Paterson, Katherine. The Wide-Awake Princess. Illustrated by Vladimir Vagin. Clarion, 2000. ISBN 0-395-53777-0. $15.00. 48 pp. B Pre-3 PB Reviewed by Lanell Rabner When the princess Miranda was born, the poor people of her country were too tired to rejoice in her birth. They worked hard in the fields, all day long, and at night most of them fell asleep the minute they lay down to rest. On the other hand, the rich people of the land were too selfish and lazy to rejoice over the king and queen’s good fortune. So Miranda’s royal parents decided to throw an enormous celebration to honor their new daughter and heir to their throne. When the appointed day arrived, all was in readiness. The footmen stood waiting at the great doors to the castle, but the knocker remained silent. No important guests arrived. No grand gifts were presented. The entire household waited and waited. After a time, growing weary of the wait, everyone closed their eyes and fell asleep. While the castle slept, Miranda’s fairy godmother arrived, finding Miranda to be the only creature in the entire household who was not asleep. The wrinkled old woman bent over the princess’s cradle, kissed the tip of a crooked finger and then gently touched each of the baby’s eyelids. “I’ll give you the gift of being wide awake all your waking hours. With that gift, you can enjoy all your other gifts. Without it, none of the rest matters,” she whispered and then vanished. When Miranda turns twelve, her parents suddenly die, and she is forced to go out among her people to learn how to become a queen. An original fairy tale of how one very wide-awake princess overcomes her squabbling, greedy nobles by winning the hearts of the common people to become a wise and compassionate queen. Vagin’s pencil and watercolor illustrations, rich in color, detail, and medieval influence, are wasted on this underdeveloped tale. Paterson, typically a masterful storyteller, fails to adequately connect the princess’s gift of “being wide awake” with how she learned to become a good queen. Recommended, despite the weak story line, because it is a novel idea bolstered by magical illustrations.
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