The partnership between Vivian French and Angela Barrett is magic. And nowhere is this more apparent in this reworking of a traditional fairytale theme; the contest for the hand of the princess whereby the suitor must produce something that seems impossible – the most wonderful thing in the world.
French places her story in an island kingdom (surely Venice; certainly Angela Barrett’s title page suggests this). Though the author specifies no particular period, the artist has chosen not a medieval age, but rather an elegant Edwardian setting (a nod to Wilde, perhaps?). Certainly it is a backdrop that suits both the direct, uncluttered prose of the storyteller and the cool palette and delicate lines that characterise Barrett’s work. Of course it is a love story – the heart-shaped windows through which the reader enters this world ensure that this is not forgotten. However, the motif is not overused, rather the illustrator compliments the text moving from the enclosed rooms of the King and queen, to storytelling borders as suitors bring their gifts and the princess explores the city to colour saturated spreads where emotion is central. This is a book to delight any child; one where the story is as satisfying as the illustrations, whether it is shared at bedtime or read silently to oneself.