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Monday, September 5, 2011

The Queen of France, written by Tim Wadham and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton. Candlewick, Random House. 2011. $19.00 ages 4 and up

"The Queen of France went to Rose's room. She took off the necklaces. She took off the bracelets. She put them in the jewelery box.
She took off the crown. She put it in the make-believe basket."

I wish you could see the sparkle on the cover!

We had a dress-up cupboard, with drawers filled with a collection of props that lent themselves to days of pretend play. We also had a pair of kids who loved to drag rooms full of toys, and a mixed bag of anything else they could commandeer to build forts, houses, school rooms and Star Wars environments. They just didn't like putting it all back. It was an enormous amount fun to watch their play.

Rose has a 'make-believe basket' and it lends itself to allowing Rose to take on the persona of the Queen of France, which she does with great gusto! Once ready she is off to the garden to visit with Rose's mother and to see if she might know just where Rose is. It seems mom doesn't know, but she hopes that Rose will soon return and get her room cleaned up. When the Queen gets a thorn in her finger, she is off to see the Royal Physician for medical care. On her route she meets Rose's dad. He doesn't know where she is; but he wants the Queen to remind Rose of the pirate story they have planned for bedtime.

Once back in her room, the Queen reverts to Rose. She bandages her own finger and heads for the kitchen. She wonders if Mom has seen the Queen of France. Nope. Back she goes to her Queen there. Because the room is not clean, she works to make it so, with help from a menagerie of stuffed animals. And then becomes Queen again!

The Queen is 'shocked' to see Rose's mother cooking without help. And so it goes with the Queen deciding she will trade places with Rose, until she recognizes how much her mother and father will miss Rose. Off she goes to the royal palace.

It is not long until Rose returns, to the great delight of her parents. She wonders how she keeps missing a visit with the Queen of France. But she is heartened to hear that they won't be trading places. No longer feeling regal, she chooses scary and off she goes...

What a wonderful readaloud this is going to be! Kids will love being in on the joke that Rose is really the Queen and vice versa. It might even encourage some imaginative play of their own. As in the best picture books, the tender and engaging watercolor artwork is the other side of a perfect coin.

Without Kady MacDonald Denton's whimsical characters and lovely backdrops it would not have the same impact. She constantly changes the visual aspect of her images, from full to double page spreads, from spot illustrations to detailed scenes inside and outside the house. There is so much here for readers to see, all adding to the visual impact of this entertaining story. Take a close look at the contents of the 'make-believe basket' to know the scope of Rose's imaginative play.

I love that the demeanor of the two characters is so obvious...The Queen elegant and uppity, Rose confident and caring. The text borders change to reflect the character at hand. My favorite illustration is the clutter that is Rose's room as she prepares for her new role...the stuffed toys, the princessy pink backdrop, and the regal bearing of a young woman about to become queen. Behold, the Queen of France!

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