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Cover image for The real princess : a mathemagical tale
The real princess : a mathemagical tale
Publication Information:
Cambridge, MA : Barefoot Books, ©2008.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
General Note:
Illustrations prepared in acrylics with collaged papers.--P. facing title page.
In this retelling of the Andersen tale, which also introduces the numbers one to ten and basic addition and subtraction, a queen uses nine golden peas to tell whether each of the girls her three sons hope to marry is a true princess.


Call Number
Sparkle Williams

On Order



How did you sleep, my dear? Oh wonderfully, thank you, her guest replied. I did not wake until I heard the cockerel crow.

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-4-Three princes, Primo, Secundo, and Terzo, are in need of brides, but only the oldest must find a real princess-one fit to be the next queen. When two bedraggled young women arrive during storms, Secundo and Terzo become enamored of them, and marry them even though they are not quite real-they do not feel the gold peas that the queen has placed under many mattresses. Finally a real princess's sleep is disturbed by the presence of a solitary pea. The king and queen have parted with all of their gold, but that solitary pea provides them with a fresh source of income. The story, referred to as a traditional tale rather than attributed to Hans Christian Andersen, is liberally laced with numbers, all highlighted by a different font. Children can count the windows in the castle, add up the number of servants, determine how much gold is remaining, and perform other tasks suggested at the back of the book. The text flows nicely and the illustrations, done in acrylics and collaged papers, are intricately detailed and will invite children to pore over them repeatedly. A nice twist on the original with opportunities for readers to interact with the text.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

Primo, the king and queen's eldest son, must marry a real princess, so his mother employs the classic pea-under-the-mattress test. Two contenders sleep comfortably (and end up marrying Primo's younger brothers), but the third tosses and turns all night--proving she's the real deal. The promised math content is tangential to the tale. Rich-hued, round-edged acrylic and collage illustrations add whimsy. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A fleshed-out "Princess and the Pea" gives readers an opportunity to practice their counting skills. This time three princes, Primo, Secundo and Terzo, are searching for mates. Their castle employs one butler, two footmen, three maids and so on. There are also two counting houses, holding the three bags of gold that will go to the sons upon their marriages, and the queen's secret stash of nine special peas. Terzo and Secundo quickly find brides, and while they don't pass the pea-under-the-mattress test, it's OK because they are not in line for the throne. Luckily Primo's choice passes. And those peas? They do more than simply disturb the sleep of princesses--there's a second ending devoted entirely to them. Fatus's acrylics are cartoon fun with details galore, including collaged papers that add texture. She peoples her illustrations with round-headed, pointy-nosed, skinny-limbed royalty whose smiles seem permanent. While the lengthy text does not quite match the skill-level being highlighted, this is still a fun take on an old classic. (Picture book. 3-8) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

In addition to the requisite 3 sons, the king and queen have 1 butler, 2 footmen, 3 maids, 4 horses, 5 grooms, 6 dogs, 7 gardeners, 8 chimney sweeps, 9 cooks, and 10 soldiers. Not to mention the 10 golden peas that the queen slips under a stack of mattresses to test possible princesses when they come to stay the night. The two younger princes happily marry not-quite-royal maidens, but what will happen when Prince Primo brings the lovely Geometria home to the castle? Neither the mathematical elements grafted onto the story nor the feature on the last page (TEST YOUR COUNTING SKILLS! . . . How many servants live in the castle?) add much of real value to the traditional tale, The Princess and the Pea. But the playful tone of both the vivid telling and the vivacious illustrations makes this picture book such a buoyant version of the story that not even the weight of all those extras can sink it.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2008 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

WHAT makes a child come to love numbers? When I was little, my mother used to play me a recording of the song "Inchworm." "Inchworm, inchworm,/ Measuring the marigolds,/You and your arithmetic,/You'll probably go far," sang Danny Kaye to a haunting melody, while children's voices plaintively intoned the chorus: "Two and two are four. /Four and four are eight. /Eight and eight are 16. /Sixteen and 16 are 32." This song left me with a Lifelong love of numbers, especially base two; Decades later, I sometimes find myself practicing my multiplication tables during the slow movements at Mostly Mozart concerts. I can imagine Laura Vaccaro Seeger's "One Boy" having the same effect. This picture book acquaints a child with the numbers from one to 10. Each number is introduced with a simple but charming trick: a rectangular cutout in the page reveals a bit of what lies overleaf, inviting the reader to make a guess at the surprise to come with the turn of the page. "Five mice." Five mice what? Turn the page. ... "Skate on ice." It's not just about counting; it's about realizing that the word "ice" is contained in "mice." Seeger's palette is bold and rich - and those who experience numbers coloristically (in my case, four is blue, seven is green and eight is orange) know how important this can be in making friends with them. Yet the ending of "One Boy" is somewhat dark. (Spoiler alert: it involves a quantity of ants in the boy's pants.) For the slightly older child, "The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale" ought to prove a beguiling mix of number lore and fairy tale. The plot elements will be familiar: three princes looking for brides, a king with three bags of gold and a queen with nine magic peas. But running through Brenda Williams's story is a riot of numerical coincidences, some turning on the curious fact that if you take various multiples of nine (18, 27, 36, 45 etc.) and add up the digits (1+8, 2+7, 3+6, 4+5), you always get nine back again. This is the kind of hidden pattern that children delight in discovering. Arid if some of the artsier parents fail to get it, they'll at least smile at Sophie Fatus's illustrations, which have a little of Marc Chagall in them, and a little of Joan Miró. We're all born with a genetically wired "number sense," so brain scientists tell us. Even a baby can immediately distinguish two rubber duckies from three (an ability called "subitizing"). But what if it's a matter of thousands of rubber duckies floating toward you? To take a less ludicrous case, how can one make a reasonable guess about the number of protesters at a political rally, or of seeds on a dandelion? Don't count, says Bruce Goldstone - estimate! And in "Greater Estimations" (a sequel to his "Great Estimations," which makes the author guilty of serial Dickens abuse) he reveals all the tricks for doing this swiftly and accurately: eye training, clump counting and so on. Is that cool? I don't know. But it's empowering - dare I say fun? - to have an instinctive grasp of really big numbers. And, when you grow up, you can get a job with the N.Y.P.D. estimating the size of the crowd when Simon and Garfunkel sing in Central Park. This fall, yet another study made headlines bemoaning our failure to develop the math skills of American children, especially girls. "We're living in a culture ... that's telling everybody that only Asians and nerds do math," the study's lead author said. Only Asians and nerds? That is so not true! In France, unlike the United States, mathematics has immense cultural prestige and is regarded as the key to meritocratic success. We must get the message out. Children can't resist that French chic. Jim Holt is the author of "Stop Me if You've Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes."