A princess must defend her realm from a would-be usurper in this illustrated children’s book.
Princess Dembe is the sole heir to the throne of the Beloved Land, and is herself beloved by the Bwindi Forest’s fairies and other creatures, including the mountain gorilla Abbo, who once saved her from a crocodile. Dembe, along with her father, King Rumba, mourn Queen Tessa’s recent death. Prince Damian, however, can think only about taking the throne for himself: “I swear on all my land that I will either marry Dembe or do away with her….I was born to be King and so I am the King of them all!” After hearing this, the fairies transform Damian into an anteater, but a mistake allows him to become human again. He then gathers an army, intending to take over the throne and marry the princess, but the fairies warn Dembe, who alerts her people of the coming attack. Later, Dembe celebrates with the people, animals, and fairies of the Beloved Land, announcing, “We are one people now. We shall live in peace.” Henry (The Whipping Club, 2012) places her children’s book in an apparently African setting; for example, the Bwindi Forest recalls Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which also has gorillas. However, there also many odd European and North American elements mixed in, such as fairies, wild cranberries, and names such as Bertha, Wanda, and Miranda. That said, the story is engaging, and Henry persuasively conveys its urgency. When Dembe announces the coming attack, for example, the author writes that “The crowd breathed out as if one huge breath of worry.” Greaves’ (Imagine, 2019, etc.) pen-and-ink illustrations, presented in black-and-white with touches of red, are nicely detailed and expressive, as when they show the gorilla’s protectiveness or Damian’s sullenness.
A compelling fable about unity, peace, and pride, despite some clashing cultural components.