Sunday, November 15, 2009

Light Romance: Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated) by Florence Parry Heide

Princess Hyacinth had a problem.

Well, you are saying, everyone has a problem.

But this was an unusual problem.

Hyacinth's problem is with gravity. This force of nature apparently has no power on her body. Unless weighted down or tethered, she FLOATS, up and up and up. Inside the castle it's just a nuisance, having to retrieve her from the ceiling with the royal ladders from time to time. But when Princess Hyacinth ventures outside, the King and Queen have made sure that she has diamond pebbles sewn into her socks and gold nuggets sewn into her hems and a huge, heavy jewel-encrusted crown tightly jammed down to her eyebrows. Going for a walk in the royal park is itself a weighty matter, and Hyacinth is forced to watch the children of the kingdom splash in the pool while she sits at the window, hopefully wearing her swimsuit, seat-belted to a heavy bench.

As she watches, Hyacinth is strangely drawn to a Boy, one with a beautiful kite with a painting of her own crown on it, soaring freely through the sky. And the Boy himself is strangely drawn to her.
"I like your kite," said Princess Hyacinth.

"I like your crown," said the Boy.

But Princess Hyacinth is a girl whose heart yearns to be free, and one day as she trudges heavily through the park, burdened by her ponderous but protective poundage, the sight of a balloon man gives her an idea.
"If I took off my princess clothes, you could tie a string to my ankle and I could float." Since she was the Princess, she got her way.

"I feel like a balloon!" she cried.

The balloon man walked through the park and Princess Hyacinth bobbed along with the balloons.

It was pretty exciting.

She swooshed and she swirled, zigged and zagged and zigzagged, zoomed and careened and cartwheeled. She did handsprings and headstands, flip-flops and fandangos.

It was the most fun she had ever had in her life.

But, of course, the inevitable happens at last. Alas and alack, distracted, the balloon man drops the string that tethers the Princess to earth, and, clad only in her bloomered underwear, she floats away, up, up, UP, away from the castle and her horrified parents. Even though a bit anxious, Hyacinth has never felt so free.

But the Boy and his kite are there, and as the King and Queen despair that their daughter is lost forever, Hyacinth and the kite come together and the young hero reels her in, back to earth.

But once free, always free for this princess. With the Boy and his kite at her service, she resolves to fly freely every day.

The problem about the floating was never solved, and that's too bad.

But Princess Hyacinth was never bored again.

Author of the quirky classic The Shrinking of Treehorn, the story of a boy who daily finds himself growing smaller while no one else seems to notice, Florence Parry Heide has teamed up with award-winning illustrator Lane Smith in her just-published Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated). An artist whose similarly quirky work has often graced the writing of Jon Scieszka, Smith's work here seems perfect for this off-beat but meaningful tale of a light-hearted princess who longs to escape the burdens of her office.



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