La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya (review)
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Reviewed by
Elya, Susan Middleton La Princesa and the Pea; illus. by Juana Martinez-Neal. Putnam, 2017 [32p]
ISBN 978-0-399-25156-6 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R 5-8 yrs

Elya recasts the familiar the of “The Princess and the Pea” in lively rhyming text that incorporates several Spanish words and sets the tale against illustrations inspired by the woven and embroidered textiles of the indigenous peoples of Peru. The text is occasionally forced in the service of the rhyme, but overall the narrative flow is both logical and sonorous. It is Martinez-Neal’s graceful illustrations (rendered in acrylics, colored pencil, and graphite on textured paper) that really make this title a winner, though. Careful shading and blending of colors and edges, attractive patterning, and subtle spattering or stippling give the art a homey, warm appeal. The dark-haired, brown-skinned characters feature rosy cheeks and ruddy noses, and details of their figures and clothing accentuate their personalities; for example, the queen’s Frida Kahlo-esque unibrow and wide form make her a formidable figure (echoed by her crabby-looking feline companion), and her hat and dress bristle with fibers, emphasizing her prickly nature. Close-looking viewers will also spot clues that provide visual confirmation of the text’s eventual reveal that the young prince rigged his mother’s test by placing pitchforks and rocks in amongst the many mattresses. Although this is an enjoyable retelling for young audiences in general, professionals looking to expand the diversity of a fairy-tale collection or unit of study will find it particularly valuable. A glossary and an illustrator’s note are included. [End Page 14]

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