The Twelve Dancing Princesses

The Twelve Dancing Princesses

by Rachel Isadora

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The mystery of how the king's beautiful daughters manage to get out of their locked room and somehow wear holes in their shoes every night is one of the Brothers Grimm's most enchanting tales. Duntze's sumptuous images are as lovely and lilting as a waltz. See more details below

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The mystery of how the king's beautiful daughters manage to get out of their locked room and somehow wear holes in their shoes every night is one of the Brothers Grimm's most enchanting tales. Duntze's sumptuous images are as lovely and lilting as a waltz.

Editorial Reviews

Rebecca Zerkin
Isadora, who won a Caldecott Honor for Ben's Trumpet, about a boy who dreams of becoming a jazz musician, rescues the text with bright, crisp collages reminiscent of Eric Carle's work. Like Paschkis, Isadora uses ornate textiles as cultural symbols. Some dancers wear detailed, realistic renderings of African fabrics in a range of styles: yellow, blue and brown zigzags; delicate, interlocking purple diamonds; thin stripes in brown and black. Others wear bold gowns painted with thick, textured brushstrokes. Their radiant faces, often shown in perfect profile, have dramatic skin tones, complicated striations of brown, yellow, orange or black. Isadora's dynamic, crowded scenes, often mounted on simple white backgrounds, spill over the edges of each two-page spread. Even a quiet illustration of the soldier resting alone in his room seems larger than life, as if we are lying right next to him. Though the story will not inspire, children will delight in Isadora's lively illustrations.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Using a light touch and a fanciful, indeterminate setting (is it medieval? is it Edwardian? is it Venetian?), Duntze freshens up an old favorite, the tale of a crafty soldier who outwits a dozen princesses determined to dance the night away. Her sherbet-hued palette, her elegantly precise lines and her evident pleasure in details add up to luscious fantasy, easily incorporating the magical elements of the story (a cloak that renders the wearer invisible, trees of silver, leaves of diamonds). Even the endpapers, scattered with a dozen pairs of tiny stylish shoes, hint of wonder. From start to finish, a pure delight. Ages 5-8. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Ken and Sylvia Marantz
As she did with The Princess and the Pea, Isadora moves a well-known tale from the Brothers Grimm to Africa. The basic story remains the same. A king wants to find out how his twelve daughters, locked in their room each night, wear out their shoes by morning. He offers one of the princesses as a wife to whoever can explain it. Armed with a cloak of invisibility and some good advice, a soldier discovers where they go and tells the king, winning a princess. The double-page scenes are dazzling because Isadora creates her characters and settings from a variety of papers, some made with oil paints and others commercially printed with vivid patterns. She cuts simple shapes and combines them in the narrative sequences in a lively style, guaranteeing a light-hearted range of emotional responses. Unfortunately, the areas of Africa that inspire the striking costumes are not identified. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
In a newly illustrated rendition of Anthea Bell's translation from the German, here again is that classic tale of the princesses who steal away each night from their closely guarded bedrooms and come back with their shoes mysteriously in holes. Duntze's paintings are fanciful and elegant, and in keeping with the dreamy quality of the story. Sometimes she surprises the reader by importing a cultural component that seems oddly in contrast with the rest of her artwork, as in the juxtaposition of the figures of the jester and the scribe. Nothing revolutionary, but this is a pleasant book, adding to the genre of classical tales retold for contemporary children.
Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
This is a very strange story about a king who had twelve daughters. Although he sent them off to bed early each night, each morning the princesses were tired and their slippers were worn out. The princesses would not tell their father why they were so tired, so he issues a decree; whomever shall find the reason for their tiredness will marry the princess he chooses and inherit the kingdom. Traditional folktale drawings and text as well as the sexist outcome make the story unappealing in today's world.
School Library Journal

K-Gr 3
Isadora relocates the setting of this story to the court of an African kingdom, and the result is a delightfully original version of the traditional tale. Double-page collage illustrations, crafted using oil paints, printed paper, and palette paper, feature a variety of African art and cultural motifs. The lovely princesses, whose skin tones range from light brown to deep ebony, are arrayed in a colorful range of traditional folk costumes, jewelry, and hairstyles. Beginning with the stunning cover, featuring exuberant dancing couples and huge white letters placed against a dramatic black background, Isadora's art evokes an air of high-spirited romance. Throughout, dramatic collages move the story forward at a lively pace. The dance scenes in particular, elegantly composed and detailed, come alive with swirls of movement. With her innovative re-imagining and masterful art, Isadora has created a memorable version of this tale that complements other fine retellings, such as those by Errol Le Cain (Puffin, 1981) and Jane Ray (Dutton, 1996), and extends the appeal of this timeless tale to a new audience of readers.
—Marilyn TaniguchiCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Janice Del Negro
nger for reading aloud. Twelve princesses go to bed at night with their shoes intact and wake with the soles worn through in this fantastical tale, seamlessly translated from the German. Duntze's watercolors more than meet the challenge of the fantasy: her princesses lounge in silks and satins, roam through underground woods of silver and diamonds, and dance the night away on a parquet floor in an underground palace. Graceful figures in elaborate dress are placed in stylized, formal settings, and there is a wealth of colors and textures to engage and delight. An easy sell to a wide range of readers.
Kirkus Reviews
The familiar tale from the Brothers Grimm receives a bright treatment in an unspecified African setting. As she did with Yo, Jo! (April 2007) and The Princess and the Pea (June 2007), Isadora uses her new collage technique which combines Eric Carle-like painted paper and bright prints against clean white space, to tell her story. The text hews to the original, simplifying it somewhat but leaving the essential plot and structure intact, allowing the images to take center stage. The princesses are a rainbow, dark-, light- and medium-brown skins on bodies of varying shapes and heights, their dresses a riot of color. Visually gorgeous though it is, however, there is reason to be concerned with the arbitrary relocation of a German tale to Africa-an Africa, moreover, that owes more to an idealized conglomeration of vague sub-Saharan images than to any real evocation of a specific time or place. While this fairy-tale retelling avoids the grievous cultural misstep of the earlier Princess and the Pea, it still feels more self-indulgent than anything else, less a startling new interpretation than an opportunity to explore color, design and technique. (Picture book. 4-8)

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.20(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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