In the words of the author, A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring “is a story that tells how important family is, and how different we all are. To be royal not by blood, but in our hearts, is a beauty that can go beyond what we can see in each other and ourselves. How one so true can break any spell and overcome any obstacle in one’s life.”
One of my goals when I review books is to simply connect readers with books. That means matching the right books with the right readers. The last book I reviewed, I May Fly was a book geared for very young readers. A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring is almost exactly the opposite. It is geared for an middle to older elementary age, say 2nd-4th grade. Whereas I May Fly was a very short book both in title and in word count, A Prince, a Giant Peacock and the Gold Ring is a much longer book both in title and in word count. I didn’t take the time to count them, but I estimate it to be roughly 2,000-2,500 words. It is told as a classic fairy tale with the plot occurring over several years and involving quests, enchantments, sorceresses, true love, and magical creatures. There are many motifs of the classic fairy tale incorporated into both the plot and the illustrations, done by Valeria Leonova.
With a book as long as this one, it can be difficult to keep the overall tone of the wording and dialogue consistent. However, I would say that Bowhall definitely keeps a consistent voice throughout the entire book. I also truly enjoyed that overall the book is stylistically consistent. Leonova did an excellent job with the fairy tale motif. The pages are all ornately decorated with hand drawn roses as borders and the pages themselves are made to look as if they are aged and yellowed/browned paper. The illustrations are vibrant and full with a “Legend of Zelda” feel. Even the font of the writing is consistent with the fairy tale motif.
The plot itself is compelling if it is a little slow developing. There are several plot twists toward the end of the story that, although are probably a predictable for adults reading it, are fun and exciting for children. I found as I read it to my children that they stayed relatively engaged in the story. The younger two probably more so for the illustrations but the older one with the story itself.
Discussion and Teaching Points
One great discussion point that I saw is with the topic/theme of love. I think that this topic is very important for children, especially in the later elementary years as they are about to get those hormones and start pursuing relationships. I really liked that in this fairy tale, it wasn’t love at first sight, or the damsel in distress running off with her rescuer that she just met. (As a matter of fact, Alexandra rescues the prince the first time they meet). Prince Thomas and Alexandra develop their friendship and relationship over a long time before they realize that they are in love. I also really like that her family is involved in their friendship from the very beginning. I think that discussing how important it is to build true friendships and not just jump into romantic relationships is important for older children about to proceed into adolescence. Call me crazy if you want.
Another important discussion is about the values that both of them see in each other and what the King valued in the Queen. In neither relationship is physical beauty seen as the most important factor. Throughout the story, character qualities such as kindness, honesty, and goodness are portrayed as much more important than appearance.
As far as teaching goes, obviously this book fits into any unit on fairy tales. A great lesson idea would be comparing this modern fairy tale with one writing a long time ago. What themes are consistent? What are different? Use Venn diagrams, etc.
Elizabeth was kind enough with her time to do an author interview with me. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole book review process as I get to hear from different authors. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
ES – So, let’s start with your book. Say you’re in a conversation with someone and you mention that you’re a published children’s book author and she replies, “Oh wow! What is your book about?” How would you answer her?
EB – I try to tell them as much as I can without giving the story away. It’s about a young prince whose father, the king, sets out on a quest. While his father is away, the prince meets a giant peacock who talks and wears this gold ring. As years goes by, he becomes good friends with the giant peacock but his father, the king, does not return. I tell them this is a fairy tale with a little mystery.
ES – Is” A Prince, A Giant Peacock, and Gold Ring your first children’s book?
EB – Yes, but I have another in the works.
ES – I find that every author has a different story behind the inspiration for his or her story. What is the inspiration behind yours? When and how did you think of it?
EB – My inspiration came from when I was telling stories while trying to put a few kids to sleep for nap time at the daycare where I work. I asked the two kids to help me start the story. Once upon a time there was a prince, and he lived in a…. jokingly, I said, “cave” and the two laughed and said, “a castle.” I remember their faces. It was funny. Then as I added on I said, “One day the prince meet a fish?” as another joke and the one child laughed and said, “no a bird.” So I asked her what type of a bird and she said, “a Big Peacock.” And well, the rest just came to me. When they fell asleep, I knew I had something. So I took notes, made a few changes, and when I got home, I wrote the story down. The two kids became characters in my story.
ES – Your illustrator, Valeria Leonova, is Ukrainian. How did you find her? What has it been like working with someone halfway across the world? Where there any specific challenges associated with that? If so, how did you overcome them?
EB – I found Valeria on Facebook. It’s been great working with Valeria, a lot like having a pen pal. We have become great friends. With the help of Facebook and video chat we were able to work through any challenges.
ES – Your book reads as a classic fairy tale with magic, sorceresses, enchanted rings, etc. Many times, there is a lot of symbolism with fairy tales. Is there any symbolism in your book? What is it?
EB – Roses. The young girl Alexandra loves roses as did the queen. Alexandra is a big key to the story.
ES – What is life like as an author? Have you done any book readings, book fairs, etc.?
EB – It’s exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. You get this feeling of “Wow I did it”, and at the same time “Is it good enough? Will people like it?”
I had my book launch at Old Chatham Child Care, where I have worked for 7 years now. I have a few more book signings coming up later this summer.
ES – Do you have anything else in the works? What’s coming next from the mind of Elizabeth Bowhall?
EB – Yes, I am working on another children’s story, a short chapter book, and a novel that I have been working on for a few years now. At first I had a case of writer’s block but writing my first children’s book has helped me unblock.
Again, thanks so much to Elizabeth for taking the time to do this. She actually sent me a book in person and autographed it for my kids. It was so kind of her. If this book seems to be your cup of tea you can purchase it off of Amazon HERE
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