Reviewed by Stephanie Dror
Marie-Louise Gay, author of the picturebook series Stella and Sam, introduces Pistachio Shoelace, a red-head with a flair for drama. Pistachio is chalk-full of wit and wilfulness in a book that is both hilariously in the mind of the child but also imparts important, down-to-earth coming of age lessons that will charm readers of all ages.
In this first book of Gay's new picture book series, Pistachio firmly believes that 23 Maple Street is not her real home and that Mr. and Mrs. Shoelace and that bratty little Penny, her baby sister, are not – could not –be her real family, because Pistachio is a princess. She is a princess waiting for her true parents, the king and queen of Papua, to send for her. When Pistachio receives a golden crown with an unsigned birthday card in the mail, she knows that her belief in her heritage must be true. She declares herself royalty and demands the royal treatment. However, no one else wants to oblige Pistachio, whose life remains grounded in the daily grind of eating her vegetables, minding her baby sister and going to school. Two-time Governor General award-winner Marie-Louise Gay brings us the tale of a feisty girl who discovers what it takes to be a real princess in the real world.
In Princess Pistachio, Gay presents her readers with an inimitable character. Pistachio's voice is rich with language and mischievous flair. Delightful plays on words and a challenging vocabulary enrich Princess Pistachio and raise the bar for early readers. Kids and parents alike will grin when Pistachio acts like "a preening peacock" and then "bows her head and curtsies gracefully before the dog.” Children will be on Pistachio's side when no one takes her seriously, as Gay reveals with charming illustration that the yawning puppy is not even impressed. Pistachio's devastation will be felt when it becomes clear that she really isn't a princess and is in fact right where she belongs. The magic of the book takes hold when Pistachio draws on her own, very real and un-princess-like, resources and solves a problem that she truly lays claim to the royal title, Princess Pistachio, once and for all. Vindicated, she claims the royal title but firmly roots herself in reality and grows up, just a little.
Princess Pistachio is an early reader that will be enjoyed by budding readers who fancy themselves princes or princesses – especially those who took a liking to Stella, Sam, Caramba, and other characters that have come out of Gay’s imagination. With a second book, Princess Pistachio and the Pest, in the works, this Pistachio series is destined to join the ranks of Ramona and Junie B Jones, as a highly enjoyable series suitable for the youngest, and oldest, of Canadian readers.