Thursday 25 June 2015

Once Upon a Timeless Tale: The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Once Upon a Timeless Tale: The Twelve Dancing Princesses written by The Brothers Grimm (retold by Margrete Lamond), illustrated by Anna Walker (Little Hare Books/Hardie Grant Egmont)
HB RRP $12.95
ISBN 9781742974019

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is part of Little Hare Books’ new Once Upon a Timeless Tales series, introducing classic folk and fairy tales to a new generation of readers.

The tale centres on the mystery of a King who finds the party slippers belonging to his twelve princess daughters ripped to shreds each morning. The King is baffled, as the princesses are locked in a chamber overnight. He declares that the man who discovers what the princesses are getting up to can select one for a wife. A succession of boastful princes try their luck at observing the princesses all night, yet each fails, until a wounded soldier hobbles into town and is presented with an invisibility cloak and some helpful pointers from an old lady.

What happens next is a series of fantastical scenes, revealing the secret goings on of the princesses, beautifully illustrated by award-winning author/illustrator Anna Walker. The wordless double page spread on pages 12 and 13 of the princesses in their evening wear finery is truly enchanting.

Despite the current trend for fractured fairy tales, these versions stick closely to the original storyline. Old-fashioned language, like declaring someone a ‘silly goose’ is used, likely to charm the intended readership and perhaps evoke a giggle. The harshness of the fairy tales of old the in the form of heads being lopped off is also retained. This version ends on a more uplifting note than the original though, leaving the fate of the princes (that the princesses had been dancing with) open-ended rather than cursed.

This is a magical tale that will likely captivate 5 to 8 year old girls, and stays true enough to the Brothers Grimm original without being nightmare-inducing.

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