A retelling of an early-19th-century German satirical play in which royalty, mistaken identity, rebellion and angst all play out in a fairy-tale setting requires leaps of comprehension beyond its intended audience.
Prince Leonce and Princess Lena have never met but share a sense of dissatisfaction with their places in life. When it is decreed that they must marry, they separately attempt to escape their fates. But a chance encounter at an inn results in love at first sight. Meanwhile, back at the castle, the King (Leonce’s father) has prepared for the marriage celebrations, and thanks to the machinations of Leonce’s confidant Valerio, the nuptials proceed with disguises and surprises. Amann reimagines the original work, employing wildly varying language and syntax. There are flowery, esoteric descriptions, metaphoric allusions and contemplative moments, along with comedic pronouncements and some modern twists. Zwerger’s imaginative, watercolor-and-collage illustrations incorporate changing perspectives and are filled with unexpected and delightful touches that shed some light on the confusion inherent in the text. Young readers for whom the work is evidently intended will be more puzzled than intrigued (the publisher is recommending an age range of 4-8). It might be more successful with an older audience that has adult guidance, although many adults will be hard-pressed to explain the call for a workless society at the conclusion.
Strange and disconcerting. (biographical material, bibliography) (Play. 10-12)