The Well at the End of the World

The Well at the End of the World

4.7 4
by Robert D. San Souci, Rebecca Walsh

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Princess Rosamond isn't your typical princess. She prefers good books to good looks and keeps both the royal accounts and the castle drawbridge in working order. When her greedy stepmother and stepsister scheme to spend the royal treasury and her father, the king, falls ill, Rosamond must set out in search of the one thing that can cure him—the healing waters


Princess Rosamond isn't your typical princess. She prefers good books to good looks and keeps both the royal accounts and the castle drawbridge in working order. When her greedy stepmother and stepsister scheme to spend the royal treasury and her father, the king, falls ill, Rosamond must set out in search of the one thing that can cure him—the healing waters found in the magical well at the end of the world.

In the spirit of The Talking Eggs, award-winning author Robert San Souci has once again created a feisty heroine whose generosity and courage save the day combined with Rebecca Walsh's vibrant paintings. This is an adventure story that readers will turn to again and again.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With a princess who is not only kind but prefers "good books to good looks," San Souci's (The Talking Eggs) clever adaptation of the classic British fairy tale brims with wit, quotable dialogue and a modern sensibility. Likewise, talented newcomer Walsh visually blends conventional fairy tale trappings with more contemporary, amusing details. Her distinctive style combines royal splendor with ordinary homespun details. On Rosamond's lovely crown, for instance, a cord loops under her chin like a child's costume tiara. San Souci reverses the tale's traditional roles, making his Rosamond plain but practical and her stepsister, Zenobia, a slave to her mirror. Each girl makes a trip to the well at the end of the world and is rewarded (or not) according to their natures. The generous Rosamond receives not only "true love and new wealth" but health for her father, whose illness occasioned her trip. Zenobia's selfishness turns her into a "snag-toothed, long-nosed, sail-eared, cross-eyed" wretch. Welsh wisely transforms the story's trio of macabre heads that float in the well into faces that resemble large coins; she subtly transforms Rosamond's plainness into a beauty that comes from an inner radiance; the artist makes the most of comic opportunities for depicting Zenobia's outlandish downfall. Rosamond's story contains enough wit and gentle instruction to please readers of all ages. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Princess Rosamond is smart and practical; she does all the accounts for her father, the King. What is more, she does not care that she is not beautiful and has no interest in meeting a prince. San Souci's retelling of "The King of Colchester" contains, however, many elements found in familiar folktales like "Cinderella," "Toads and Diamonds," "The Goose Girl," even King Lear. The original story dates back to the 16th century (three heads floating in the well recall its Celtic origins) and is related to a Scottish tale, "The Paddo," a primitive form of "The Frog Prince"—which is probably why a tiny crowned amphibian lives in Princess Rosamond's pockets throughout the story. Also traditional is the quest undertaken by this princess, who accomplishes her mission, foils the greedy stepmother and stepsister, and finds her prince (who does not have to be transformed) into the bargain. Despite the feminist emphasis, the author finds it necessary to give plain Rosamond a stylish new gown, while her hair gets progressively fuller and softer and she loses her freckles. Illustrator Walsh paints a healthy, vigorous princess, the stepmother and sister as jaded fashionistas, and the prince with glasses, all in full-page pictures bursting with vivid color, but the multiplicity of clever details, along with saturated colors warring with each other on the page, can leave the viewer wishing for a little relief. Still, it is a satisfying, action-filled fairy tale and will, no doubt, appeal to aficionados of the genre and collectors of new princess tales. 2004, Chronicle, Ages 8 to 12.
—Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-An author's note indicates that this story is loosely based on the British tale "The King of Colchester's Daughters." Princess Rosamond helps her father manage his kingdom. She's smart, but not much of a looker. All is well until the widowed king marries a beautiful yet greedy woman who also has a daughter. The two spend his treasury on clothing and jewels then demand that he tax his people at a higher rate. When the unhappy king falls ill, Rosamond takes off to find a magical well that contains healing water. She is kind to those she meets along the way and is amply rewarded with wealth, beauty, and love. When the stepmother and her daughter learn about her success, they attempt to collect some of the well's bounty. The selfish stepdaughter is rewarded in kind, with horrible ugliness. Upon her return, she attempts to fool a handsome prince into marrying her, but Rosamond saves the day and she and the young man live happily ever after. Done in a mixture of acrylic and watercolor, the richly hued illustrations vary in size from smaller vignettes to two-page paintings. They expand the narrative by imparting a fairy-tale setting and show lots of action and expression. Young viewers will enjoy the numerous small details. Consider purchasing this nicely paced story where fairy tales are popular.-Kathleen Simonetta, Indian Trails Public Library District, Wheeling, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Elements of the Cinderella story (greedy stepmother and stepsister) and quest motif are rather typical, but the heroine of this tale is anything but. Princess Rosamond is smart, hard-working, and very capable of protecting the royal treasures from the scheming Queen Zantippa and her daughter Zenobia. She doesn't hesitate to risk it all when her father, the king, becomes ill; she knows she must be the one to find the healing waters. Walsh's colorful paintings infuse energy, humor, and a sense of courage into the tale. San Souci has written previously about strong female characters, but Princess Rosamond, based "loosely" on several traditional tales, is among the spunkiest and most resourceful yet. True to folklore tradition, Rosamond succeeds in her quest, and the wicked queen and her equally evil daughter do get their comeuppance-in a manner that will delight readers. A delightful read filled with engaging art and some subtle plays on language. (sources) (Folktale. 5-10)
From the Publisher
Though stories of feisty, unfussy princesses are no longer in short supply, San Souci's retelling of a little-known British folktale featuring a girl who "prefers good books to good looks" crackles with brio. It begins with a familiar setup: the King of Colchester's homely, but canny, daughter Rosamonde finds herself saddled with a harpy of a stepmother and a snooty stepsister. When these dastardly opponents compromise the health of both the kingdom and the king, the compassionate Rosamonde journeys to a healing well. She returns trailing gemstones from her hair—a blessing from the well's guardians—and her jealous stepsister promptly visits the same well, where she's cursed with a permanent bad hair day. In keeping with the "beauty-is-only-skin-deep" message, newcomer Walsh bothers less about painting pretty fairy-tale scenes than she does about expressing characters' inner natures and catching the easygoing humor of San Souci's text; Rosamonde may be the first princess in picture-book history to harness her crown under her chin with a sensible strap. —Booklist "

there's so much to savor in this handsome presentation. Adults will love the sumptuous look of it, and teachers and storytellers will find many uses for this appreciative rendering of Aesop." —Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

Chronicle Books LLC
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
8 MB
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Robert D. San Souci has retold numerous traditional tales and legends, including The Talking Egg, and The Faithful Friend, both of which received Caldecott Honors and Coretta Scott King Honors. He lives in Northern California.
Rebecca Walsh graduated in 2000 from The Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in illustration. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband. This is her first children's book.

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Well at the End of the World 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
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