Friday, June 18, 2010

Goodnight, Sweet Princess: Princess Says Goodnight! by Naomi Howland

At the palace in the nighttime,
When the Princess leaves the ball,
Is she practicing her curtsies
While she dances down the hall?

Even princesses (and princess wannabes) have bedtimes, and Naomi Howland's and David Small's newest, Princess Says Goodnight, (Harper, 2010) takes a novel look at how one would-be royal daughter sees it.

The book actually begins on the title page, with an ordinary family enjoying their evening together. An older boy and girl are deep in their books in comfy easy chairs, the sleepy family hound is hogging the couch, and, stifling yawns, the weary parents begin to amble toward their beds. One member of the family, however, has her own view of this prosaic scene.

The younger girl, a red-headed bundle of energy, skips behind her parents down the hall, and as they pass the long hall mirror, we get a glimpse of how she sees herself--in a fine medieval gown, with her royally-attired parents who are obviously ready to take off their crowns and rest their royal heads. Brother and sister morph into court jester and chamber maid, and the Princess ascends the castle staircase in the royal manner, lit by an elegant candelabra, to find frothy milk and a creamy chocolate eclair awaiting for her in the royal bedchamber. The Princess' chamber features an elegant canopied bed, and she is served her bedtime snack from an ornate pitcher on a silver salver.

When she takes a bubble bath, what do you suppose?
She has a special fluffy towel for each one of her toes!

A princess, of course, can order all her clothes in her favorite colors, which in her case is "every pretty shade of pink," and her bathrobe is silky, flounced, and floating with feathers. The jester amuses her while her lady's maid tidies up, and then her royal parents drop in for the final nightly ritual:

Does Daddy check the mattress for peas and other lumps?
Will her mom fluff up her pillows and smooth out any bumps?

Does she hang her tiara on the bedpost overnight?
Does she get a bedtime story before turning off the light?
Yes, she does, and a big kiss, too, and then she says GOODNIGHT!

Now that's the way to retire in royal style, and as we see, all it takes is an inventive imagination to put a princess to bed in the regal manner. Howland's bouncy rhymes are fully augmented by award-winning artist David Small's wonderful watercolor illustrations which breathe life and humor into this fanciful bedtime tale. Little details add charm, such as the ten gilded racks for the Princess' ten toe towels and a family cat which nonchalantly takes these transformations in stride as he follows her to bed.

Once in bed, the Princess again becomes an ordinary little girl in her footed sleepers, ready, along with her plush froggy prince, for her royal beauty sleep. It's a different way to go to bed which will charm devotees of the Disney princess persona and all kids whose imaginations like to begin their dreams well before they fall asleep.

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