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*Princess Justina Albertina: A Cautionary Tale* by Ellen Dee Davidson, illustrated by Michael Chesworth
Princess Justina Albertina: A Cautionary Tale
by Ellen Dee Davidson, illustrated by Michael Chesworth
Ages 3-6 32 pages Charlesbridge January 2007 Hardcover    

This princess needs a special pet, and Lagoon Fish or Two-Headed Dog or Unicorn just won’t do. She demands a brave, clever, exciting pet that will notice her and listen to her - and she must be able to ride it. Much to her nanny’s surprise, Princess Justina Albertina’s tantrums come to a complete and permanent stop with the arrival of pet number seven.

Princess Justina Albertina should have been satisfied with her nanny’s first pet presentation. Nanny wades out in her skirt to get Lagoon Fish from the royal waters it even has polka-dots. But never satisfied and always unpleasant Princess Justina Albertina needs a pet that will notice her, so Nanny goes off to farther destinations like the Enchanted Forest and Africa for another pet. Nanny relies on an array of transportation to get to her new destinations. Rafting to Brazil or surfing to Australia, nanny always comes back with the kind of pet the Princess has requested. Nanny never complains when bossy, tantrum throwing Princess Justina Albertina sends her back out, again and again, to find a better pet. Yes, this princess should have been happy with the Lagoon Fish!

The Princess herself doesn’t give a good first impression - actually, our impression of her diminishes with each page. Michael Chesworth, who used watercolor and colored pencil and gouache to illustrate this book, first draws the Princess sitting on her throne surrounded in a mess of broken toys and half-eaten food. Next, she’s seen literally riding on a person’s back instead of walking, and she’s always scrunching up her face in angry grimaces and frowns. Let’s just say she’s not the gentlest or kindest with her new pets. However, the way these pet-Princess interactions are illustrated will have you laughing.

This troll-ish looking Princess and her faithful adventurous nanny are quite the contrasting pair. But they are fun characters, and so are the pets. The pets stick pretty close to the nanny throughout the book, even helping her out when they can. I love the picture of them all attached to the hot air balloon - in one way or another - going on the last journey for a pet.

This is Californian Ellen Dee Davidson's first picture book. Michael Chesworth, who has illustrated many children’s books, including Jingle the Brass, is not in need of a perfect pet - he has three!

Although not always in need of a good pet, readers are always in need of a good book, and this is a great one.

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  Tanya Boudreau/2007 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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