cover image Twelve Dancing Princesses

Twelve Dancing Princesses

Brigette Barrager. Chronicle, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8118-7696-4

Barrager brings a fittingly soign%C3%A9 aesthetic to this retelling, deftly balancing the story's comedy and mystery as the exhausted sisters flummox the court by day and transform into an unstoppable balletic force by night. The crisp, doll-like characterizations and glowing, softly saturated palette recall the work of Mary Blair. If anything keeps this pretty volume from claiming a permanent place on the shelf, it's editorial rather than visual: in a major departure, Barrager turns the dancing dozen into the unwitting victims of a magic spell%E2%80%94sleepwalkers incapable of enjoying their enchanted journey to the ballroom in the magical forest. Being damsels in distress, they need a rescuer; a humble palace cobbler who announces, "I can't let this continue," and breaks the spell with a kiss to the lead sister's hand. No longer the willing (even conniving) agents of an illicit and ecstatic nightly adventure, the dancing princesses feel merely ornamental, and one of the Grimm Brothers' most intriguing tales%E2%80%94at its core, a thrilling battle of wits%E2%80%94becomes just another happily ever after. Ages 4%E2%80%938. (May)