Princess Li | La Princesa Li by Luis Amavisca, illustrated by Elena Rendeiro, translated by Robin Sinclair
Here’s a “Once upon a time”-sort of tale most of us old folks didn’t grow up with! Brave new world indeed!
Meet Princess Li who lives somewhere “far away in the East” in a gorgeous palace with her King-ly father. Being admired for her great beauty meant “many men wanted to marry her!” But Li has a mind – and heart – of her own … which she chooses to share with “her beloved Beatrice who was from a distant land.” Li knows how to invoke her princess privileges: “Both were very different, but they loved each other more than anything. They played in the rooms of the palace and kissed in the gardens.”
Already in love, Li is understandably unwilling to comply with Daddy’s demands about getting married – and marry a local man at that! Daddy, in turn, “turned red with anger.” He orders the court magician to separate the lovers, and decrees Li will choose her prince at an upcoming celebration dinner.
Of course, the magician has a less-than-forthright agenda of his own, and not surprisingly, beloved Beatrice turns out to be the saving hero who foils the evil plot, thus winning the approval of the angry in-law after all. Daddy finally learns: “Isn’t love more important than anything?”
With the necessary, growing dialogue fueled by We Need Diverse Books focused on the domestic publishing industry, what a relief to know that diversity has international supporters and creators, as well. Princess Li arrives in a bilingual Spanish/English edition from NubeOcho Ediciones – a new-ish publishing house based in Madrid “specializing in children’s picture books that promote values, equality and diversity,” according to their catalog. “All our books are tested by psychologists, teachers and specialists,” and have won various international awards, as well.
Author Luis Amavisca also happens to be NubeOcho’s co-publisher. His succinct, straight-forward writing style is complemented by artist Elena Rendeiro who makes her picture book debut. Her watercolor palette skews towards pinks, reds, lilacs, and violets; her fluid, atmospheric style embodies graceful motion. Multiple wordless double-spreads add enhancing details to the story – including landscapes, interiors, backgrounds, all better shown than told. The only visual misstep might be the hanging palace banners with nonsense calligraphy meant to resemble Chinese characters, but the annoyance passes quickly enough in the midst of such spectacle.
Originally published in 2012 in Spain, Princess Li apparently “earned massive coverage in Europe,” according to NubeOcho’s catalog description, “including a one-age article in El País (a leading Spanish newspaper), and Le Courier International.” As it hits Stateside shelves this month – such serendipitous timing! – its reception will surely be an interesting journey to watch.
Published: 2012 (Spain), 2016 (United States)