Tuesday 29 January 2013

Princess Fairy by Penny Dale (Walker Books)

It's very easy to read too much into children's stories. Over-analysing them perhaps searching for a hidden agenda, or something woven into the fabric of a book that perhaps shouldn't be there.

When Charlotte picked "Princess Fairy" up from the library stack I inwardly groaned. She has a huge range of diverse interests but is a real sucker for a fairy story, and as soon as I saw the cover of this I thought "Oh no, not a soppy girly story!"

But ah my friends, how does the saying go? Never judge a book by its cover? Quite right too, and in this case I'd harshly judged this book before I had a chance to read it.

It's very beautifully illustrated, and tells the tale of a young princess playing in her garden with her favourite toys and her beloved golden ball.

As she bounces and plays in the garden, the ball slips through her fingers and splashes into a nearby pond.

A helpful frog offers to rescue the ball, in exchange for a kiss from the princess.

I know what you're thinking at this point. "Bog standard Frog Princess" knock-off, right? Wrong. The Princess refuses to kiss the frog, and in fact runs away - distracted by some other whimsy. But deep down it nags at her, that all the frog wanted was a kiss in exchange for rescuing her beloved golden ball.

Amazingly the frog turns up on her doorstep, and by this time the Princess realises that she should kiss the frog and stop being an old meany. So she does, and the frog is magically transformed into...a fairy! A little girl fairy, very much like the Princess herself. All she really wanted was a friend.

At this point you're probably shouting at me for giving away the ending of the book, because normally here at ReadItDaddy we try our very hardest NOT to spoil the endings or the surprises in books for you (we'll offer up the weak defence that it does actually give away the ending on the cover of the book AND on the Amazon listing for it). Without doing so though, it'd be difficult to explain what's different about this and why it gave me a little jolt and a moment of thinking "wait, did that just happen? Well that's certainly different!"

Penny Dale's books are like the children's books of old, always beautifully presented and illustrated, always gently told. Perhaps though, seen through an adult mind we can't appreciate the innocence of them without thinking they're perhaps trying to push an agenda. It certainly triggered some interesting discussions once we'd read it ("Can girls marry girls then? Will the Princess marry the fairy?") because that's what happened in other versions of The Frog Princess.

Charlotte's best bit: "I am the princess!" she said. But then changed it to "I am the fairy because fairies have wings and can fly!"

Daddy's favourite bit: So utterly beautifully illustrated, the characters almost leap off the page.

Check out Story Snug's brilliant review of "Dinosaur Dig" also by Penny Dale