________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 38 . . . . June 5, 2015


Wanted: Prince Charming. (Race Ahead with Reading).

A. H. Benjamin. Illustrated by Fabiano Fiorin.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2015.
32 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & html, $10.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-1396-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-1313-5 (RLB.), ISBN 978-1-4271-7786-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4271-7774-2 (html).

Subject Headings:
Characters in literature-Fiction.
Humorous stories.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Rebecca King.

½* /4



Princess Reverie was fed up with simply daydreaming. Why couldn't she be like a real fairytale princess? Sleeping Beauty, for instance. "I'm beautiful," Princess Reverie said to herself. "All I need to do is sleep for a hundred years. Then surely my prince charming will come along..." She sighed again and tucked herself into bed.

Princess Reverie only reads fairy tales. As a princess, she expects to be rescued by a charming prince. Impatient, she decides to imitate the behaviour of various fairytale princesses. First, one afternoon, she decides to imitate Sleeping Beauty by crawling into bed to sleep for one hundred years. This plan is foiled by the maid coming in to vacuum, the telephone ringing, and the royal band practicing.

      In chapter two, Reverie attends a ball following the Cinderella storyline (no wicked stepsisters involved). Unfortunately, the prince drops the glass slipper, and it breaks. In chapter three, she applies for and gets the job of cleaning the cottage of seven dwarves. The dwarves are rude, spending their time watching football games on TV, playing video games, and eating pizza. Reverie wishes they would go to work in the mine and gives up when a knock at the door is a cute pizza-delivery boy and not a wicked witch. So much for Snow White. Chapter four brings Reverie's attempt at imitating Rapunzel's story which involves a very long wig and a rented tower. The prince, who stops his sports car in answer to her cries, calls the fire department on his cell phone instead of rescuing her himself.

      In the final chapter, Reverie is in the palace gardens wishing for her prince charming when a purple pig with orange spots "appeared out of nowhere". Finding the pig strange but cute, Reverie kisses him and turns into a pig herself. It seems a witch messed up her spell for turning a prince into a frog, which has also resulted in the reversal of the effect of the kiss. When Reverie asks, 'Now what do we do?" The prince pig replies, "We'll get married, of course! And we'll live happily ever after!" And her response? "Oh well," shrugged Princess Reverie. "I don't see why not!"

      Wanted: Prince Charming was first published in 2014 (copyright 2013) by the British publisher Franklin Watts (part of Hachette Children's Books) as one title in a series called "Race Ahead With Reading" which involves well-known stories and characters. The author, A.H. Benjamin, has, according to his biographical note in the book's Hachette webpage, written more than a dozen children's books. His titles listed on the Hachette page seem to be part of other formulaic series. The book, and the series, is now sold in North America under the imprint of Crabtree Publishing. Like most Crabtree products, this book is presented in a clear font and is attractively laid out. Unfortunately, it seems to me, as Crabtree has pushed to increase their product line and keep up with changing curriculum, the quality of their content has occasionally slipped. This book is an example of that lack of quality.

      None of the characters in the book is charming, neither Princess Reverie nor any of the princes. They are all silly and superficial. Reverie is not a worthy role model for young girls. She does not long to have an adventure. She longs to be rescued. She does not look for good qualities in the character of the princes she meets, only the ability to follow the fairy tale plot line. When Reverie finds that the princes she meets disappoint, she doesn't try to resolve the problem. She moves on to the next fairy tale. Perhaps these limitations are forced on the author by the format and length of the book, but other authors have delighted readers in a similar format.

      At the conclusion of the story, when Reverie has been transformed into a purple pig with orange spots, it is out of character for her to accept this change. In fact, she has demonstrated nothing in her character previously to make readers believe she would find the pig "so cute" that she would kiss it. Moreover, after all of the time Reverie spent being superficial, it is surprising that she accepted being a pig so easily. A few more pages illustrating how Reverie and her piggy Prince Charming could live happily together might have partially redeemed the book. When, at last, the story has become less formulaic, it is too quickly over.

      The illustrations by Fabiano Fiorin are well done in a cartoony style that, while it is not my favourite, suits the story. Moving from scattered pictures on a white background to full scenes contributes to the pacing of the story - faster paced and then dwelling on the big moments. On pages 10-11, Fiorin demonstrates that he has a grasp of perspective and yet chooses not to use it in the floor tiles. Similar choices in the use of perspective throughout contribute to the cartoony style. The colours used are bright and pleasing and support the style. The characters are not stiff and jointless, like tin soldiers, and their bodies hold together through physical action rather than appear to be a collection of limbs that might fly apart at any moment. The combination of line work for the characters and texture and mark-making for the backgrounds adds interest to the drawings and keeps them from feeling flat. Overall, this gives the book a feeling of being lively and fun.

      While reading fairy tales can provide insights into character and consequences (Snow White and Cinderella are hard working, kind and cheerful despite their circumstances and the Wicked Stepsisters are punished severely for their callousness and greed), this story seems to be indicative of an unfortunate trend for girls to be useless and "princessy". Where are the adventurous, clever, hardworking girls? Are we raising a generation where being pretty and entitled are priorities? Girls (and boys) need to be prepared to work for achievements. After all, if you depend on being merely pretty, you may end up marrying a swine.

      If you have limited funds and are looking for a princess story, buy another copy or two of The Paper Bag Princess. Munsch's princess is not only charming, but brave and clever. Your money will be better spent.

Not Recommended.

Rebecca King is a former teacher-librarian with the Halifax (NS) Regional School Board who recently retired after 25 years of service. She thanks her daughter Elizabeth (BFA, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), who assisted her with the technical comments on the illustrations.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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