Monday, April 1, 2019

La Princesa and the Pea - Susan Middleton Elya (Author) & Juana Martinez-Neal (Illus)

Summary:  The Princess and the Pea gets a fresh twist in this charming bilingual retelling, winner of the Pura Belpré Medal for Illustration.

El príncipe knows this girl is the one for him, but, as usual, his mother doesn’t agree.

The queen has a secret test in mind to see if this girl is really a princesa, but the prince might just have a sneaky plan, too... (Summary and Image from

My Review: I found La Princesa and the Pea on my third day volunteering at our school's book fair.  What can I say?  I like to be around books...and the 25% discount for volunteers doesn't hurt either.  As I flipped through the pages, it seemed strangely familiar.  The drawings.  The cadence.  I couldn't put my finger on it until I got home and started, well, paying closer attention to things like authors and illustrators.  The author, Susan Middleton Elya has written several other books, including Eight Animals on the Town, a book that I regularly read to my kiddos.  Juana Martinez-Neal illustrated not only La Princesa and the Pea but also Alma y Cómo Obtuvo Su Nombre, another book that I reviewed recently (and picked up at the same book fair on a different day).  With all that literary street cred, it was practically a forgone conclusion I would like this book.  And guess what?  I totally did.  In fact, I'm somewhere near love. I think you could say I am smitten. Yes, I am in deep smit.

La Princesa and the Pea is an adorable twist on a classic fairy tale, with the perfect little something up its sleeve.  First, it's just plain fun to read.  The author's prose has such a pleasing lilt and clever rhymes, that I don't mind reading it over and over....and I have to because my kids love it. Confession time, though.  When I flipped through this book at the fair, I didn't actually read all the way through.  I thought I knew how it would end.  It's The Princess and the Pea for goodness sake.  We all know how it ends, right?  Wrong.  The twist made me laugh so hard I had to re-read the page so my kiddos could understand me.  I promise, you'll love it.

On to the drawings.  The illustrator is Peruvian herself and drew a lot of her inspiration for characters, setting, and costume from the textiles, culture, and people of Peru.  Along with the author's particular prose, this change in scenery and custom breathed so much life back in to what some might call a tired-out tale.  As with other books by this illustrator, I found so much to look at on each page and noticed things in subsequent readings that I didn't pick up on initially.  I love stuff like that....kind of like little Easter Eggs.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is that it uses both English and Spanish in the text (heavy on the English, light on the Spanish).  If you or your kidlets don't speak Spanish, don't let that scare you.  I feel like these books are what I would call intuitively bilingual.  I'm pretty sure I just made up that term, but what I mean is that even if you don't speak Spanish it's pretty easy to figure out what a lot of the words mean using the pictures and other context clues (see picture for example).  If that doesn't work, they have kindly provided a Spanish/English glossary and pronunciation guide so you can fake it till you make it. It only took one read through and a few translations reminders for my monolingual kids (ages 6 and 8) to understand the entire story. 

Ultimately, if you have kiddos and even the slightest inclination to speak (or try to speak a bit of Spanish) I think you will love this book.  It's pleasantly surprising and too dang cute.

My Rating:  5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  I had to dig deep for this one because really there is nothing to offend.  I suppose if you have a really dirty mind, the very last page could contain the smallest of completely and assuredly unintentional innuendo.  It'll likely go over everyone else's head.


Susan Elya said...

Hi Mindy Sue,

Thanks for the great review of La Princesa and the Pea. I am the author, and Google Alerts led me to your review.

I am wondering what happens on the last page that neither Juana nor I intended to innuend. Is that a word? Something about one for each mattress? If so, little kids don't think that way!

Again, muchas gracias! If you haven't seen Maya Papaya and her Amigos Dress Up or Our Celebracion, those two books of mine came out in 2018.

I will put the link to your review on my book page on Facebook.


MindySue said...

Hey Susan! So glad to see you found us! And yes I was pretty sure you didn’t intend for any innuendo. We always put a “for the sensitive reader” section on our reviews and in this case I had to dig deep. You’d have to be pretty darn sensitive to have any issues. I know that you would never put anything untoward in a kids book and, you are right, kids don’t think like that! Thanks for stopping by! I love your work!


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