, embroidered clothing. I love how a fairy tale with a visitor from outside the kingdom lends itself to this adaptation, and how we, as readers, can learn a bit about the distinct native cultures still evident in Peru.
Finally, as Dora M. Guzmán pointed out in a review at Latinx in Kid Lit, the mother-son dynamic evident in Latinx culture works well with this fairy tale of a mother wanting nothing but the best for her son.
La Princesa and the Pea was the 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner. See more of the illustrations and links to starred reviews on Juana Martinez-Neal’s website. You can also see more of her art by following her on Instagram.
Visit Susan Middleton Elya’s website to see some of her other bilingual picture books.
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!