What to Read After… Look Up! 20/09/21
The Restless Girls
After their mother, the dashing, adventurous Queen Laurelia dies, her 12 daughters are imprisoned in their bedroom by King Alberto.
Alberto rules a kingdom where girls and women are not valued. After his wife’s death and, now that Laurelia isn’t around to manage their education, Alberto simply doesn’t know what to do with his daughters.
The 12 princesses, all with distinct personalities and gifts (unlike in the original fairy tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, of which this story is a retelling) discover a spiral stairway in the wall, down to a strange forest where the princesses find the tree palace, and within, a magical party.
Every night, the princesses return to the palace, where they dance to jazz and eat glistening pyramids of doughnuts, pavlovas and roast chickens. Yet, every day, when they return home, they have danced so much that their shoes are worn through. The King is determined to find out what the princesses are doing, but what will happen when he does?
Burton’s first book for children is a wonderful, magic-realist feminist fantasy, perfectly balanced with the soft magic of Angela Barrett’s illustration. It’s particularly delightful to see 12 black princesses depicted, representing girls that are dynamic, well differentiated and invested in the action of the story.