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Princess Furball


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When I was a child, my favorite fairy tale was the story of Furball. I loved this variant of Cinderella that portrays a spunky young woman who uses her own ingenuity to change her life, says Charlotte Huck. She wondered why this dramatic story had never appeared in a picture-book edition, and it is not surprising that she chose it as the basis of her first book for children, Princess Furball. She felt that the selection of the right illustrator was crucial, and she says, 'Anita Lobel was the perfect artist for it. I think no one today extends the narrative of the story through art in the way Anita does. She is a true master. Charlotte Huck's retelling of a second classic fairy tale, Toads and Diamonds, was also illustrated by Anita Lobel. Ms. Huck was a professor at Ohio State University for thirty years, and in 1996 the university established in her name the first endowed professorship in children's literature in the United States. Her honors include Ohio State University's Distinguished Teaching Award and the Arbuthnot Award, given annually by the International Reading Association to an outstanding professor of children's literature, and she was selected by the Association of Library Service to Children of the American Library Association to deliver an Arbuthnot Honorary Lecture. Ms. Huck was the author of five editions of the classic Children's Literature in the Elementary School. As an anthologist, she selected poems of nineteen wellknown poets to create Secret Places, a collection for the youngest readers. Anita Lobel's name is synonymous with the best in children's literature. She is the creator of such classics as Alison's Zinnia and Away from Home, and she received a Caldecott Honor for her illustrations in On Market Street. She is the creator of two books about her cat, Nini, One Lighthouse, One Moon (a New York Times Best Illustrated Book), and Nini Here and There. Her childhood memoir, No Pretty Pictures: A Child of War, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Anita Lobel lives in New York City.


Gr 1-4-- In this variant of the Cinderella story, a motherless princess grows into an accomplished and capable young woman. It's a good thing, too, for her heartless father intends to marry her to an ogre in exchange for 50 wagonloads of silver. The princess, thinking her demands will be impossible to meet, requests four bridal gifts--a dress as golden as the sun, one as silvery as the moon, a third as glittering as the stars, and a coat made from the skins of 1000 animals. When her father meets her demands, the princess dons her coat of a thousand furs, packs her three dresses into a walnut shell, and runs away, taking along a special soup seasoning and three small treasures that had belonged to her mother. Disguised by her strange coat, Furball, as she is now called, finds work as a drudge in a neighboring king's kitchen. When the king gives a ball, she dresses herself in the gown of gold and attends. The princess attends a second ball, and a third, leaving each one abruptly and dropping golden tokens in the prince's soup after each appearance. At the last ball, the prince slips the golden ring on her finger before she disappears, and when the ragged Furball is brought before him, can identify her as his mysterious guest and future wife. Huck's telling is smooth and graceful, with a slightly rustic informality perfectly echoed by Lobel's flat, primitive style. With a palette that ranges from warm brown to radiant white, the illustrations complement the storyline visually, placing it in an undefined middle-European setting. Author and illustrator have created a strong female character: particularly endearing in her coat of fur, she is resourceful and charming throughout. The princess' reliance on her own abilities and the absence of obvious magical help make this a fresh and satisfying addition to library collections of all sizes. --Linda Boyles, Alachua County Library District, Gainesville, FL

Huck deftly retells a variant of the Cinderella story in her first book for children. A golden-haired princess, distressed when her father betroths her to an ogre, runs away, disguising herself in a coat made of a thousand furs. Princess Furball works as a ``servant to the servants'' in the house of a young king until, like Perrault's Cinderella, she dazzles the court at the king's ball. The complex unraveling of her mysterious identity involves three walnuts, three gold treasures, three ball gowns--and the seasonings for a delectable soup with which the princess fools the king. Huck's princess is not only beautiful but clever, and the solutions to her problems are of her own devising. Lobel's elegantly composed paintings, in vivid Renaissance colors, are as lovely as the princess herself. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)

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