Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Princess and the Pea--Retelling #1

The Princess and the Pea in Miniature: after the Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen
Written and illustrated by Lauren Child
Captured by Polly Borland
Hyperion, 2006

This is a modern retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Princess and the Pea.” Lauren Child is the popular writer and illustrator who wrote Charlie and Lola books and Clarice Bean books. In fact, when I first opened this book up, I thought it was a striking resemblance to the characters on Charlie and Lola (which my daughter watched this morning).

What’s fascinating about the illustrations:
The characters in this story are paper cutouts—much like paper dolls. They are dressed with dresses and outfits made of actual material. The backgrounds are 3-D. The flat characters were placed into doll house furniture settings, then photographed by Polly Borland. The flat characters remind me so much of the “flat characters” in traditional fairy tales. Each character is stereotyped or “flat” and I loved the fact that these characters were literally flat.

My favorite spread is the opening end papers. There is a stack of mattresses with a pea in between them. Each mattress is a covered in pretty flannel patterned material. A tiny gold chandelier hangs from the ceiling and the wall behind it is painted kelly green. It’s bright, colorful, and such a unique way of presented illustrations.

What makes the retelling unique:
The author makes the reader feel really smart. There is authorial intrusion throughout the book reminding the reader how much they already know about fairy tales. One of the comments is, “You know how it is with these fairy-tale types.” It assumes the reader knows how the fairy-tale types are. And chances are, they do know those fairy-tale types.

The writing is very over-the-top, very dramatic and very fitting for a fairy tale. The prince on his quest for the perfect princess says she must be “more mesmerizing than the moon and I must find her more fascinating than all the stars in the sky. And there must be a certain…something about her.”

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