Once Upon a Princess and a Pea is both the traditional version of the story and a modernized version in that very little is changed except that the Princess runs away when her parents try to marry her to an old toothless man and the Prince drives a hot red car.
I had high hopes for this book but I’m afraid it floundered a little.
It starts, “Princess Esmeralda was beautiful both inside and out, as true princesses sometimes are.… When Esmeralda hid their playing hide and seek after dark, no one could ever find her.” When we are introduced to the Prince, Hector, we learn he is disappointed in the princesses he knows for several reasons including “they were too scared to play hide and seek after dark.” I really felt this revelation should have gone somewhere, other than showing us that they had common interests. I kept waiting from them to hide in the dark.
Prince Hector meets Esmeralda on his return home from a failed attempt to find a bride. The three castles the Prince visited in his search for the perfect Princess were cleverly presented.
When Prince Hector comes upon Princess Esmeralda in the rain, wearing all her clothes, he simply asks “where are you going in this rain?” There is no reference to her strange appearance.
I felt the story was disjointed in that the Prince’s idea of a bride is completely different than his mother’s but the only way Esmeralda is accepted is by suffering from a pea hidden beneath twenty mattresses, fifty the quilts, one hundred blankets, and one lacy bedspread. This does not seem to jibe with the personality we have seen up until this point.
Ann Campbell’s attempt to update the fairytale and also keep the traditional storyline is admirable but seems to fall through Alice’s Looking Glass.
The illustrations by Kathy Osborn Young are strange, some dream-like, some newspaper cartoon style, with disproportionate faces and odd perspectives.
This would not be my first recommendation for a book about the princess and the pea.