Caldecott Honor artist Lane Smith and Shrinking of Treehorn author Florence Parry Heide know that all great books begin with a perplexing problem. In this instance, the perplex is regal: Princess Hyacinth floats. Trying to tie down this royal entity would be difficult, but it becomes impossible when young Hyacinth decides to grab a balloon and take to the skies! And that, boys and girls, is just the beginning of her adventures.… An uplifting story in several senses.
While Heide's celebrated Treehorn found himself shrinking, her new Princess Hyacinth floats. The delight to be found in both books is not in explaining why these fantastical things occur, but in how children with even the most unusual problems solve them in ways that adults cannot imagine. To keep her from floating away, Hyacinth's protective parents have literally weighted her down with diamond pebbles and a crown with “the heaviest jewels of the kingdom.” Smith pictures Hyacinth yearning for freedom as she sits in her bathing suit watching swimmers while belted to a heavy bench, or stoically drags her heavy clothing around the castle. The quirky oil and watercolor illustrations seamlessly match Heide's wry, understated text, and when Hyacinth eventually does float away, it's her soul mate, named Boy, who lends a hand and opens a new, freer chapter in her life. Heide possesses the ability to tell a moralistic tale without a hint of didacticism and makes this singular tale seem like the story of every girl who meets a boy, shedding the protective rules of her parents in exchange for a life where she is “never bored again.” Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Princess Hyacinth seems to be quite ordinary, but she has a problem. Unless she is attached to something or weighted down, she floats. With weights and pebbles in her clothes and a heavy crown upon her head, she stays on the ground. Without them, up she goes. As a result, she is mainly confined to the palace for her safety and she longs to play outside. She enjoys watching a friendly boy named Boy flying his kite. One day, after dragging herself through the park, she asks a balloon man to tie a string to her ankle. That way, she can take off her heavy clothes and bob happily up in the air. He does as she bids, but lets her go. At first, Hyacinth enjoys the freedom. Soon, though, she is tangled up with Boy's kite. When he pulls her in, Boy is rewarded as a hero. Together, they work out a happy ending. Illustrator Lane Smith has created his characters in brush and ink on watercolor paper, painted the backgrounds in oil on board, and combined them using his Macintosh. The resulting images depict this make-believe world with clarity while including only the details needed for the princess's problem. Large type in several colors helps add emotion, with the few characters designed to contribute comic relief. The story's low-key comedy dominates the visual tale. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Unless weighed down by her jewel-encrusted crown, diamond-embedded socks, or tied to her chair, Princess Hyacinth floats. Her days, encumbered as she is, are spent watching other children play in the Palace Grounds. Sometimes, Boy, whose kite is decorated with a golden crown in the Princess's honor, stops by her window to say hello. One day, in want of some adventure, Princess Hyacinth dons her heavy robe and crown and determinedly heads to the park. After convincing the Balloon Man to tie a string to her ankle, she sheds her clothes down to her Royal Underwear to float merrily among his colorful, bobbing balloons. A jubilant spread follows, depicting the Princess's airborne gyrations with great aplomb. Soon, however, while exploring a nearby familiar-looking kite, Princess Hyacinth becomes hopelessly entangled in its strings. In a sweetly satisfying ending, Boy comes to her rescue and is handsomely rewarded by the King and Queen. As for Princess Hyacinth, she is now free to float "up, up, up" in her Royal Underwear, knowing that Boy will be there to reel her in when she wants to come down. Heide's tale bubbles with effervescence, drawing readers into the fantasy with a lively, conversational text. Deftly, Smith enhances the words with a delightful whimsicality, from his clever application of perspective, range of color chosen to match the action, placement of text in varying hues, use of large topiary animal images in the gardens, and simple but effective character expressions. Princess Hyacinth is a joy from beginning to end.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
No shrinking violet (nor Treehorn), Princess Hyacinth yearns to play outside-but she'll float away! There's no particular reason, but indoors she wafts upwards until the ceiling blocks her, and outdoors, the sky's the limit. A wonderfully expressive illustration of Hyacinth dragging through the castle halls in her gravity-ensuring extra-heavy crown shows her pouting mouth (no eyes-they're buried under the crown) and her huge, downtrodden shadow on the wall. Smith's elegantly cartoonish brush-and-ink character survives an exhilarating scare involving a kite, a rescue and a newly formed friendship. Heide's prose takes off just when Hyacinth does: "She whirled and she twirled, she swooshed and she swirled . . . ." When Hyacinth soars free in a vast pink sky, her figure is tiny and three balloons follow behind, creating a scene of breezy adventure that also feels delicate. Oil-paint backgrounds (shafts of light; antique-hued balloons; soft animal topiary) glow behind the pointy-nosed, active characters. Molly Leach's clever design shows the word "up" repeatedly rising, and one sentence levitates partially off the page-naturally. (Picture book. 4-7)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2009:
“Smith’s elegantly cartoonish brush-and-ink character survives an exhilarating scare involving a kite, a rescue and a newly formed friendship. Heide’s prose takes off just when Hyacinth does.”
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, August 17, 2009:
"Heide possesses the ability to tell a moralistic tale without a hint of didacticism."
Starred Review, School Library Journal, November 2009:
“Heide’s tale bubbles with effervescence, drawing readers into the fantasy with a lively, conversational text.”