The Very Fairy Princess: A Fairy Merry Christmas, by Julie Andrews & Emma Watson Hamilton, illustrated by Christine Davenier (2012)
In this leveled reader, Geraldine (called by her nickname, Gerry, in this book), a self-proclaimed fairy princess, is getting excited because Christmas is just two days away. She finds joy in giving gifts (just like Santa!), but she finds that her piggy bank is rather low on funds (and includes a hair clip and a button in addition to the few coins). Her mother tells her that homemade gifts are best, and after she sets up her own workshop in her bedroom and recruits her toys to serve as elves, she sneaks around her house to observe her father, mother, grandmother, and brother to see what the best gift for each might be. She spends all day the next day creating her gifts and goes to bed to “sleep in heavenly peace,” happy in her work. On Christmas morning, her family is pleased with each personalized, thoughtful gift that Gerry creates for them, and Gerry proclaims: “One fairy princess is better than TEN elves when she REALLY lets her sparkle out!”
The Very Fairy Princess: Sparkles in the Snow, by Julie Andrews & Emma Watson Hamilton, illustrated by Christine Davenier (2013)
This picture book in the series tells the story of Geraldine (called by her full name in this book) as she prepares for her school’s Winter Wonderland Festival and concert. It is a rather impressive event, and Geraldine is extremely disappointed when she finds out that, despite all her best efforts to get Mr. Higgenbottom, her music teacher, to realize that (as the school’s most “enthusiastic” singer) she should receive the solo part in the chorus, a professional singer is being brought in to draw crowds to their show. Her parents try to make her feel better, but it takes waking up to a very snowy morning to really restore her spirits. When she arrives at the festival, Mr. Higgenbottom is concerned because their guest soloist is stuck in the snow and can’t make it. Geraldine volunteers for the solo and is accepted, but she is temporarily stymied by the fact that not only did she forget her dress shoes to change into but that she’s wearing two different socks (one with a hole!). She “fixes” the issue by painting ballet slippers on her socks (and exposed toe!), but she is discouraged by the giggles she hears about the purple paint footprints she leaves on the stage. However, the beautiful music and the happy audience and the sparkling lights inspire her, and she sings her heart out. Her family congratulates her, and they all head out to enjoy the other things the festival offers. Despite the rough start to the festival, our fairy princess realizes that “the SPARKLIEST things can happen when you least expect them!”
Written by the mother/daughter team of Julie Andrews (yes, of Sound of Music fame) and Emma Walton Hamilton, the Very Fairy Princess series is intended for readers and listeners from preschool to early elementary. The picture books actually have a much broader vocabulary and longer text than the leveled books, so stronger independent readers might prefer the picture book to the leveled reader (Passport to Reading, Level 1, intended for very early readers to read with an adult). The books read like a cross between Junie B. Jones (in her innocent enthusiasm) and Fancy Nancy (in her mature emotional responses and developed vocabulary), and she seems to be a fun, good-hearted character with a lot of sparkle to spread around! (There’s a little Gigi, God’s Little Princess to her as well.)
The illustrations are “done in ink and color pencil” and are both soft and bright, almost like watercolor. The illustrator skillfully conveys emotions and mood through expressions and posture, and Gerry/Geraldine almost always stands out from the rest of the illustration by appearing just somehow more saturated in color than her surroundings. (This not only makes it easy for young readers to locate the protagonist in each illustration even if her clothes are changed–although the tiara and wings are ever present!–but helps visually reveal her somewhat larger-than-life personality.) In the leveled reader, there is much less detail to the illustrations; for many of the pages, the background is plain white, and the characters get all the attention. Other full-detail illustrations help set the stage, but the focused illustrations probably assist a new reader in paying attention to only the text and relevant picture clues for understanding.
GirlChild’s Reactions: I was not surprised that GirlChild loved these books despite being a more advanced reader than necessary and at the high end of the intended interest ages. (To be honest, I think that any fairy princess hopeful through third grade, even, would like these books!) GirlChild, too, has a shining, loving, willing personality, and she is thrilled by all things beautiful and exciting. I could really see GirlChild in Gerry’s actions and thought processes, and that made me love the books, too. (I actually laughed out loud while previewing the picture book because it pretty much struck the nail on the head in regards to my innocent, inventive, eager, and emotional daughter!) [Note: BoyChild slept through the reading of these books, but he’d probably be just as happy to listen, just not as inspired to emulate. If his big sister likes something, he tries to like it, too!] Probably best enjoyed by the pre-Fancy-Nancy crowd, these books are suitable for any reader or listener from preschool to early elementary who has an interest in fairy princesses or fancy dress-up or even just possesses an outgoing personality!