Tag Archives: fairy tale

PPBF – La Princesa and the Pea

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!

9780399251566Title: 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

Opening:

There once was a prince who wanted a wife.

But not any niña would do in his life.

Brief Synopsis:

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!

PPBF: The Most Wonderful Thing in the World

What is the most wonderful thing in the world? You’ll have to read this Perfect Picture Book to find out! But I think anyone with a child will understand (and run out to purchase this book).

0763675016.medTitle: The Most Wonderful Thing in the World

Written By: Vivian French

 

Illustrated By: Angela Barrett

Publisher/date: Candlewick Press, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: fairy tale, love, love of family, wonder

Opening: “Once, in the time of your grandmother’s grandmother, there was a kingdom.”

Brief Synopsis: The king and queen search for a husband for their only daughter by running a contest: whoever can show them the most wonderful thing in the world will become her husband.

Links to Resources:

  • What do you think makes something wonderful? Think about/list/draw pictures of what you think is wonderful (note, the word is not beautiful; unique; biggest; or strongest – but are any of these features part of your wonderful something?)
  • This story begins in the time of your grandmother’s grandmother: how long ago was that? Explore time by building a paper-plate clock or a paper-chain calendar.

Why I Like this Book:
Both the words and the images in this book transported me to another place and time. Set in the Edwardian era in a place with Venetian overtones, the lyrical prose and lovely watercolour vignettes work together to tell a story of “love of family as the center of life” while including “a playful undercurrent of both whimsy and irony.” (Kirkus Reviews, 4 Aug 2015). And while written in the “then and there” classic fairy tale tradition, The Most Wonderful Thing in the World also incorporates some of the here and now in both words and subtle (and some not-so-subtle) images.

A Note about Craft:

Although The Most Wonderful Thing in the World reads like a newly-written fairy tale, in the endnotes Angela Barrett mentions that she had remembered a story of that name from her childhood and convinced Vivian French to retell it. Reading this makes me want to pore through old books to find a “new” old fairy tale to rewrite!

I also love how both author and illustrator weave allusions to today into the story. You’ll have to read the book to see what the illustrator hides in plain sight, but I can’t resist sharing my favourite lines of the book:

            The last of the suitors had sailed away to his kingdom, his weapons of mass destruction rejected.

            “How can anyone believe weapons are the most wonderful thing in the world?” asked the queen.

            The king shrugged. He was too tired to answer.

Finally, to bring this review full-circle, look again at the opening. I love thinking about “the time of your grandmother’s grandmother” as a way to show that this story happened long ago. I can’t wait to write about a past event and figure out a way to anchor it using an equally understandable measure of time that resonates like this.