Book of the Week: Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated)

April 22, 2013

PrincessHyacinth by Florence Parry Heide

Images and text by Carter.

This gem by Florence Parry Heide and Lane Smith introduces us to Princess Hyacinth. She isn’t your ordinary little girl. And it isn’t just because she’s a princess. Her problem? Floating. Without golden weights sewn in the hems of her gowns, Princess Hyacinth would bob, drift, and hover — stopped only by her Royal Ceiling. The kingdom’s heaviest jewels sit right in her crown, and she fastens a rhinestone strap under her chin to keep everything in place.

Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated) is tender and sweet, but thankfully not your average princess story. Turns out the extraordinary part of being a princess isn’t actually that desirable. All she wants is to run around outside and not slowly drag her socks-filled-with-pebbles-feet behind her. She gets her wish when a hapless balloon man gets distracted by a barking dog, and Princess Hyacinth floats a little bit higher than up, up, up! Oops. Good thing a kite-wielding Boy reels her in and rescues her. And good thing this hero wants popcorn and tea more than riches and rewards.

Princess Hyacinth by Florence Parry Heide

The typography on the pages does some really playful things, too — I love when the words are part of the story! Sometimes they run along the very tippy top of the page, floating just like Princess Hyacinth. It’s subtle, but clever, and so very satisfying. This is a perfect pick for zesty girls and boys who don’t have time for boredom.

P.S. – Do you remember Gabrielle’s interview with Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith? They are my favorite duo! Lane also won a Caldecott Honor in 2012 for a gorgeous garden-inspired book called Grandpa Green, and some of those same topiary creatures are featured on the Palace Grounds in Princess Hyacinth. Don’t you love tiny easter eggs like that?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen T April 22, 2013 at 7:39 am

What a beautiful book! I try to find princess stories that go beyond what Disney offers my girls, and this fits perfectly. Thank you!

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2 Anna April 22, 2013 at 10:12 am

Hmmm. . . the central concept is blatantly lifted from George Macdonald’s “The Light Princess.” Or maybe the authors present it as a modern re-imagining of his story?

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3 Carter Higgins April 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Interesting! I looked it up cause I hadn’t heard of it…a Scottish fairy tale! I bet you’re right, that its a retelling of a public domain work. Thanks for the intro to George Macdonald!

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4 Aya May 9, 2013 at 3:33 am

I have not read Princess Hyacinth but I too found it peculiar, that it sounds so similar to Macdonald’s story. It is an original story written by Macdonald, so to me it feels like someone would re-tell Alice in Wonderland. For sure the new book must be well-written and perhaps deserves the praise of its own, however also I wish more commonly people would know and acknowledge Macdonald’s beautiful gem too. :)

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5 Carmen Pauls Orthner May 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I too was surprised that this book sounds so much like “The Light Princess”, which I have in my own library from when I was a child. The edition I have was illustrated by Maurice Sendak, better known for “Where the Wild Things Are”. Macdonald isn’t as well-known today, but C.S. Lewis (who is, thanks to “Narnia”) once said, “I regard George Macdonald as my master.” I liked “The Light Princess”, but was more of a fan of his story about another princess, called “The Princess and the Goblin”. There is also a sequel to it, called “The Princess and Curdie”. I didn’t care for the ending on that one, but did like the young miner Curdie, perhaps in part because my brother Curtis’ nickname was “Curtie”.

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6 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag April 23, 2013 at 11:20 am

Oh so glad you featured this one! This is a great favorite in our home. I think we had it renewed for months straight when my daughter and I first discovered it at the library when she was a preschooler. LOVE this book! Fabulous art.

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7 Tara April 25, 2013 at 2:52 am

I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for wonderful info I was looking for this information for my mission.

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