cover image Arnica, the Duck Princess

Arnica, the Duck Princess

Ervin Lázár, illus. by Jaqueline Molnár, trans. from the Hungarian by Anna Bentley. Pushkin, $16.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-78269-220-1

“Write me a story!” So begins this madcap yarn of clever Princess Arnica and Poor Johnny, who are cursed by the Witch of a Hundred Faces: one must be a duck while the other is human. Structured as a tale being told to a child, the story swoops and veers through Arnica and Johnny’s quest to find the Seven-Headed Fairy, the only one who can break the spell, with interpolations from the listening child and the storytelling parent: “He did the right thing to refuse the treasure, didn’t he?” “It certainly looks that way.” Fresh, funny characters (touchy Victor Coppermine; Tig-Tag, the misguided thief; wise King Tirunt, whose Chief Royal Counter counts until the monarch’s anger passes) offer much delight, as does the satisfying ending. Molnár’s vibrant folkloric illustrations complement the tale’s whimsical sincerity. Ages 7–10. (Aug.)