The Princess and Her Panther

3 07 2010

The Princess and Her Panther by Wendy Orr, Illustrated by Lauren Stringer, published by Allen & Unwin

"The Princess and her Panther cover"I read my way through a lot of picture books, and it has been a while since I’ve read one that was up there with the old favourites of our household.

I was excited when The Princess and Her Panther arrived in the mail because I’d heard snippets about it via Wendy Orr on twitter (@wendyorr) and I was looking forward to reading it. I read it through by myself that night and loved it. It’s about two sisters—the big one (the princess) who is brave, and the little one (the panther), who tries to be brave. They have fantastic imaginations and get a bit spooked by the night-time noises when they camp out in their backyard. The story is convincing—I could have been reading about my own two girls—and the language is gorgeous, and perfect for reading aloud.

A favourite part:

Then they heard

a soft, slow shivering, a hiss-siss slippering

of leaf-snakes slithering across their tent in the night.

The princess was brave, and the panther tried to be.

And I absolutely love Lauren Stringer’s luminous illustrations, which blend the imaginary and real world beautifully.

But the real joy came when I read it to my 4 year old the following evening as part of her bedtime story line up. She loved the cover and wanted to know what a panther was. When I explained it to her, she instantly understood that the little sister on the cover was the panther in the story and she was tickled about it because she loves pretend play herself (our dress-ups get a good workout). Clearly, she identified with the little sister, and she laughed and loved the title page (showing the princess drawing whiskers on the panther’s cheeks) and the first page with the panther creeping about on the grass with a rope tail.

She was absorbed in the story as it unfolded—I could tell because by the time ‘there was nothing but night’, she had started to mimic the expressions of the panther in the story. So when we got to the favourite part I mentioned above, she clutched at me and took a sharp breath and squeaked. She found the next few pages quite scary but she didn’t ask me to stop, and when the sisters leap out of the tent and discover what was really going on outside their tent, she laughed and was obviously relieved. She studied the last page for a long time where the sisters are asleep in the tent. And she talked about the endpapers at the back of the book (when the sun is up and we can’t see the girls). And as soon as I shut the book, she said ‘Read it again!’

Tonight I read it at bedtime and my 6 year old was also with us. He really enjoyed it too, and he ‘got’ that the leaf-snakes were the leaves scratching the tent and chuckled to himself. But the best bit about tonight’s reading was that the 4 year old jumped in every time, unprompted, with the refrain ‘The princess was brave, and the panther tried to be.’

My son asked why the family cat was outside overnight (in WA that’s not encouraged because cats tend to hunt down wildlife at night). The cat pops up in the background on many of the pages, including the endpapers, and my 4 year old is rather fond of him. (Maybe it’s really a her, but she decided it was a him.)

This is the best new picture book I’ve read this year. And my resident panther agrees.

(Oh, and check out Wendy Orr’s site—there’s an activity guide, plus she shares some of  the book’s journey to publication.)

I received a review copy of The Princess and Her Panther from the publisher.

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10 responses

4 07 2010
Katrina Germein

I agree completely Rebecca. It is an absolutely gorgeous, gorgeous picture book. I just love it.

4 07 2010
boobook

Glad you love it too, Katrina! I noticed on Wendy’s site she has a copy of the version published in North America alongside the Australian version. I’d love to know if there are any differences between them (except for the curved writing on the cover of the Aussie one.)

4 07 2010
Sheryl Gwyther

Fabulous review of ‘The Princess and Her Panther’, Rebecca. I love that you’ve brought in the personal touch with it being read and absorbed by real children too. Well done, Wendy! I want to read it myself now.

4 07 2010
boobook

Thanks, Sheryl. It’s awfully handy having a ready-made audience at home. 🙂 Definitely read it!

4 07 2010
Karen Collum

Right. I didn’t need convincing (just time to get to a bookstore!) but now I’m even more convinced I need to add this one to my collection.

4 07 2010
boobook

I think you would love it, Karen. (I find it dangerous going into bookstores now, I always come out with more books than I plan to buy!)

5 07 2010
Lexie Mitchell

Thank you for that Rebecca. I will try to get hold of the book, and will look forward to reading it. I would love to write a good picture myself someday. I keep trying, but have not made it yet.

6 07 2010
Rachel

Hi! I found your blog via the Australian Book Bloggers Directory! I love meeting fellow book bloggers, even more so, Australian book bloggers! Nice to meet you! 🙂

Rachel
And the plot thickens…

6 07 2010
boobook

Hi Rachel—always nice to meet other Aussies blogging about books. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

4 12 2010
boobook

Have just found out there is a youtube video of Wendy Orr reading the first part of the book. Here’s the link: http://t.co/x1pf0r3.

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