cover image Once Upon a Princess and a Pea

Once Upon a Princess and a Pea

Ann Campbell, A. Campbell. ABRAMS, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-55670-289-1

Unlike Anne Wilsdorf's blithely subversive Princess (see Children's Books Forecasts, May 17), this retelling of the Princess and the Pea sends an outdated message. Princess Esmerelda runs away from her royal parents after they arrange for her to marry a toothless, 53-year-old king. Meanwhile Prince Hector--a rather nerdy fellow in black-framed specs--hits the road in search of a bride. Armed with the legume-under-the-mattress trick that divines a ``true princess,'' Hector evaluates several unsuccessful candidates (it should go without saying that none tests him with a corn niblet or its equivalent). Luckily, Hector meets Esmerelda, who passes the pea test, and they live happily ever after. This version deserves attention for debut author Campbell's subtle text and for sometime New Yorker cover artist Young's elaborately patterned, fantastical compositions--particularly, a vertiginous spread depicting Esmerelda's floor-to-ceiling bed. While adults may well appreciate the visual sophistication of the art, they may think twice about passing along the lesson that women's duty is to please men, while a man's duty is to choose his woman. Ages 5-up. (May)