January 2020 Rave Reviews by Jean E. Eustance
Cornelia Funke has written a children’s picture book, The Princess Knight. It is illustrated by Kerstin Meyer. Find it downstairs in the children’s department of the Pine Bush Area Public Library, under JP FUN for juvenile picture books.
The king has three sons, whom he is raising as he had been raised—how to ride a horse, and fight and yell very loudly at everyone. The queen gives birth to a daughter, and then the queen dies. The king raises his daughter, Violetta, the same way he has raised his sons.
Violetta is a game little girl, and goes along with it. Her brothers think this is hysterically funny. “And they would laugh and laugh at their little sister as she struggled to mount a horse in her heavy armor, as if it were the funniest thing they’d ever seen.”
She is a determined little girl, and “From that night on, Violetta slipped out of the castle in secret, while the rose gardener’s son kept watch for her. She started to practice all the things her brothers could already do so much better. Violetta practiced in her own way, without shouting and without using her spurs. Indeed, she was very quiet about it—as quiet as the night itself.” You can see her riding her horse, and then, on foot, practicing with her sword. She gets much better at it, and is able to slip past her brothers without them touching her, and she can cut the roses out of the strawman’s hands, when the boys could only cut the strawman’s head off.
In the charming illustrations, you can see the rose gardener’s son helping to keep an eye on the princess. And the princess has another ally, her nursemaid Emma, who knows how determined Princess Violetta really is.
Eventually, her 16th birthday arrives and the king wants to do something grand for it, but he gets it wrong. A big tournament is planned—this sounds good to Violetta who is wondering which suit of armor to wear—and the king wants her to just watch the tournament, and then to marry the man who wins it. Violetta explodes. She “turned as red as the roses beside the castle moat. What!” she cried,” You want me to marry some dimwit in a tin suit? Just look at your own knights! They whip their horses and they can’t even write their own names!” For having let loose with this, Violetta gets locked into a castle tower for half a day.
When the day of the tournament arrives, someone (Emma) wearing Violetta’s best dress and a veil is seated next to the king. Guess what? Violetta is wearing all-concealing black armor and is seated on her favorite horse down on the tournament grounds. She gives her name as Sir No-Name. Of course she beats the other knights, and wins the tournament. She cannot marry herself so she has gotten herself out of that little problem.
She says, “I hereby proclaim that no one will ever win Princess Violetta’s hand in marriage without first defeating Sir No-Name.” Then she …rode away, far, far away. And she didn’t return for a year and a day. And when she did? Why, her father, King Wilfred the Worthy, gave her a horse as black as her armor. And nobody, not even her brothers, challenged the princess ever again.”
“And who did she marry? Well, if you must know, many years later, she married the rose gardener’s son and lived happily ever after.”
This is a satisfying book. It tells the story in an economy of words, and the pictures are just right for the action. It’s nice to see a gutsy woman solving her own problems. Find The Princess Knight in the picture book section under Cornelia Funke’s name, in the Children’s Section of the Pine Bush Area Public Library. And in your life, wear your own armor and ride your own horse.