Written and Illustrated by Mini Grey
Alfred A. Knopf, 2003
Many years ago, I was born in the Palace Garden, among rows of carrots and beets and cabbages.
This castle contains: A queen, a prince, many hopeful princesses and a royal gardener
The main character in this story is a pea, who somehow knows she is going to be exceptional. She is grown in the royal garden and picked specially to be the pea that is used to test princesses who are hoping to become the Prince’s bride. The Prince has reached his mid-30’s and is still unmarried, which annoys his mother, the Queen. The Queen places the pea under twenty feather beds & mattresses and, time after time, is disappointed when the princesses awaken after a good night’s sleep. So when a mysterious girl shows up and the pea recognizes her as the royal gardener, she helps out by spending the whole night whispering in the girl’s ear. The next morning, the girl reports that the pea kept her up all night and she and the Prince are married. The pea ends up in a museum.
Author/illustrator Mini Grey does a fun job of telling this age-old story from a different point of view. We’re seeing everything from the pea’s perspective, which may be why the Queen seems so pea-centric. She wears a necklace that resembles peas and a scarf with a pea pattern and even has eyes that look like peas. Or maybe she’s just really big on fruits & vegetables, which could be the case, based on the castle’s wallpaper and curtain patterns.
There are lots of other things to notice in the artwork, as well. Take a moment to compare the pictures inside the front and back covers, as they are before and after pictures of the Palace Garden. The after picture shows the ‘happily ever after’ life that the Prince and his wife are living. Overall, I thought this book was cute and is particularly fun if you’re a fan of fairy tales told a little differently. Ms. Grey always peppers her books with little details that are fun to notice.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that if you judge people by ridiculous standards, you may be missing out on knowing some wonderful people.