The Princess and the Pea

by Rachel Isadora (Author)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Based on the H.C. Andersen tale. Only by feeling a pea through twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds can a girl prove she is a real princess.

When a prince sets out to find a princess to marry, he soon discovers this is not a simple task. There is no shortage of so-called princesses, but how can he tell whether or not they are what they claim to be?

Then one night a great storm rages, there comes a knock on the palace gate, and the prince's life is never the same . . .

Publisher's Weekly

Caldecott Honor artist Isadora (Ben's Trumpet) offers a visually vibrant version of this Hans Christian Andersen classic, which she sets in Africa. Created with oil paints on printed and palette paper, the stylized collage-like art features an array of rich hues and intricate patterns. The spare narrative introduces a prince who travels the world in search of a "real princess" to marry. Readers see the hopeful fellow greeting three princesses, each of whom says hello in a different African language (translated at tale's end). Alas, "there was something about each princess that was not quite right, so the prince came home again and was sad." One stormy evening a woman who claims to be a real princess arrives at the royal family's gate. After a pea is placed under 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds-in a variety of cheerful fabrics-the guest climbs a ladder to the top layer. After a sleepless night, she announces that she's "black and blue all over." A festive, flower-strewn spread reveals the prince and princess marrying, after which the portentous pea is seen on display in a museum, resting atop an elephant statue's raised trunk. An innovative interpretation of a timeless tale. Ages 3-up. 

Copyright 2007 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2-Isadora drops her simplified and humorless retelling of Andersen's tale into an African setting without adding meaningful cultural context to this story of a prince who travels the continent looking for a wife. Africa is treated as one culture except for three spreads that show individual princesses. These spreads are wordless except for a phrase: "Iska Waran," "Selam," or "Jambo, Habari." No translation is provided in the body of the book, so readers only learn on the last page that the words mean "hello" in three different languages. Awkward phrasing like "What a sight the rain and the wind had made her look" slows the pace of the story. Isadora uses oil paints on palette paper and decorative print paper to interpret the story visually and infuses her art with exuberant color and stylized figures. The prince and his entourage appear as shadowy figures that contrast dramatically with the deep reds and oranges of a setting sun. The three princesses are vividly portrayed: one is covered in body tattoos and looks menacing, another has light skin and an elegantly long neck covered in multicolored jewelry, and a third is dark and heavy. Faces exhibit paint strokes and look flat with minimal expression. One effective spread shows the "real" princess perched on top of "twenty feather beds on top of the mattresses" as she complains to the king and queen that she is "black and blue all over." An additional purchase.

Copyright 2007 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Rachel Isadora
Rachel Isadora began dancing at the age of eight. She trained at George Balanchine's School of American Ballet and has danced professionally. Rachel lives in New York City with her family.

Rachel Isadora has illustrated many books set in the world of dance and theater, including Opening Night, My Ballet Class, Swan Lake, The Little Match Girl, and Ben's Trumpet, which received the Caldecott Honor Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award.

copyright (c) 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
May 20, 2009
Age Range
4 - 8 years

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