Every year when I see kids trick-or-treating through the neighborhood or the mall, I can count on spotting a few Disney princesses. Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast’s Belle are probably the most popular, but Snow White and Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora always make a good showing as well. These four princesses, along with The Little Mermaid’s Ariel, who requires a more complicated costume and thus is a bit less common, are the stars of Sweet and Spooky Halloween, a Disney picture book written by Melissa Lagonegro and illustrated by Elisa Marrucchi.
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This is a book that doesn’t really tell a story. Instead, it hops around among the above five princesses, showing how each of them celebrates the holiday. Because of the fairy tale setting of these tales, I tend not to think of these characters celebrating Halloween, though many aspects of the holiday date back several centuries. Of course, the princesses here do things that modern children can relate to, but it is presented in such a way that it feels like it works with the setting.
Cinderella, who evidently still keeps her foot in the door at the cottage where she grew up, picks pumpkins from the garden and carves them into jack-o-lanterns. Later, in more elegant garb, she hands out goodies to the children of the kingdom. Snow White watches as the dwarfs bob for apples, and the fairies create dazzling Halloween costumes for Aurora with some help from their magic wands. Ariel and her best friend Flounder masquerade in homemade masks, and Belle reads the Beast spooky stories.
With five different scenarios to juggle, the book never lingers in one place for more than four pages. Sometimes we only get a page-long glimpse of one Halloween activity before moving on to another. It struck me as a bit odd that we get two pages of Snow White, then one of Ariel, which is immediately followed by Snow White again. The distribution of princesses is also uneven, particularly in the case of Cinderella, who is the focus on nine pages, and Aurora, who is limited to just one two-page spread.
It’s also a little strange to see Belle with the Beast here, since that means she is technically not a princess yet. Ariel is still a mermaid, but since she was an undersea princess before marrying a human prince, that doesn’t matter. The other three princesses clearly are returning to their earlier haunts after marriage, though Cinderella’s prince is the only one of the three to actually appear.
Because of the way the book’s text is written, transitioning naturally from one type of activity to the next, it makes sense to shuffle the princesses around. It also provides the illusion that there’s more to each princess tale than there actually is. If the book just had all of the pages for each princess together, making five “chapters,” I don’t think it would hang together very well. It would feel lacking. Additionally, with the “stories” spread out, it feels more natural for kids to fill in the blanks between events.
Sweet and Spooky Halloween is really just an excuse to put Halloweenish imagery into a Disney princess context. It’s short on actual story, but the vibrant illustrations, from the actual pumpkin carriage Cinderella and the prince ride in to bat-shaped cookies Belle makes for the Beast, are plausible and fun to peruse. Given all those little girls in princess dresses that I see every year, I would say that this book has a ready audience.
This review is a part of the All Things Disney Write-Off, the Celebrate October Write-Off and my 'Tis the Season Write-Off.
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