March 14, 2012
The Queen of France
By Tim Wadham
No Author Site
Illus. by Kady MacDonald Denton http://www.kadymacdonalddenton.ca
3-4 Preschool Primary Candlewick 32 pp.
978-0763641023 Hardcover $16.99
One morning Rose wakes up feeling royal, so she opens the make-believe basket and becomes the Queen of France. What follows is a series of interactions between Rose / The Queen of France and Rose's mother and father, neither of whom question their daughter's self-proclaimed "royal" identity while still asserting their love for her.
Wadham's story is patterned without being trite, (Rose changes into the Queen of France twice, not the traditional set of three, while her transformations are bisected by Rose deciding, on her own, to tidy up her room), and purposeful without being ham-fisted (Rose wears her new identity as long as it pleases her, and stops when she wants to stop). Unlike many picture books, The Queen of France, contains no central conflict and the lesson, if it can be called that, is the reinforcement of the pre-existing closeness between Rose and her parents. In fact, what makes The Queen of France so good is its straightforward lack of drama. Rose never doubts that her mother and father love her. That fact is made reassuringly clear throughout. She is a remarkably self-possessed protagonist, playing make-believe with fantastic flair (she goes in search of the Royal Physician when, as the Queen of France, she scratches her finger) while staying remarkably grounded (when the Royal Physician proves elusive, she takes off her Queen clothes and put two band-aids on herself). When Rose's Mother tells the Queen that she would miss Rose if they were to change places, it comes not as a revelation to Rose, but as a reassuring given that nevertheless has Rose abandoning her royal identity in order to have dinner with her parents.
Kady MacDonald Denton, best known for illustrating Bonny Becker's Bear and Mouse stories, supports Wadham's warm, straightforward text, with warm straightforward illustrations. The watercolor images reflect the same blend of fancy and practicality that Rose herself has. The Queen of France is a charming read, with text and pictures working in subtle conjunction. Best of all, it has enough depth to be read in a number of ways, and enough respect for its young reader to let her choose.