CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 31. . . .April 11, 2014
The Nutmeg Princess. New Edition.
Richardo Keens-Douglas. Illustrated by Annouchka Galouchko.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2014.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-599-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-600-1 (hc.).
Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.
Review by Amber Allen.
Very early the next morning, Aglo and Petal were halfway up the mountain when they heard the first cock crow. Up and up they went until at last they came to the small lake. The smell of nutmeg was very strong, drifting back and forth in the fresh morning breeze.
Suddenly everything became very still.
“Look,” Aglo said quietly, pointing to the raft. “There she is.”
“Where, where?” Petal shouted.
But no matter where Petal looked, she couldn’t see the princess.
Aglo and Petal are best friends who live and play on the Isle of Spice. They spend their days splashing in the water, playing among the trees, and reading together. Aglo asks Petite Mama, an eccentric local fruit seller, about the Nutmeg Princess, a beautiful spirit who appears only when the nutmeg is ripe. Until Aglo is lucky enough to spot the princess, Petite Mama had been the only one who’d had a sighting.
Poor Petal cannot see the beautiful girl in the pale blue gown and hair that glimmers like diamonds standing beside her best friend when they venture up the mountain in search of her. The townspeople decide to bombard the lake in search of the elusive jewels, disillusioning and disappointing the Nutmeg Princess. However, when Aglo falls into the water and he doesn’t know how to swim, Petal demonstrates her inner goodness, and she is rewarded with a glimpse of the princess.
The Nutmeg Princess was originally published in 1993. This revised edition of The Nutmeg Princess offers the same charming tale, steeped in oral tradition, with a condensed text and new drawings of the characters. Keens-Douglas has created a story that represents the culture of Granada, the strength of good character, and the power of the modern fable. He doesn’t build this world alone, however, as Galouchko’s deeply saturated illustrations are instrumental in setting the tone of the book. Each page demonstrates an eye for detail and whimsical flourishes. While Aglo and Petal are depicted using clean lines and solid colours—the better to see them amidst the backdrop—the scenery is a myriad of designs and textures. A delight for the ever wandering eye.
The lesson in The Nutmeg Princess is beautiful in its subtlety. Petal does not help her friend Aglo in order to see the princess, and, as such, is rewarded for her natural inclination to help with a sighting. It is a simple story—yet playful and evocative—brought to life by its unique, full-page illustrations. Working in the children’s department of a book store, I was very often asked to recommend books that featured characters of different cultures and ethnicities as they seem to be rare. This book offers an answer to that question— Aglo and Petal are strong characters that will resonate with children of all backgrounds.
Amber Allen is a librarian in Toronto, ON, with a passion for children’s literature and writing.
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