From the opening endpapers to the closing ones, both of which have a role in the story, The Pea and the Princess is an absolute delight. And yes, the title is correct for this take on a familiar tale is told from the perspective of a pea destined for greatness. From the moment it was born it knew that somehow it would be important, and indeed it ends up in a very special glass case in a museum as the pea which revealed the identity of the woman the 34-year-old prince would wed.
Not only does Grey play with an old story, she also takes a poke at a more modern palace romance. There is a leguminous motif throughout the pages including many visual jokes, and there are asides like the masthead on the newspaper, The Globe, the logo of which is an artichoke. The familiar looking Queen complete with crown and headscarf has pea-like eyes and the heir apparent is seen reading a gardening book.
Grey’s change of perspective is exemplified in her artwork which plays around with points of view. This is a very domestic monarchy: only the Queen and prince are visible members of the royal household, and their surroundings are comfortably middle-class. There is a great deal to look at and discuss in this picture book with great appeal for older children, gardeners, royalists (maybe) and republicans.