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by Rafe Martin & illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: July 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-22924-8
Publisher: Putnam

A tepid story about stories from a noted reteller of traditional tales. A bookish prince, upon being told of his betrothal, declares he will not marry the princess chosen for him unless someone tells him a story whose ending he does not know. Meanwhile, a spunky princess across the ocean, upon being told of her betrothal, declares that she would “rather be washed overboard in a storm at sea” than marry a prince she has not chosen for herself. Predictably enough, the princess is duly washed overboard, makes her way to the bookish prince’s palace, tells him her story, and they fall in love, only to discover that each was the other’s intended all along. There are a few high points: when the disguised princess tells—in the third person—of her miraculous survival clinging to a conveniently washed-over trunk, a skeptical prince declares, “You really expect me—a grown-up, intelligent, well-educated human being—to believe that . . . You should do more research!” Otherwise, however, Martin’s (The Language of Birds, 2000) text seems to aim for a conspiratorial relationship with the reader but more often achieves only a certain self-referential smugness. Root (The Peddler’s Gift, 1999) works to dramatize a story in which much of the action consists of characters sitting in a room and talking to each other. She stuffs each scene with books and cats and patterns and intriguing stylistic details, the action taking place in a center panel that appears to be laid on top of a larger framework. But while her warm pencil-and-watercolor illustrations do their best, they are ultimately unable to invest the characters with enough personality to lift the story. An inside joke between book and reader that just isn’t funny enough. (Picture book. 5-8)