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Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Restless Girls:A tale of daring, a quest for freedom. Written by Jessie Burton and illustrated by Angela Barrett. Bloomsbury, Raincoast. 2019. $25.99 ages 10 and up

"One morning, King Alberto opened their bedroom door as usual. And as usual, his daughters' twelve pairs of shoes were lined up neatly against the wall. Except this time (Why this time? Who knows - kings are unreliable characters) he bent down and lifted one shoe in order to admires its craftsmanship. The king was in for a shock. He stood there in the morning light, shaking his gray head as his girls slumbered away."

As happens in any home where a mother dies, the twelve young princesses of Kalia are filled with grief at their loss. Looking to their father for comfort offers nothing as he is also in deep mourning. He cannot hear what any of his daughters try to tell him. He seeks only to protect them from all perceived danger. They spend their days in a prison of his making. Princess Frida does her best to help him see he is only making things worse in the kingdom, and for his daughters.

There are no windows in the one room they share. They have no sunlight to brighten their days, or the comfort of any personal beloved  possessions. They have only a portrait of their free-spirited, independent mother on their wall. There is no escape .... until they make an amazing discovery one evening when everyone else in the palace has settled in for the night. A hidden door leads them to a marvelous underground world. They pass through caves, cross a lagoon, and walk through a forested area that leads them to a tree palace where exotic animals including a lioness surround them. In this very special place, they begin to thrive and find solace in the dancing and company of others.

They return to their secret world night after night, only having to stop when their father becomes suspicious about the constant replacement of their shoes. When confronted, Princess Frida refuses to divulge the secret and is banished. A proclamation is issued by Alberto, stating that anyone who can discover the truth concerning his daughters will replace him as King. A surprise competitor, a new monarch, and a return to great prosperity for the kingdom has each of the daughters playing a vital role.

The princesses are presented with unique personalities, each showing strength and bravery when facing a world suddenly changed by an overprotective and unbending father. They love each other deeply; they want to have a say in the way they live their lives, and are willing to defy their father to do just that. It is a spirited tale of adventure,  humor, and imagination. A new twist on an old tale will find fans for its originality, its interesting characters, and the fun it pokes at a father who forgets his responsibilities to his kingdom in his dogged attempts to control the lives of twelve feisty, witty, kind, independent, free-thinking daughters ... traits they have inherited from his beloved Queen.

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