cover image Cabbage Rose

Cabbage Rose

Mary-Claire Helldorfer, M. C. Helldorfer. Bradbury Press, $14.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-02-743513-9

With her latest story, Helldorfer ( The Mapmaker's Daughter ) establishes herself at the forefront of what seems to be a growing breed of fairy tales featuring strong, independent young women. The heroine here is a taciturn girl who works for her loutish brothers--who dub her ``Cabbage'' for her plain face--and retreats into her artwork. One night, a magician gives her a wonder-working paintbrush; now, everything Cabbage paints becomes real. Her demanding siblings set her to work rendering finery for themselves, but the girl escapes to ply her trade (with her own brush, not the magic one) in the king's city. She falls in love with the prince and, in a classic case of low self-esteem, uses her magic brush to paint a new face for herself on the mirror, that of an elegant lady. She has misjudged her prince, however; the loyal lad rejects the superficially lovely replacement, telling her that he desires only Cabbage Rose, ``for the world is plain without her.'' Helldorfer's fluid prose is buoyed by Downing's lush watercolors, a series of luminous pages that chronicle Cabbage's blossoming life and talent. The clear-cut message here--the importance of valuing one's true worth--is especially timely in today's image-conscious society. Though certainly of value to boys (kudos to the prince for not judging a book by its cover), this is a particularly empowering book for girls. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)