This is not your mother’s abecedary. There is a letter on every spread, and Princess Anna does present an ambrosia apple, but that is where the similarity stops.
The framing story is slim: An unambitious, avian prince is awaiting the right partner. He gazes out the window while his parents round up contenders. As the exotic birds parade by, each with a gift and her own spread, there is the sensation of entering the slightly surreal world of Peter Sis’ Conference of the Birds (2011)—if that journey were being rewound—or of Venice during Carnival. The birds wear floor-length costumes, and Princess Victoria actually comes from the Veneto, bearing a vizard (the beaked plague-doctor’s mask). The mysterious objects and animals, the deep colors and subtle textures, and the luminous auras surrounding the princesses interact to conjure a magical atmosphere. The narrative’s construction is more about alliteration than letter recognition, with three to five sentences per creature producing a variety of delicious sounds, unfamiliar words and idiosyncratic images. Princess Elmira “is extravagant, empathetic, and enormously emancipated.” She brings “eleven elegant elephants.” The prince is weary just anticipating this process; children who prefer more action, plot or character development may tire as well.
Those who willingly follow aural and visual enticements to other realms will be enchanted. (Picture book. 4-8)