From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 2—Isadora drops her simplified and humorless retelling of Andersen's tale into an African setting without adding meaningful cultural context to this story of a prince who travels the continent looking for a wife. Africa is treated as one culture except for three spreads that show individual princesses. These spreads are wordless except for a phrase: "Iska Waran," "Selam," or "Jambo, Habari." No translation is provided in the body of the book, so readers only learn on the last page that the words mean "hello" in three different languages. Awkward phrasing like "What a sight the rain and the wind had made her look" slows the pace of the story. Isadora uses oil paints on palette paper and decorative print paper to interpret the story visually and infuses her art with exuberant color and stylized figures. The prince and his entourage appear as shadowy figures that contrast dramatically with the deep reds and oranges of a setting sun. The three princesses are vividly portrayed: one is covered in body tattoos and looks menacing, another has light skin and an elegantly long neck covered in multicolored jewelry, and a third is dark and heavy. Faces exhibit paint strokes and look flat with minimal expression. One effective spread shows the "real" princess perched on top of "twenty feather beds on top of the mattresses" as she complains to the king and queen that she is "black and blue all over." An additional purchase.—Kirsten Cutler, Sonoma County Library, CA
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Andersen's classic, silly fairy tale gets an East African setting in this simple picture-book retelling with brightly colored oil-paint and cut-paper collage illustrations by Caldecott Honor winner Isadora. Many women would like to marry the prince, and he travels all over the world in search of a wife, but how will he find a real princess? When a bedraggled young girl arrives one night in a fearful storm and claims she is a princess, the royal family gives her a bed with one small pea under mounds of mattresses and featherbeds. When she gets up the next morning, bruised and sleepless, they know she is the real thing. The storm scene is confusing: which figure is the visitor? Otherwise, the European story works beautifully in the lush new setting with an all-black cast and clear, detailed layers everywhere, including necklaces, head cloths, fabrics, and kente cloth. Collage is the perfect medium to show the piled-up mattresses and feather beds, each one a different texture and pattern. Hazel Rochman
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