The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier and Rebecca Dautremer
|The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechermeier and Rebecca Dautremer|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Amusing and eccentric - although it's a picture book this is more for tween girls rather than for sharing with little ones.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 96||Date: October 2010|
|Publisher: Hodder Children's Books|
Ah, the French! They're so good at being funny in eccentric ways. This book is a perfect example. Although princesses such as Cinderella are mentioned in passing, here we are being introduced to less commonly known princesses like Princess Alli Fabette who is verry pritty butt she has a huje problim: she dusn't spell verry welll or Princess Anne Phibian who is obsessed with frogs, is convinced her Prince Charming is disguised as one, and spends most of her time standing in ponds kissing every green creature she encounters.
The text is witty, bizarre and in only a short time you realise that readers are meant to find themselves identifying with some of these princesses (I think I am Princess Paige of course, reading everything I can find!) There are those who sleep too much, clumsy princesses, stubborn ones, chatterboxes...you name it, there's a princess for it. In fact, there's a little quiz at the end which will tell you, should you so wish, what sort of Princess you are. My result told me that unicorns tell you all their secrets, and your feet never hurt, even after wearing high heels all day. I'm afraid I've actually been known to take my shoes off because I can no longer walk in them, but the bit about the unicorns is true.
There are lots of little asides, notes and explanations. I particularly liked a small section on sulking which included degrees of sulking: 1. A snit: Momentary sulkiness 2. A huff: Deep sulkiness by a princess of some stature. Other pages tell of how to grow a princess, how they travel and how they become queens. There is a lot to read and take in, cross-references to other sections of the book, and you feel like you have a detailed reference book before you.
The illustrations are integral to the book. They have a magical feel to them, sweeping and epic on some pages, then others are loaded with tiny details that you can sit and pore over. The colours are deep and vibrant and are as quirky as the text. One of my favourite pages is The International Alphabet of Fans which shows princesses illustrating the meaning of fan usage - much like semaphore - as various positions indicate anything from do you want to marry me to this prince is a complete dud! It all makes for a nice dip-in-and-out book (technical term!), the sort you might like to have for Christmas, to flick through when everyone else has fallen asleep, their tummies full of turkey, and you've no energy to run around and play any more.
Although the picture book format might lead you to believe it's for little children it's actually best for older girls. 7+ year-olds would probably enjoy it, but I think 10 to 12 year-olds would appreciate the word play and humour much more. It's written in a non-fiction style, laying out information about various different princesses as well as maps and diagrams. It would make a beautiful gift for any princesses in the making who are old enough to understand the jokes and I'm sure they'd return to it again and again.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Further reading suggestion: For something more traditional about princesses but still with beautiful illustrations try Magical Princess Stories by Margaret Mayo, Geraldine McCaughrean, Rose Impey, Andrew Matthews, Jane Ray, Ian Beck, Angela Barrett, Emma Chichester Clark and Alan Snow or you might like The Princess Who Had No Kingdom by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb.
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