Princess Miserella was a beautiful princess if you counted her eyes and nose and mouth and all the way down to her toes. But inside, where it was hard to see, she was the meanesst, wickedest, and most worthless princess around. She liked stepping on dogs. She kicked kittens. She threw pies in the cook’s face. And she never — not even once — said thank you or please. And besides, she told lies.
In that very same kingdom, in the middle of the woods, lived a poor orphan named Plain Jane. She certainly was. Her hair was short and turned down. Her nose was long and turned up. And even if they had been the other way ’round, the would not have been a great beauty. But she loved animals, and she was always kind to strange old ladies.
In this re-telling of the classic story of “Sleeping Beauty,” a beautiful but mean princess, a disguised fairy and a plan but kind commoner are all put under a sleeping spell. A prince (by title only – he has no money or land or power) finds them by accident after 100 years, and kisses the fairy and Plain Jane as practice for the princess. Just before awakening the princess, he remembers that the princesses he knows who look as beautiful as her were ugly on the inside. So he realizes (quite suddenly and inexplicably, but that’s part of the deal in children’s books) that he loves Jane. They live happily ever after because they are plain and devoid of wealth, not in spite of it. “Sleeping Ugly” was written by Diane Stanley and published in 1981.
It pretty much goes without saying that I adore this book, right? I mean, the tagline for this blog is “a rich heart may be under a poor coat.” I was absolutely thrilled when I found it at the thrift store; finding any book that doesn’t end with the beautiful princess getting everything she wants after learning absolutely nothing is really fantastic. Also, it’s one of the only good children’s books I’ve ever read that passes the Bechdel test.
The prose of the book is also just really sweet. I love reading it aloud.
You can find this book on amazon; it looks like in the newer printings the illustrations have been updated and fanci-fied, but I really recommend trying to get an old copy. Mine is from the original printing, I’m pretty sure, and the illustrations are so great.
Do you have any recommendations for books to highlight in Pretty Pages? Would you like to write a post as a guest? Let me know in the comments!