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*The Princess's Blankets* by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Catherine Hyde
The Princess's Blankets
by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Catherine Hyde
Grades K-4 40 pages Templar November 2009 Hardcover    

“A princess lived, once, who was always cold.”
So begins the fairytale of a princess who is always cold, no matter the weather, no matter her clothing. The king and queen decide that anyone who can make the princess feel warm will be rewarded with whatever they want.

A dark stranger with hard, grey eyes appears and offers his help. In exchange for his success, he wants the princess’s hand in marriage. The princess is filled with fear as the stranger as she looks into the stranger’s “cruel eyes” and he asks her, “How cold do you feel?”

“As cold as the ocean,” she replies.

The stranger disappears. When he returns, he throws a blanket over the princess’s bed. It is a blanket “woven in blues and green and greys, and moved over her body in clumsy, urgent waves.”

But the princess still is not warm, and the stranger repeats his question three more times. Based on the princess’s answer, he brings blankets woven from elements of the forest, mountains and, finally, the earth itself.

None of the blankets warm the princess, so the furious stranger leaves - and the ocean, forest, mountains and earth are left bare. The birds are left with no trees in which to sing. The people are left with no oceans to fish in, no mountain streams from which to collect water, no earth in which to bury their dead.

One day a wandering musician happens near the palace and hears about the terrible magic done by the dark stranger, and how none of it left the princess feeling any warmer but did leave the lands bleak and arid.

The kind-hearted musician visits the king and queen to see if he can be of assistance. When he sees the princess, he falls in love immediately and plays her his loveliest song so she will know how much he loves her. The musician’s music, kisses and words warm the princess’s hearts and the blankets of the ocean, forest, mountain and earth fall from her shoulders onto the floor and the world returns to its original state.

For his reward, the musician asks only that he and the princess remain together. The princess agrees to this request, and often on summer nights, the couple sleep under a blanket... of stars.

Renowned English author of poetry and fiction Carol Ann Duffy brings us a magical fairytale about emptiness, fear and the power of love. However, what makes this story even more haunting and beautiful are the oversize illustrations by Catherine Hyde. Each painting takes one to two pages and features deep colors and rich texture, adding to the mystery, sensuality and magic of the story.

This story is a treat for fairy tale lovers and the paintings make it a pleasure to read and reread the story to your little ones. Recommended.

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