“Not far from where you’re sitting right now, there exists a country called Kalia… The shore shimmers gold, the land opens like an emerald quilt, and the Kalian mountains rise up as giants to greet the sky.”
The wondrous land of Kalia and its twelve princesses come from the imagination of Jessie Burton, who wrote The Miniaturist and The Muse for adults. The Restless Girls (Bloomsbury Children’s Books) is a re-imagined fairy tale inspired by The Twelve Dancing Princesses about girls who circumvent their powerless state. It is told in sumptuous picture book form and is a perfect Christmas gift.
Award-winning artist Angela Barrett has illustrated another fairy tale, The Most Wonderful Thing in the World (written by Vivian French) as well as The Night Before Christmas (written by Clement C. Moore), Rockinghorse Land, The Orchard Book of Stories from the Ballet (written by Geraldine McCaughrean) and the awarded Can It Be True? (written by Susan Hill), a retelling of the Nativity story. She enhances Jessie Burton’s story of The Restless Girls with her whimsical, enigmatic illustrations.
The twelve princesses are introduced in The Restless Girls in order of birth: Frida is clever, ambitious and wants to fly a plane; Polina could read the stars; Lorna is kind and wise; Ariosta paints; Chessa sings; Bellina speaks five languages; Vita is happy and has a quick wit; Mariella is gifted with numbers; Delilah has green fingers; Flora is always reading; Emelia wants to be a vet and Agnes wants to be a writer.
When their mother, Queen Laurelia, dies in her racing car, King Alberto (who didn’t grow up with any females and so doesn’t understand them) curtails their artistic and other pursuits because he wants his daughters to stop thinking and prepare to be housewives. They wilt when he locks them in a small room with no distractions apart from their imaginations, their stories and a portrait of their mother. One day this picture is tilted and the princesses discover a door with a staircase behind it.
Music and light lead them across an underground lagoon and forests of silver, gold and diamonds. They discover something even more amazing and beautiful inside a tree when a sheet of vines and diamonds falls to the ground.
The princesses meet a range of animals including a fox, a peacock with a leather book and a lioness. The girls are “brave, resourceful, clever and kind” but their worn-out shoes enrage the king.
The classic style and beautiful fairy tale form makes The Restless Girls a timeless, empowering, gift.
(It is also available in a deluxe, slipcase edition.)