An orphaned servant girl whose singing assuages her loneliness discovers the transformative power of compassion.
Set in a queen’s palace in “the wild savannah,” this gentle tale features folkloric motifs and a “kindness prevails” message. Delphine’s already-exhausting workdays worsen when Queen Theodora’s niece, who doesn’t get on with her new stepmother, comes to live at the palace. Princess Beatrice is cruel, blaming Delphine for her own malicious actions. Singing out her loneliness one night, Delphine is surprised by gentle giraffes. Dipping their heads through her bedroom windows, they beckon her to a nighttime stroll. Tiny Delphine, perched between one giraffe’s ears, marvels at the moonlit vista dotted with trees, zebras and more giraffes. Later, when Delphine is mistakenly deposited into Beatrice’s room rather than her own, the princess throws a tantrum at her intrusion. Delphine, spying a bedside portrait of Beatrice’s deceased mother, has just time enough to share her ready empathy and a helpful song before guards imprison her for her infraction. Beatrice pays it forward: The queen, commanding Delphine to sing, is profoundly moved by the girl’s ability and appoints Delphine her singer. Kraegel creates minutely inked watercolor elements—trees, grasslands—as backdrops for simply contoured humans with brown skin, naturally textured hair and bright clothing.
As Delphine and Beatrice ride off atop two giraffes, readers of this quiet story will savor their new friendship. (Picture book. 5-8)