Princess and the Pea – book review

The Princess and the Pea
adapted and illustrated by Alain Vaes
Picture book
* * * Stars (Pretty good)

In this version of the Princess and the Pea, the prince announces to his gem-obsessed mother that he intends to marry. The queen is concerned that a royal wedding will cost a lot of money, however, and that marriage in general (the prince’s as well as anyone else’s) will deplete the amount of gems available to her (for her collection), so she schemes to sabotage the prince’s plans. She devises a number of silly tests to put the princesses through their paces (hopscotch, yo-yo slinging, jump rope, etc.), and if a princess fails at any one of the tests, she is out of the running. The princesses are all beautiful, talented, intelligent women (seemingly), but each one of them fails the queen’s test. The prince is so irritated that he drives off in a huff – and meets the woman of his dreams, princess Opal. She repairs his car and returns to the palace with him where she passes the queen’s tests and is invited to spend the night, so the queen can test her royal pedigree by making her sleep on a pea buried under 20 mattresses (only a real princess would feel the pea). Opal doesn’t know this, but when she prepares for bed, her opal amulet gets caught in her hair, and that pokes into her back something awful. As a result she gets no sleep and passes the test with flying colors. Additionally, she has the opportunity to mention to the queen that her kingdom is famous for its opals and other gems – this makes them fast friends and the prince’s wedding proceeds without a hitch straight on to happily ever after! This funny adaptation of The Princess and the Pea will amuse adults and children who are familiar with more traditional tellings of the original tale. I particularly liked that princess Opal drives a tow truck, fixes cars (she’s just doing this trucking thing until she comes of age), and is covered in grease and wearing overalls when prince Ralph meets her. Bright illustrations bring the characters to life (the ones of the princesses at their tasks are especially entertaining), and I loved the little corgis that occasionally show up in and around the palace.

Reviewed by YA Librarian

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