CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 21. . . .June 13, 2008
The Princess Who Had Almost Everything.
Mireille Levert. Illustrated by Josée Masse.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2008.
32 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
Preschool-grade 4 / Ages 3-9.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
Reviewed from f&g's.
A long time ago, if you looked very far off into the distance, you would see a hill. And at the very top of that hill you would see a castle, as lovely a castle as there ever was. And if you looked harder yet, you would see Alicia, the princess who lived in the castle. Her parents loved her dearly and did everything they could to make her happy. But every day and every night, no matter how far away you stood, you would always hear Alicia yell, "I'M BORED!"
The English language Tundra Books publication of The Princess Who Had Almost Everything is a delightful book. First published in French in 2006, the book's original title was La Princesse Qui Avait Presque Tout.
Alicia, the princess, seemingly has everything she could possibly want. Her parents provide her with whatever her heart desires. Yet, somehow, Alicia remains decidedly unimpressed. "I'M BORED," she howls after riding an electric train. "I'M BORED!" she declares with a "fantastic, rafter-shaking bellow" after trying on a variety of new shoes. Mireille Levert's descriptive writing captures the tension that can exist when loving parents try to shower a spoilt child with more and more. Levert also captures much of the feel of traditional princess fairy tales, yet still manages to present the genre from a fresh viewpoint that readers will find engaging and, in part, endearing. Certainly, the noble Prince Connor is endearing with his friendly, yet fearless, manner and his powerful imagination.
The book features lavish, full colour illustrations—many of which extend across the double page spread. Josée Masse's artwork for this book is nothing short of wonderful. The illustrations consist primarily of cool colours with a strong use of blues and greens. The cool colours provide an intriguing contrast to the fuming princess' temper. Another interesting contrast in the heavily textured acrylic paintings involves the inclusion in each illustration of a strong circular image or circle. The circular shape contrasts with the vertical streaks in each painting. Such contrasts perhaps reflect the dichotomy of a princess who has everything but complains of being bored because she has nothing that she finds interesting.
The princess eventually finds entertainment in something as simple and commonplace as paper. This could prove a useful lesson to many young readers who need to know that an endless list of demands is not likely to yield satisfaction. Young readers and their parents, however, will be perfectly satisfied by The Princess Who Had Almost Everything. This interesting book provides a refreshingly bold modern day approach to story telling, yet maintains much of the charm of traditional fairy tales.
Gregory Bryan lives in Winnipeg, MB. He teaches children's literature at the University of Manitoba.
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