Princess Pigsty

Princess Pigsty by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Kerstin Meyer.

Funke, author of the deep and dark Inkheart series for older children, also writes fantastic light-hearted picture books. 

In this picture book, Funke tells the story of Princess Isabella who doesn’t want to be neat and clean any longer!  In fact, she is tired of being a princess altogether.  After she throws her crown in the fishpond and refuses to retrieve it, her father the King sends Isabella to the kitchens to work until she reconsiders and fetches her crown.  Isabella loves her time in the kitchens getting messy and learning new things.  When she refuses again to get her crown back, she is sent to live in the pigsty.  Again she takes to her new surroundings, loving the mess and smell and pigs.  Her father must find another way to get her to reconsider.

Now I know how people who read books to children select them.  They open the cover and look at how much text is on each page.  If you do that with a Funke picture book, you will not pick them up.  Please, look past that seemingly large amount of text and given them a try even with preschoolers.  Funke’s prose is fast moving, funny and a treat to read aloud.  There are no dull moments, no wasted words, because she uses words to offer a deeper and more enjoyable story. 

Recommended for reading aloud to preschoolers through first graders.

The Talented Clementine

The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, pictures by Marla Frazee.

I couldn’t help but grin ear-to-ear when I finally got my hands on the new Clementine book.  I knew that I was in for a treat unlike any that I have had since the first book came out.  And I was certainly right!

Clementine remains the same firecracker of a little girl.  She is such a refreshing change from all of the pink and sparkles that so often surround girls’ books.  Continuing the tradition of Ramona, Clementine firmly refuses to cooperate and resolutely stays exactly who she is. 

In this book, Clementine faces the dread of a school talent show after realizing that none of her talents work on stage.  In pure Clementine style, she does come up with some ideas for acts that her parents refuse to let her try.  In the end, it all works out for our curly-headed heroine. 

The illustrations by Frazee are the perfect accompaniment to the storyline.  They are a large part of what makes these books so very charming.  But it is Pennypacker’s humor and warmth that create such an amazing world.  Clementine’s parents are wonderfully drawn.  I particularly enjoyed the part of the book where they try to bribe one another so that they don’t have to be the one to take Clementine shopping.  That scene is also part of an amazing description of why it can be hard to choose one thing when you head to a store.  Lovely writing that completely captures the dilemma.

Read this aloud to classes, hand it to any elementary age person who enjoys doing things their own way, and share it with adults who need a chuckle.  Highly recommended along with the first book, I would also hand this to parents who look exhausted and worried about any one of their children.  Clementine has a way of getting parents to realize that there is beauty in wise-cracking children who refuse to conform.