K-Gr 2—There was an odd princess… who swallowed a pea, a slipper, a crown, and so on until she finally consumes an entire castle, each entrée followed by a well-deserved BURP! Finally, her laughter causes her feast to return to the outside world (yes, out the way it came in), followed by another resounding BURP! The end. Bold and colorful illustrations save this tired story line from complete disaster. Calderon's digital images are amusing and bright. Bug-eyed humans and creatures hover on impossibly thin legs and their startled expressions are delightful, while a scroll at the bottom of the page keeps a tally of the princess's items of consumption. However, adding a new twist to this well-known verse does little to reconstitute it and may leave some with a bad taste in their mouths. An optional purchase.—C. J. Connor, Campbell County Public Library, Cold Spring, KY
The familiar song gets a princess makeover in this second of its like from Ward (There Was an Old Monkey Who Swallowed a Frog, 2010; illustrated by Steve Gray).
The exuberant princess in this tale begins her day by swallowing the titular pea, which had been under her mattress. From there, the things she ingests get more farcical and less foodlike (as well as a lot bigger): a crown, a rose, a witch, a queen, the entire moat and a castle. Observant readers will pick out items and characters that belong in other fairy tales—Cinderella's glass slipper, the Frog Prince and a prince who could be from Rapunzel's tale. Spot-on rhymes and rhythms keep the pages turning: "There was an odd princess ... // ... who swallowed a moat. / Slurped it down her delicate throat." Although princess fans may not care, Ward's rendition of the traditional song lacks a story to glue it together—readers never learn why she swallows each thing, unlike in the original. A small scroll at the bottom of each spread depicts each item in the correct order, helping audiences correctly chime in. Calderon's brightly colored digital illustrations match the silliness of the text. His characters sport droll expressions, and his princess is certainly a stand-out with her vibrant purple hair.
In the end, though, while princesses-in-training may enjoy this the first time round, it is ultimately forgettable. (Picture book. 3-7)