July 10, 2015

The Princess and the Pony

by Kate Beaton
Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic
40 pp.
Ages 4-8
July 2015

Here's a charming story that is perfect for sweetly demonstrating that perspective is everything!

Princess Pinecone, with the stubby shape and minuscule and pointy feet iconic of Kate Beaton's heroines*, is determined to compete in a great battle competition where all the warriors of her kingdom would be showing their stuff.  Of course, they all have the right gear: shields, amulets, and helmets.  And she hopes that she'd get something of warrior greatness for her birthday, rather than the cozy sweaters she got every year; in fact, this year she has been desperately hinting at a grand horse. But what she gets is a pony: a short, rotund pony that eats what it shouldn't and farts too much.

Princess Pinecone's advice to her pony on the day of the battle is, "Just...do your best."(pg. 19) But it's a mean battle, with spitballs, squareballs (!) and all manner of balls, and warriors being knocked over every which way.  When the meanest warrior of all, though, takes aim at Princess Pinecone, he is stopped dead in his tracks by her little roly-poly pony. Seems the warriors never get to express their cuddly sides and are delighted to enjoy Princess Pinecone's cutie-pie of a pony.  She even helps them all get in touch with their loveable natures via some well-selected sweaters!

She may not have been the meanest warrior at the battle, but Princess Pinecone and the pony are voted the Most Valuable Warriors of the day, and hefted onto a multitude of hairy, tattooed and rough warrior arms in celebration. You can't beat that for cuteness or inspiration.

The Princess and the Pony has all the right ingredients for a masterpiece children's book:  an irresistible princess; a short and plump little pony; a loving family who tries to get the right birthday gift for a little warrior; a plethora of superhero-like warriors; a challenge to which our protagonist must rise; a valuable lesson in being oneself; a happy ending; and a little bathroom humour via a farting pony.  Kids will eat this book up!  Share it with them to encourage them to persevere–and to accept birthday gifts gracefully–but delve into Kate Beaton's detailed and comical illustrations with the abandon of a rollicking ruckus. Everyone is sure to win with The Princess and the Pony.

*I first became enamoured with Kate Beaton's people from her article in "My Books, My Place" for The Globe and Mail, January 21, 2012 in which she described and drew herself in various reading positions. After that, I could always pick out her illustrations.

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