Nosy Crow Ltd. First published 2014
Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton
Move over Varuca Salt (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Violet Elizabeth (Just William) – you have been superseded by a monstrous princess, more spoiled than the pair of you put together.
Varuca and Violet have nothing on Princess Ruby, a beastly and utterly spoiled princess who screams and bawls when she can’t get her way.
And in Hart’s rhyming tale: “The Princess and the Presents”, the little ‘darling’ is doing a lot of screaming and foot stamping to ensure she receives all the presents she wants for her looming birthday.
“I WANT a giant tree house AND a parrot that can talk.
I WANT a pair of fancy shoes that light up when I walk.
I NEED a new tiara, to wear each day to school.
AND a pony AND some roller skate and LOADS and LOADS of jewels.
I WANT a massive birthday feast with sweets and posh ice cream…
Or I’ll lie down on the palace floor and scream and scream and…
While most children are told ‘I WANT, DOESN’T GET’, vile Princess Ruby does get, since her kindly, but cowed, Father the King will stop at nothing to give his precious daughter the birthday she has been dreaming (oops, screaming) about.
On the day of her birthday, Ruby pushes past the King who has come to wake her.
Upon dashing to view her birthday haul, the ungrateful child is furious with the meagre selection she is initially presented with.
“BUT WHERE’S MY GIANT TREE HOUSE?”
Bawled the greedy little tyke.
“You promised me a mobile phone,
THREE puppies AND a bike!”
Her Father proceeds to pander to her demands and has the servants usher in pile after pile of gifts – so many in fact that the palace cannot take the strain.
When cracks begin appearing in the walls and ceiling, Ruby’s Father senses disaster and instructs his daughter to escape outside.
“But what about my brand-new stuff?” the selfish princess whined.
“Go and save it NOW. And don’t leave ANYTHING behind!”
It is the total collapse of the palace, with her Father in it, which is the catalyst for a dramatic change in Ruby’s demeanour.
Fearing for his wellbeing, the tiny tyrant experiences an epiphany, recognising it is her greed which has wrought disaster.
“What HAVE I done?” sobbed Ruby.
“The best thing I ever had
Is buried in a pile of bricks.
PLEASE! Help me save…
Those gifts are less important than the person I ADORE!
I’d give up ALL these presents just to see my dad once more.”
And therein lies the message of the story about the shallowness and superficiality of greed and materialism.
Being a children’s picture book, the King doesn’t expire, but is dug out from the rubble of the palace where he and his repentant daughter are happily reunited.
The final page shows Princess Ruby, wearing a practical dungaree dress, and her Father, wearing a casual jumper, living a simpler life in her tree house.
Gone are Ruby’s flouncy, frilly dresses and gone are her Father’s formal suits as they live happily ever after in a humble home.
Despite, perhaps, being perceived as a girl’s book, my five-year-old son thoroughly enjoyed it and would request repeat readings.
Maybe the predominantly yellow front cover colour helped since he was adamant he didn’t want me to read Hart’s first Nosy Crow princess offering, “The Princess and the Peas” which is wall to wall pink?
“That’s a girl’s book!” he declared indignantly.
When I did read it to him, he loved it, but I’m not sure, as a parent, I support the marketing strategy of colour co-ordinating books pink for girls and blue for boys.
If storylines and characterisation is strong, as in Hart’s books, they deserve to be accessed equally by boys and girls, not subliminally dictated to by marketing executives.
While it is pleasing to note the publishing world is slowly veering away from labelling books “Stories for Boys” and “Stories for Girls”, it seems they may have a way to go on their colour choices, which can profoundly influence children’s decision making.
I’m delighted my son loved “The Princess and the Presents.” Dozens of readings and regular discussions about Ruby’s spoiled personality bore testament to this.
“I’d tell her off,” he would say banging his finger crossly on the pages of the book.
But calm would always be restored when Ruby learns the error of her ways and changes for the better.
With delightful characterisation and humorous illustrations from Sarah Warbuton, the pictures enhance the beautifully written comic cautionary tale.
An absolute gift!