Friday, May 19, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

What is it about?

PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE, written by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Brian Floca, is about a princess who wants to explore and have fun instead of prepare for her future responsibilities as a princess. 

How is it structured?

PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE is kind of a hybrid of a picture book and an early chapter book. It fits in your hand a bit larger than your typical novel or early chapter book but is much smaller than your typical picture book. The hardcover edition I purchased as 74 pages and the story is told across 7 chapters. Readability is fairly easy and charming, color illustrations are found on every page, sometimes filling the page, sometimes juxtaposed on white pages of text. 

What did I like?

There is a lot to appreciate about PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE. Let me start with the illustrations. Brian Floca's illustrations are really the star of this vehicle. They appear to be outlined in thin black and filled in with light pastel water colors. The characters are drawn simply, yet their facial expressions are packed with the perfect emotion for each situation. The book's entire packaging is really charming.

I also appreciate that Laura Amy Schlitz has set out to create something completely original. There's a lot of rehashing of Grimm stories these days, but writing in a medieval setting is right in Schlitz's wheelhouse and this has such a classic feel while being wholly original. And while some of Grimm's stories have broad, and somewhat dated today messages, Schlitz's message is timely.

A sidebar: A parent of a student once told me that forcing their oldest children into organized sports at a young age was one of their biggest regrets as a parent. Because in hindsight, they realized they could never get back the time their child spent traveling with friends and practicing sports. It was more of a social experience for the parents. They told me they adopted a different philosophy with their youngest child. They were going to enjoy her for who she was, savor their time spent together as a family, and not pressure her into any sports, but encourage her if she was interested of course.

I feel like this parent would really enjoy PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE because the message is very similar. The King and the Queen will never get back the time they spent teaching their little girl science or drilling her as she ran laps. I like this modern fairy tale with a clear message that children today (and parents) can take away loud and clear.

What did I dislike?

There wasn't much I disliked about PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE per se, but I couldn't help but think, "That was it?" when I finished reading it. The plot was straightforward, clean, and well-structured, but nothing about the book really wowed me. Other than Floca's illustrations. In fact, I actually wondered if a no-name author could pass this manuscript off and attract a talent like Floca to sign on. It's a cute story, but without Schlitz's name attached, I wonder if this would have ever seen the light of day.

I was a bit bothered by the ending. In typical Grimm fashion, the adults come off as bumbling, dim-witted villains. I didn't read them as parents who had made mistakes and learned from them, if that was the intention. They are adults who are making a child do work. The problem I see, is that many kids today don't know how to work hard. When they read this, they will see adults making a child do work. This will speak to them. They will also see that child leave that work behind and teach the adults a lesson and by the end of the book, call all the shots. Princess Cora, the child, is in charge. That is a dangerous notion and I'm not sure how much it helps children today. The message is loud and clear for adults. But for kids?

Final verdict?

In the end, PRINCESS CORA AND THE CROCODILE is a cute story from a highly celebrated children's author and a highly celebrated children's illustrator. It will be read and enjoyed by many. Personally, I was expecting a little more.

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