Written by Maranke Rinck, Illustrated by Martijn van der Linden
Front Street, 2004
It’s almost time for the party.
Sun lights up the valley and makes the water sparkle.
This castle contains: A prince
A small pond sits quietly, prepared for the party to come. One by one, we see the animals preparing their gifts and making their way to see the new prince. The heron is giving a song from his heart. The snow cat is giving a crystal ball. The lizard and his friend are giving a joint gift. The crane practices bowing to give her most beautiful feather. The gerbil was able to pick the flowers that others couldn’t, because he asked politely. The marabou will perform for the prince. The beaver asks the water for help. The monkey dreams of being a princess. The marten has composed a poem. The hyena is giving his amulet. The prince, a very tiny frog, sits on a lily pad in the pond, wonders if anyone has brought him what he wants most, which is a kiss.
This is author Maranke Rinck’s first picture book and it is both surprising and beautiful. Each description of the animal and their gift (or their thoughts about their gift) is a poem, sometimes poignant, sometimes comical and often thought-provoking. Some of the animals are questioning the worth of their gift and others seem excessively confident. Many of them interact with animals or other elements of nature around them, setting the grass and the water up as ensemble players in this tableau. It is up to interpretation whether or not the tiny frog is actually a human prince under an enchantment. It almost seems a shame to think so, since the story is so firmly rooted in the animal world.
What makes this book extraordinary is Martijn van der Linden’s gorgeous artwork. The animals are pictured wearing ornamentation of many different cultures, including Maori tribal tattoos and feathered headdresses that appear American Indian. The pictures themselves are photo realistic at first glance, with a high attention to detail. The illustrations bring these animals to life and add depth to the poetic descriptions of them that are on each facing page. The level of emotion shown in the monkey’s face is astonishing and I kept coming back to look at it again and again. This is another book that may be appreciated more by adults than by children, but I imagine it could be enjoyed by anyone.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that everyone brings something wonderful and unique to the table.