CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 24. . . .February 25th, 2011.
Princess to the Rescue.
Claudia Souza. Illustrated by Christelle Ammirati.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2011.
24 pp., hardcover, $15.95.
Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.
Review by Linda Ludke.
Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.
**1/2 / 4
Once upon a time, in a hilly country far, far away and lost in the mists of time, there lived a princess who saved a prince … or two … or three.
Wait a minute! Isn’t that the wrong way around? In fairy tales, it’s the prince who saves the princess, isn’t it?
In this revisionist fairy tale, a princess rescues princes in peril. With her “custom-made armor and low-heeled boots” and a purse “packed with secret weapons”, she comes to the aid of those hapless fellows who have been turned into frogs, kidnapped by ogres and locked in dungeons. On one mission, her task is to save a prince trapped inside an evil monster-woman’s jewelry box. On her journey, she outsmarts vanishing furniture and distracts poisonous snakes. She foils the warty monster-woman by telling her, “This is all a dream and you are sound asleep in your big comfy bed over there”.
Gaps in the story are shrugged off by the narrator: “How she managed to get into the country and reach the castle I do not know”; “How did she get over all the other obstacles? That I was never told”; “How she knew when that was, I have no idea.” The reader is asked to fill in the details: “I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself”.
Christelle Ammirati’s watercolour and pencil crayon cartoon illustrations are childlike and feature lots of fairy tale elements, like fire breathing dragons and an ornate castle on a hill. Like the text, the illustrations also encourage readers to contribute to the story. On the last page, a child’s hand is shown reaching into the scene and holding up a hand drawn picture of their retelling of the rescue.
The princess character shows cunning and resourcefulness, but readers don’t get to know her. Unlike the feisty Elizabeth in Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess or the independent Violetta in Funke’s The Princess Knight, the princess here remains two-dimensional. The narrator’s repeated message of “A princess saving a prince? How can that be? It’s impossible. There is no such thing!” seems a bit heavy handed.
Although not a standout title in the spunky princess category, Princess to the Rescue will spark discussions on gender stereotypes.
Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.
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