Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Princess Who Had Almost Everything

Alicia is a princess who is doted on by the king and queen.  But because she's given everything she's ever wanted, she is always BORED.  Alicia goes from whim to whim, without really spending any time trying that activity.  That's because as soon as she gets frustrated, or the activity isn't all she thought it would be, she's (say it with me) BORED.  Until the day Alicia decides the one thing that will keep her from being bored is a prince.  After all, she's never had a prince before.  This prince has something new in his bag of tricks, and maybe Alicia's boredom is about to end.

Frances and Gloria picked this book out at our local library because it has a princess on the cover.  I found the story didactic - after all, the solution to Alicia's boredom is creativity, which the prince introduces to her.  The girls loved to whine along with Alicia "I'm BORED!", so they obviously engaged with the story more than I did.

What I loved about this book are Josee Masse's illustrations.  They are whimsical without being too quirky.  The illustrations have a fairy-tale quality with a modern twist.  The colors are mostly ice cream pastels with pops of maroon and gold.  Her style was reminiscent to me of Alison Jay, whose illustrations I also love.  Does this give you any visual idea of her illustrative style?  Let me see if I can describe it a little more thoroughly.

In one of the first double-page spreads, Alicia is having her own castle built by a famous architect.  The castle spills over both pages, tilting askew.  While it is shaped like the fairy-tale castles we all imagine, there are wide stairs leading to an oval entry instead of a drawbridge, moat and wall.  The oval entry is lined with maroon and embellished with scrolls.  The turrets have a roller coaster weaving through them, and there is a red swing for Princess Alicia in an archway.  Alicia herself has a maroon umbrella, shaped like a mushroom, which draws a reader's attention to her crotchety face.  All of this stands out against the blue sky and expanse of green lawns surrounding her own private castle (topped with an iron A, of course).  There is a timeless quality to the royals gathered around the castle - they, too, could fit into any fairy tale.

As the story progresses, Masse is given plenty of room for her creativity to soar.  She creates a maze full of exotic topiaries in mossy greens.  Then a circular train track with animal-shaped cars surrounds text on another page.  And there's a whole page of delicious, mouth-watering cakes and desserts.  Everything looks so interesting and fun that it's hard to envision someone being as bored as Alicia is.

But when she begins to become creative, the illustrations are even quirkier - with castles that are made out of paper so Alicia and her prince Connor can snip and change them at will.  Masse's illustrations really bring the theme of creativity to life. If Alicia had only appreciated the creativity around her from the very beginning...well, then there wouldn't be much of a story, would there?  At least kids might focus on the exciting creativity presented in the illustrations and not connect so much with Alicia's annoying whine "I'm BORED!"

The Princess Who Had Almost Everything. Mireille Levert; illustrated by Josee Masse.  Tundra Books, 2006.
borroowed from Lewis & Clark Library

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