I love when an author and illustrator can update a traditional fairy tale and make it connect better with contemporary children. Calmenson and Brunkus have succeeded beautifully. Instead of a vain emperor, we have a clothes crazy principal. The two con artists, Ivy and Mo, appeal to the principle’s vanity. As in the traditional story, they pretend to create clothes that are invisible to anyone who is unfit for their job or is stupid. Everyone is afraid to confess they cannot see the cloth. The vice principal Ms. Moore, Roger the smart student, and finally the principal himself all pretend they can see fabric where none exists. When the principal walks to school and into the auditorium in his underwear, a kindergarten child, Alice, cries out, “The principal’s in his underwear!”
Here the author adds a special touch of her own. Instead of continuing to mock the foolish principal, the teachers and students provide him with shirts, sweatpants, and other clothing. Alice is rewarded with a gold star for telling the truth. Everyone agrees that Mr. Bundy is “still the sharpest dresser in town” even though his clothes are mismatched and ill fitting, especially the small pink sweatpants.
I love the idea that when someone makes a mistake, instead of making them feel worse, we have the option of supporting them with kindness.
Denise Brunkus’s illustrations are fun and expressive. But, I thought the smartest child in the school was unnecessarily clichéd.
It isn’t often that I can say I like an updated version of a fairytale better than the original. Highly recommended.