Written and Illustrated by E.S. Redmond
Candlewick Press, 2012
Minerva von Vyle was a mischievous child
Who was coddled and spoiled and allowed to run wild.
This castle contains: A girl who is given the chance to be a queen
Minerva rules her house and her uninvolved parents leave her upbringing to the servants. After going through a nanny a week for a year, a nanny shows up with a new approach. The nanny announces that she is there to crown Minerva as The Unruly Queen, which delights Minerva at first. Then the nanny explains that the Queen lives in a castle far away, among horrible creatures, and will get to banish anyone who behaves. In her castle, she can act just as she likes, since there will be no one to care if she breaks things or throws her food on the floor. Minerva doesn’t like the sound of this, so she starts behaving properly. She bathes and brushes her teeth while Nanny continues telling her what she will be missing out on if she becomes a good girl. As she’s getting ready to go to sleep, Nanny points out that she will be staying to monitor Minerva’s behavior, since a new Unruly Queen is crowned every year.
As you may have figured out from the opening quotes, this story is told in rhyme, which works beautifully well here. Author/illustrator E.S. Redmond has an excellent ear for rhyme and meter, making the book a pleasure to read aloud. Her rhymes are clever and her word choices are sure to broaden your little one’s vocabulary. This book uses the reverse psychology approach in a comical way to overall good effect, but I would have liked to have seen Minerva learn her lessons in a way that did more to show her the results of her bad behavior. And I wanted the book to address the issue of her absent and uninvolved parents. Because Nanny is drawn with a harsh, pinched face (with an almost skeletal bone structure), she comes across as menacing, which creates a book with no truly likeable characters.
The illustrations, in pen and ink and watercolor, have a very gothic almost Tim Burton-esque feel to them. There are patterned fabrics, with lots of swirls and vines and plenty of purple and grey throughout the book. In addition to writing and illustrating, Ms. Redmond also designs jewelry and works with fabrics and paper to create crowns, dolls and other works of art. The Unruly Queen is her second children’s book.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that misbehaving may seem like fun, but it is never worth the consequences.