Princess and the Peas
written and illustrated by Rachel Himes
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
"Ladies," said Ma Sally, "if you want a chance at John, you're going to need to cook."
John wants to get married. He thinks it's time he set out on his own. John doesn't lack for admirers as he is known as being most "thoughtful and kind." His mother, Ma Sally, has some concerns. The biggest is that there isn't a local young lady who can cook as well as she does. Even though she agrees that John should start his own family, she can't stand the idea that he would be subjected to "ill-cooked meals." So Ma Sally has a plan. Any lady that is interested in marrying John needs to come to her house on Sunday evening. Word spreads throughout town. Three ladies arrive on Ma Sally's veranda that Sunday evening. They were talking about how they would be the one to capture John's heart when Ma Sally invites them in and issues a challenge. If they want to be wooed by John, they must cook a dish of black-eyed peas. The cook with the best dish will marry John. All three enter this unusual cooking contest, but all fall short. Their peas are mushy, salty, and bland. As the three ladies sulk, a surprise fourth entrant knocks on the door. It's Princess, who is "fresh out of college" and new in town. Ma Sally invites her to cook a batch of peas. With an audience, Princess shows how it's done by displaying superior knife skills. When Ma Sally takes a bite, a clear winner emerges. So Princess and John get married, right? Not so fast, my friend. Princess has "her own plans." She asks John out on a date and then wonders what skills John has. In particular, she wants to know if he can scrub pots and pans. After he finishes cleaning, Princess gives her stamp of approval.
In her author's note, Rachel Himes states, "I wanted to represent an African-American community full of vibrant individuals, each of whom has something unique to bring to the table." This is a wonderful story of family and of an admirable heroine. Princess is kind, smart, and clever. Her confidence is cool. You could read this book during your interactive read-aloud time and point out these character traits. There's even a recipe for black-eyed peas in the back matter. With her first children's book, Rachel Himes has cooked up a delicious winner.