The particular challenge of redoing a well-known, oft-published fairy tale is to offer a fresh or fruitful take, and this one doesn’t.
Digital illustrations vary in format from spot art to full-bleed spreads, but everything from the begowned princesses to the sparkling underground land they visit each night falls flat. The princesses are named for blossoms, each one “lovelier than the flower she was named for,” but their impossibly tiny waists and huge blue eyes look like a cheap, dull version of Disney. Their dance postures barely connote motion. On the page that displays the tale’s premise—that “[e]very morning, without fail, the soles of the princesses’ shoes were worn out and full of holes”—Barrager shows (nine) slippers that are grubby and scuffed but lack a single hole. Matching the insipid aesthetic is a text stripped of grit. No men lose their lives trying to solve the mystery before the hero (here, Pip the cobbler) does, and there are no men in the princesses’ underground boats, which “float silently” of their own accord. The boats need to float of their own accord, because these princesses have neither agency nor consciousness: They’re asleep from start to finish of the dancing escapades.In addition to this mind-numbingly bland attempt to capitalize on princess fads, a Princess Matching Game is sold separately. (Picture book/fairy tale. 3-5)