Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Princess and the Castle

The Princess and the Castle, written and illustrated by Caroline Binch, is a little different than the other children's books I've picked up. The first thing you'll notice in reading it is that it doesn't sound "American". It was originally published in Great Britain. As such, in addition to the "sound" of the book, you'll also see the English spellings of some words. If you're sharing this book with a child old enough to notice the differences, it will be a "teachable moment" about how, although we share a common language with Great Britain, there are some differences, as well.

Genevieve lives with her mum and baby brother in a seaside town, but she "hated the sea." Her father was lost at sea while he was out on his fishing boat. Her mother used to cry a lot, along with the baby.

She likes to pretend that she is a princess and that her father is a king and he lived in the castle on an island out in the bay, "waiting for her to come home." She doesn't go with her friends when they go to the beach to play in the sand. She prefers to stay home and play at being a princess, riding her horse, or being kissed by a prince.

One sunny morning Genevieve watched a small boat enter the harbour. A tall dark man lowered the red sails.

"Ah, here comes the Red Knight," she told her court.

Some days later Mum introduced Jack and Genevieve to her new friend, Cedric.

"Hello, you must be Genevieve," said a deep voice. It was the giant, the Red Knight from the boat. Genevieve gasped in fright and fled to her room.

Mum talked a lot about Cedric after that, but Genevieve refused to meet him again, even though Mum got upset.

Genevieve thought Cedric was a "scary giant" who would catch her, or maybe Mum. However, Genevieve began to notice a change in her: she was happier "and hardly ever got cross. Genevieve knew that after she went to bed, Cedric came to visit Mum. She became familiar with the gentle music from Cedric's guitar flowing up the stairs."

Eventually, Genevieve warmed up to Cedric. He would go places with Mum, Jack and Genevieve. Genevieve was even coaxed into going down near with water while sitting up on Cedric's shoulders. They played on the beach, but she got scared when the tide came up to their sandcastle. But, she eventually found the courage to get in the water and play.

Genevieve didn't want Cedric to go out in his boat. She was very afraid something would happen to him. Mum tried to reassure her that he would be okay.

So when Cedric said one day, "How would you like to visit the castle, little princess? We could sail across the bay," Genevieve was struck dumb. It was a terrifying idea. Yet she hated the thought of being left behind. All her stories were set in the castle.

She had to go.

They all went on Cedric's boat, sailed across the bay and went all over the castle, and they also had their own feast while looking back across the bay, seeing their house instead of the usual view she had of the castle.

"I'm a really happy princess now," smiled Genevieve. "We are in the castle with our own king," and she gave Cedric a great big hug.

I could see this story being helpful in helping a small child (this book is recommended for ages 4 to 8), who has lost a parent - for whatever reason - in learning to deal with the changes that come with that unfortunate fact of life. Also, it is an example of facing fears and overcoming them.

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