“Cinnamon was a princess, a long time ago, in a small hot country where everything was very old.”
Written in 1995, this story has been available only on the author’s website or as part of The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection (2004). Now the tale of the sightless princess and the mysterious talking tiger is a picture book with graceful and vibrant illustrations by Srinivasan. Cinnamon has beautiful pearl eyes, is blind, and does not talk. Many try to teach her to speak, lured by the rewards offered by her parents, the rajah and the rani, but no one succeeds until the talking tiger arrives. “He was huge and fierce, a nightmare in black and orange, and he moved like a god through the world, which is how tigers move.” The tiger awakes in Cinnamon the crucial emotions of pain, fear, and love, and he tells her of the beauty of the world beyond—and finally Cinnamon finds that she has something to say. With turbans, jewels, and elephants in intense, matte colors, the detailed, authentically South Asian illustrations transport readers to the fantastical setting of this inexplicable story. With the rani’s crabby old aunt, the limerick-spouting parrot, and nods to British authors both famous (Rudyard Kipling, Edward Lear) and obscure (William Cosmo Monkhouse), this story balances the odd and the whimsical, the bizarre and the beautiful.
Although the story may not make complete sense in our world, children will rejoice that everything comes together to make the princess happy in the end. (Picture book. 4-8)