A bored princess switches places with a shepherd boy—and then decides to make her new job more exciting.
Smallman changes the mischief-maker’s gender and adds a few flourishes, but by concocting a happy ending he turns a psychologically acute cautionary tale into a superficial lesson. Pouting at her castle window, Princess Arabella sees how happy Tom the shepherd looks down below, so she has her soldiers drag the reluctant lad away to be washed in scented bubble bath and “forced to eat fancy food.” Meanwhile, when watching sheep proves to be less than thrilling Arabella repeatedly summons the increasingly irritated villagers with bogus cries of “WOLF! WOLF!” or “TROLL! TROLL!” Finally Tom, as “prince,” gives everyone permission to ignore her. But when a fire-breathing dragon descends, he rushes out himself and, as Arabella looks on helplessly, drives the creature away with a perfunctory pail of water. Arabella thanks him, laughs good-naturedly as she switches back to princess, and from then on always tells the truth. Despite gushes of flame, neither sheep nor any member of the all-white human cast comes to harm in Price’s correspondingly bland illustrations. Discussion questions and suggestions for enrichment activities cap this uninspired effort.
A watered-down rendition…sexist too. (Picture book. 6-8)