The particular challenge of redoing a well-known, oft-published fairy tale is to offer a fresh or fruitful take, and this one doesn't.
Digital illustrations vary in format from spot art to full-bleed spreads, but everything from the begowned princesses to the sparkling underground land they visit each night falls flat. The princesses are named for blossoms, each one "lovelier than the flower she was named for," but their impossibly tiny waists and huge blue eyes look like a cheap, dull version of Disney. Their dance postures barely connote motion. On the page that displays the tale's premiseâ€”that "[e]very morning, without fail, the soles of the princesses' shoes were worn out and full of holes"â€”Barrager shows (nine) slippers that are grubby and scuffed but lack a single hole. Matching the insipid aesthetic is a text stripped of grit. No men lose their lives trying to solve the mystery before the hero (here, Pip the cobbler) does, and there are no men in the princesses' underground boats, which "float silently" of their own accord. The boats need to float of their own accord, because these princesses have neither agency nor consciousness: They're asleep from start to finish of the dancing escapades.In addition to this mind-numbingly bland attempt to capitalize on princess fads, a Princess Matching Game is sold separately. (Picture book/fairy tale. 3-5) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Barrager brings a fittingly soigné aesthetic to this retelling, deftly balancing the story's comedy and mystery as the exhausted sisters flummox the court by day and transform into an unstoppable balletic force by night. The crisp, doll-like characterizations and glowing, softly saturated palette recall the work of Mary Blair. If anything keeps this pretty volume from claiming a permanent place on the shelf, it's editorial rather than visual: in a major departure, Barrager turns the dancing dozen into the unwitting victims of a magic spell--sleepwalkers incapable of enjoying their enchanted journey to the ballroom in the magical forest. Being damsels in distress, they need a rescuer; a humble palace cobbler who announces, "I can't let this continue," and breaks the spell with a kiss to the lead sister's hand. No longer the willing (even conniving) agents of an illicit and ecstatic nightly adventure, the dancing princesses feel merely ornamental, and one of the Grimm Brothers' most intriguing tales--at its core, a thrilling battle of wits--becomes just another happily ever after. Ages 4-8. (May)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
K-Gr 3--The traditional tale of the enchanted princesses who dance the night away plays out as ballet in this sprightly telling. Barrager adds a bit of detail and nuance to the familiar plot, naming the girls after blooms in the garden--Rose, Iris, Daisy, Tulip. "Each one was lovelier than the flower she was named for." The digital depictions render the girls as flat figures with large, cartoon-style eyes, but they waft lightly across the royal lawn, their petal-shaped skirts all in pretty colors. Readers quickly learn that they are a droopy, sleepy lot most of their days, and the text offers a hint of things to come in the figure of the shoemaker. He mends the royal shoes, eventually solves the mystery of the enchanted nights, and wins the hand of his favorite princess, the red-haired Poppy. "Poppy really liked Pip, too, but she just couldn't keep her eyes open long enough to say so." With art resembling that of animated film and several graceful dance scenes, this story could easily be set to a sound track. The plot is true to that told by the Grimms, and nice bits of dialogue and observations by Pip thread easily through the narrative, bringing the characters to life and offering a pleasing tale for reading aloud and storytelling.--Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston[Page 100]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.