This bilingual Spanish/English picture book celebrates an interracial love affair between two women.
Princess Li lives with her father, King Wan Tan, in a generic East Asian country where she frolics with a white woman, the red-haired, green-eyed Beatrice. When she refuses to choose a husband, the palace sorcerer obeys the outraged king’s demands, turning Beatrice into a bird. The two lovers are finally given Wan Tan’s permission to marry, however, after Beatrice-the-bird saves the king from being poisoned by the deceitful sorcerer. Repetitive, awkward prose (perhaps due to the translation) and cluttered, oddly distorted illustrations mar this already emotionally flat book that lacks either the visceral power of traditional folklore or the empowering message of modern tales. Although the moral is explicitly spelled out at the end (“Isn’t love more important than anything?”), readers are left with many questions both plot-related and philosophical. Why would a sorcerer so powerful need to resort to something as obvious as poison? Why must the author emphasize Li’s attractiveness to men? Why does the author repeatedly mention the same-sex aspect of the relationship but only obliquely refer to race (“Both were very different”)?
While it is rare and refreshing to see a lesbian couple appear in a picture book outside the context of motherhood, the love affair between Li and Beatrice isn’t likely to extend to their readers. (Picture book. 4-8)