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Monday, January 23, 2012

The Princess and the Pig, written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Poly Bernatene. Macmillan, Harper Canada. 2011. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"As Pigmella grew older,
she grew clever,
and beautiful,
and was admired
by everyone she met.
As Priscilla grew older,
she grew not so clever,
and not so beautiful,
and was avoided by
everyone she met."

Although it has many years since I first read The Paper Bag Princess (Munsch, 1980), I would guess I had somewhat the same reaction to it as I did following reading this fabulous fairy tale. I laughed out loud...and thought 'now, there's a comeuppance that is well deserved!' Don't you be fooled by the fact that there is a princess in this book. It is so much more that!

When the farmer takes pity on an unsold piglet and takes it home with him, he has cannot possibly know how that decision will change his life. He stops to rest in the shade of the castle at the same moment the queen inadvertently drops her new baby girl out the window, while searching for one of the seven nannies to change a nasty nappy. As the baby bounces down, the piglet bounces up and there you have the premise for this inventive and entirely entertaining fractured fairy tale.

The author makes reference to some of the classic tales...the fairy not invited to the baby's christening who gets revenge with a curse, another kind of fairy who sees in barren parents the goodness that will benefit a newborn child,  the providential mishap that placed a pig where a princess should be and even the hope that a proper prince might break the piggish spell that has been cast on the royal daughter. Each tale helps to rationalize every one of  the events in this entertaining book..

As in all the best picture books, the illustrator is able to convey the humor and the spirit of the story through his visual representations. The pages are filled with the fun that might occur if a pig were raised in a palace and a princess raised on a farm. The quiet backgrounds allow the characters pride of place for the telling. The perspectives change, as does the way in which the illustrations are placed on the page. Some are double page spreads, some are panelled horizontally and others vertically to show action and to offer parallel stories. His light-infused artwork is sure to attract attention to the action, and keep readers returning for another peek.

Being the good people that they are, when the farmer and his wife discover what has really happened (without magic or menace), they want to do what's right. They take Pigmella back to the castle and are rejected by royal silliness and snobbery:

"It's a trick," she declared. "This girl
is just a farmer's daughter pretending
to be a princess in the hope that
she might marry a prince. It's the
sort of thing that happens all the
while in books."

Thus, they all live happily ever after...except perhaps for the prince!

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