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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Penguin and the Pea

Reviewed: December 17, 2004
By: Janet Perlman
Publisher: Kids Can Press
32 pages, $16.95

Janet Perlman has come up with a clever retelling of "The Princess and the Pea". Why she decided it needed to be retold with penguins in the lead roles is anyone's guess. Penguins are amusing looking creatures of course, and they lend themselves to comic situations, so I suppose that is as good a reason as any.

This is one of those role reversal stories, in that, this time, it is the prince whose hand is being sought by a variety of suitors. None of them meet his mother's expectation and all are sent packing. She expects to do the same with the bedraggled princess who arrives last, but a funny thing happens along the way to getting rid of her. Mother is so busy coming up with tests that she doesn't notice that this girl is witty, kind, interesting and totally captivating to her son, which none of the others are.

Before she can do more than devise a crude test the two youngsters are madly in love and the King thinks it's a good idea too. The final test is the one that stays closest to the original story, in which a pea is hidden under a pile of mattresses. A true princess, it is reasoned, would be able to detect any sort of flaw in her bedding, even if the result is five metres above the bed frame.

She does - sort of - and it all works out happily ever after.

It's a cute story. Hans Christian Anderson probably wouldn't mind.

The production of the book is interesting. Perlman drew the pictures in ink on paper, then scanned the pages into her computer and used Photoshop to paint them. The effect is interesting.

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