In tone and content it reminds me a lot of Howard Pyle’s Wonder Clock and also A.A. Milne’s Ugly Duckling play (which you can read in full here). Thoroughly charming and evocative, the pictures are also reminiscent of Pyle. Sadly, I don’t think the copy I read (the same as pictured) had all the original illustrations, but the ones it did have were delightful!
Now for my initial major concern before reading it. *coughs* In short I love ‘beautiful princess’ stories, so I thought it might tend toward being one of those overtly ‘moralistic’ tales (I’ve run across a number of those over the years and -- no offense, intended -- they’re really just not my thing), but as it turns out, in this case I needn’t have worried in the slightest. The stereotypically beautiful princesses are portrayed as being more ‘boring’ than otherwise, but they’re still good and true, etc., while the ordinary princess herself has a good spice of naughtiness and impish mischief. So it’s definitely not a categorical dissertation on/forced contrast between inner and outer beauty.
I wouldn’t strictly call it a Cinderella retelling, but there are some definite Cinderella-ish threads -- particularly the princess having animal friends, taking a job for a while as a kitchen maid, sleeping in an attic, etc., and (later) the stressed importance of the prince/king choosing a wife. I think the scriptwriters and directors of the 2015 film most certainly read/studied it, making some stunning, ever-so-much-more-so bows to it in places, especially with the running inclusion of the Lavender’s Blue ballad, the strong presence of the forest, the whole equation of mistaken identities, the princess ultimately marrying a king, and so on.
Here’s a fun little excerpt from the very beginning to give you an idea of the style (and note, the ‘king’ here is her father):
“I can only repeat,” said the King stubbornly, “that to invite fairies to a christening is asking for trouble. And getting it,” he added gloomily. “Speaking for myself,” said the King, “I’d far rather ask several man-eating tigers. You may have forgotten what happened to my great-great-great-grandmother, but I have not. Had to sleep for a hundred years, poor girl, and the entire court with her, and all because of some silly fairy-business at the christening.”
“But Your Majesty forgets,” put in the Prime Minister, “that the unfortunate episode you refer to was due to gross neglect and carelessness. History tells us that an influential fairy was not invited. But on this occasion I, personally, will take the greatest possible care that no such calamity occurs again.” And the Prime Minister tried to look very uncareless indeed.
“The Lord High Chamberlain hastened to add that no single member of King Oberon’s court would be omitted from the list of guests: “And we must not forget,” he pointed out, “that as Her Majesty has said, these—er—persons have it in their power to bestow the most valuable of gifts. For your daughter’s sake—” urged the Lord High Chamberlain.
“Oh, all right, all right,” said the King peevishly. “Don’t let’s go over all that again. But you mark my words,” he said, “I’d much rather have a nice silver-plated christening mug from a nice solid baron than some chancy thing like Unfading Beauty from a tricky creature with wings and a wand! Besides,” said the King, “who’s to tell that some tiresome fairy won’t get out of the wrong side of her bed that day and give my daughter Perpetual Bad Temper instead? Answer me that!”
~ ~ ~
So yes, altogether sweet and fun, this is one I’d love to reread and eventually add to my collection!