Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book #115: Twelve Dancing Princesses Retold & Illustrated by Brigette Barrager

Image from ChronicleBooks.com
In this beautifully illustrated book, Barrager retells the classic Grimm fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses who mysteriously wear out their shoes every night. In this version of the story the king becomes concerned that his daughters won’t be able to rule the kingdom one day because all they do is nap. So he makes a proclamation, the person who can solve the mystery shall have their hearts desire. Doctors, scientists, and others do their best, but it is the cobbler, Pip, who figures out the secret. He follows the sleepwalking princesses through the trap door in their room, through the silver, gold, and diamond forest, to the magical ballroom where they dance all night in their sleep. Pip breaks the spell, saves the princesses, and they all live happily ever after.

I like this version of the story for younger kids because it moves along quickly with just a few sentences per page. This version is also unique in that the princesses are under a spell, instead of tricking their father. There are versions of the story that use text to paint more detailed descriptions of the magical world and the perils of following the princesses through the forest multiple times, however Barrager chooses to be more concise with her words and lets her illustrations do the rest.

Speaking of illustrations, they have a wonderful 1950’s retro feel to them, reminiscent of Mary Blair’s work (concept artist for many Disney animated movies, including Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, as well as the It’s a Small World ride). Barrager weaves images of vines with curling leaves into nearly every page. The characters are whimsical and stylish; I especially love Pip’s pompadour. Check out Barrager’s blog for more characters with stylish flair.

Use this as part of a princess or royalty storytime and incorporate some of the rhymes and crafts I posted for The Paper Bag Princess. The princesses wear out their shoes every night, so use this as an excuse to have a shoe relay. Have kids take off one or two shoes (depending on how much time you have) and throw them in a pile. Mix the shoes together and split the kids into two teams and have them line up on either side of the room. When you say go one player from each team must run, find their shoe, put it on, and then run back to tag the next player on their team.



  1. What a fun activity at the end to go along with the book. I've heard of this particular version of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and was curious what it was like. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks, Kerry. I grew up with the Ruth Sanderson version, which I like quite a lot. But the text is much longer and the story is more complex. I recommend it for older elementary school aged kids. I really like the way Barrager simplified the story but still kept the magical qualities of the story.

  3. Replies
    1. It also reminds me of Disney's Sleeping Beauty, although that's not Mary Blair. But it does have the same 1950's fairy tale feel to it.