cover image The Thistle Princess

The Thistle Princess

Vivian French. Candlewick Press (MA), $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0307-6

French's (Lazy Jack) sentimental tale of a royal couple whose lives are changed by a baby illustrates the dangers of overprotectiveness. A humble thistle in the royal garden, who understands that the king and queen are sad because they are childless, urges the weeping willow to weave a basket from its leaves, twigs and branches, and cajoles the flowers to line it with soft petals and scents. Then the thistle lays down in the basket and transforms into a baby girl. After discovering the baby the next morning, the king and queen immediately begin to worry about her safety. Their attempts to isolate her cause the princess to wane, and only when they let her play with other children does she revive. French's poetic language and leisurely pace are inviting but do not make up for inconsistencies in the plot, which may leave readers wondering why the king and queen are content, when, at the tale's end, their child vanishes as mysteriously as she came. Harbour's (A First Picture Book of Nursery Rhymes) elegantly elongated, soft-focus watercolors create an appropriately bittersweet, romantic mood. Botanical borders, vignettes and illustrations running along the bottom of the spreads provide appealing visual variety. Readers with a strong taste for the nostalgic and happy-ever-after endings will take to this one from the start, but others might well feel short-changed by the disappointing finale. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)