Wednesday, January 26, 2011

8. Song for a Princess

Written by Rachel Mortimer
Illustrated by Maddy McClellan
$17.99, ages 4-8, 32 pages

When a princess loses a dear friend, a bird gathers up words the girls once shared and sings them back to her in this heartwarming tale about picking yourself back up.

For many happy hours, the princess and her friend would sit in the palace garden on a blanket scattered with open books, talking, reading, singing and dreaming of faraway places and beautiful things.

The girls loved words and shared them freely: words like "smile," "friends," "rainbow," "star" and "always."

On those days, a breeze would send their happy, colorful words twirling about through the air and a little brown wren who lived in the garden would catch them like worms and line his nest with them.

"They were treasures to him," Mortimer writes. "The words made him feel safe and warm."

But then one day, the friend had to go away, leaving the princess's heart empty. As rain poured down, the wren collected the princess's words, but now they were the saddest he'd ever heard.

Other birds in the garden also saw how unhappy the princess was and decided that if they were to ever see the sun again, they'd need to cheer her up. So one by one, each bird offered the princess something they loved.

A peacock showed her his fan of feathers, a magpie brought gems from his nest,  a nuthatch laid berries and nuts on leaves at her feet.

But even when a swan paddled below her balcony with babies tucked under her wings, it was not enough to make her smile.

If anything, the displays only made her sadder. Watching a pair of jackdaws dash about with each other only reminded her of how alone she was.

Then one evening the wren suggested he offer the princess something different. Peacock couldn't imagine what such an ordinary looking bird could offer a princess, but that didn't dissuade him.

He flew off to the palace, doing loop-de-loops as he went, and strung together the words he'd collected. Finding her on her balcony, he sang her a lullaby of encouragement.

"…When soft sweet dreams fade into day, / New friends will not be far away," he trilled. "Look around, just wait and see. / You'll always have a friend in me."

As he sang, the sky above the princess filled with stars and the princess put her hand to her heart. From then on, she knew she'd never be alone.

This is a comforting, happy book that reminds children that friends are everywhere.

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