Monday, April 21, 2008

Melisande

Even though my children are getting older, we still regularly read picture and story books together. Many picture books and story books have sophisticated art work, deeper meanings, and literary references that older children can appreciate better than younger children do.

One of our favorites is Melisande, by E. Nesbit, and illustrated by P.J. Lynch. This book was first published in 1901, but the language and style are timeless. Melisande is born to a happy royal couple, and the king and queen, knowing that bad things happen to royal babies during christening parties, decide to avoid trouble by not having a christening party at all. Of course, this decision offends all the fairies of the kingdom, and one particularly unhappy fairy curses the little princess with baldness.

With the help of a wish from the king's amusing fairy godmother (who never makes a personal appearance in the story, but conveys quite a personality in her cryptic letters to the king), Melisande is blessed with hair as a teenager, but the blessing turns into a curse when she doesn't think her wish through very carefully. See how unhappy her abundant hair is making her?

With nods to Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Gulliver, and other fairy tales, the story unfolds with a mathematical puzzle, a clever prince, a princess who saves her kingdom, and, of course, a happy ending.
I found the complete text here, but do try to get your hands on a copy of the book, because the art work is gorgeous and dramatic, and adds nice detail to complete the experience of Melisande.