cover image The Most Wonderful Thing in the World

The Most Wonderful Thing in the World

Vivian French, illus. by Angela Barrett. Candlewick, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7501-1

In “a city of sky-blue water and golden bridges,” an overprotective king and queen ponder their sheltered daughter’s future. They feel Princess Lucia will require a partner when she inherits the land, so they write to Wise Old Angelo and ask how to “find a suitable husband.” Angelo types a letter and sends his grandson, Salvatore, to deliver it; he advises the royals to choose “the young man who can show you the most wonderful thing in the world.” Lucia, meanwhile, steps outside the palace and asks the first person she meets—Salvatore—to show her around the city. While would-be suitors showcase “acrobats and airships, pyramids and performing dogs, mysterious magical beasts and a piece of frozen sky,” Lucia strolls in sun-drenched piazzas and along Italianate canals with the courtly Salvatore. Though French (the Tales from the Five Kingdoms series) never reveals why Lucia fails to share her identity with Salvatore, Barrett (The Night Fairy) conjures a magical mood, picturing fantasies and modern marvels in jewel-like watercolor vignettes, and a peaceful ambience reigns as Lucia and Salvatore elegantly solve Angelo’s puzzle. A mellifluous fairy tale, drenched in Edwardian splendor. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)