An extraordinarily arch and campy version of “The Princess and the Pea” is told from multiple points of view.
It opens with a cast of characters, each with a distinctive voice and typeface in the narrative, starting with Patrick the Pea, growing “rounder and firmer each day” and extremely pleased with himself. Queen Mildred hectors her son Harold about getting married, pronto, and she is the perfect stereotype of a controlling, nagging and obnoxious mother. Harold, meanwhile, just wants to hang around and hunt. A few princesses are met and sent away, until Princess Lucy appears in the castle hall, soaking wet and disheveled, and cannot sleep a wink on the pile of mattresses with Patrick the Pea hidden under them. Harold is kind of delighted to find an outdoorsy girl who loves to hunt, Queen Mildred is pleased to outshine the other queens in wedding planning (especially Queen Estelle, “who couldn’t plan a trip to the privy by herself”). The watercolor-and-pencil pastel-hued illustrations reveal deeply caricatured and exaggerated figures (including the mice and the horses, as well as Patrick the Pea).
Not for young children, but good fun for middle-grade fans of fractured fairy tales as well as highly useful in classrooms. (Picture book. 8-12)