What can you say when even the jacket blurb calls it “a lighthearted lesson in humility”?
First of all, it isn’t. Humility is not what is going on, just bad manners and a dose of fractured fairy tale. Isabel is perfect in every way, but she won’t say “please.” When Isabel leaves a tiny shoe at the prince’s ball and is about to put her tiny toes into it, the prince says, “Say ‘please,’ ” but she won’t. He goes off to meet Cinderella. Isabel’s stepmother (who is really not attractive at all) offers her the poisoned apple, but since Isabel won’t say please, Isabel remains without a prince. And when Isabel drops her golden ball into the frog’s pond, she won’t say please to get it back. But walking lost in a forest, she screams for help and says “please” to the prince who happens by to rescue her, and he is so taken by “her humility and fine manners” that he falls in love. Haley’s cartoon characters have googly eyes, squiggly limbs and a sense of humor (see the Groucho glasses on the stepmother), and Isabel’s pastel-and-rosebud look is right for the story. It’s hard to know what to make of this. Saying “please” makes the prince appear and propose? Manners make the princess?
If silliness is what was aimed for, it sort of succeeds—but, if so, it is not silly enough. (Picture book. 5-7)