Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Princess and the Pea--Retelling #3

The Princess Test
By Gail Carson Levine
HarperCollins, 1999

This novella is part of The Princess Tales by Levine. I love the way this book is made. It is a skinny little chapter book and is long and narrow (about ¾ of the width of a normal chapter book page).

The story definitely strays farther from the original than the other retellings I’ve reviewed. But of course, there is more room for elaboration in the middle grade novel format than in a picture book.

Lorelei is just a blacksmith’s daughter, but she has always required a lot of special care. She couldn’t help with regular household chores because she would break out in a rash or get injured. So her parents doted on her constantly, even though as she grew older, she felt somewhat guilty that they pampered her so much. When her mother dies, Lorelei’s father hires a woman to help with the household chores. The woman gets disgusted when she realizes how fragile and inept Lorelei is with everyday tasks. In fact, she gets so annoyed that she begins to set things up to see if Lorelei will hurt herself so badly that she will just die. Yes, this sounds just like an evil stepmother, but this lady never marries Lorelei’s father.

The prince of the kingdom notices Lorelei on many occasions because they knew each other from childhood. As much as he admires her, his parents won’t have him marry anyone except for a true princess. And Lorelei is just a blacksmith’s daughter.

The king and queen are tired and are ready to turn their kingdom over to their heir. But he has to be married to a real princess. Thus, the princess test is created. The royal family designs a series of tests that only true princesses will pass. In the original tale the prince travels worldwide looking for a princess. In this story all of the wanna-be princesses come to the palace to undergo the princess tests. The last of the tests is the pea-under-the-mattress test that is known in the original tale.

Even though Lorelei is not a princess, she still undergoes the tests, even though the prince wants her for his wife regardless of how she fares on the tests. But the king and queen insist that he only marry a true princess. Of course, she passes and they are able to get married.

What makes this retelling unique:
The fact that this is a chapter book meant for older readers make this retelling unique. Girls who are reading novels, but still love a good princess story, will love this book. This retelling keeps some of the familiar elements of the original tale, but also recreates it in such a way that the reader will feel like they are reading a fresh, new story.

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