‘Princess Smartypants breaks the rules’? – well what else would we expect of this feisty young royal? But her mother, the Queen, decides to sort out Smartypants’s propensity to behave in an unprincess-like fashion thereby deterring princely suitors; she will send her to finishing school.
Right from the start, Madame Twinklebotham, who runs the school, earmarks Smartypants as a troublemaker, and in terms of the perceived norms of deportment, fashion sense, weaving, spinning and wand-waving, she’s right. Smartypants soon converts her classmates to her more exciting curriculum for princess-like behaviour. At the end everyone breaks the rules; everyone apart from Madame Twinklebotham who, with a thwack of her wand, is transformed into a mouse by Smartypants who seems well-versed in that aspect of her tuition.
Beguilingly simple, soft lines convey attitude and action; a slight twist of a mouth, or a glance from the round, popping eyes of Cole’s characters tell a great deal. And there is so much to look at in her drawings. Cole, as usual, conveys a lot about gender-stereotyping and upending traditional expectations, whether those of the queen, or of any of her readers who might expect a princess to behave like a princess of the traditional sort.