Prince of the Birds
Author: Amanda Hall
Pages: 32
Publisher/Date: Frances Lincoln/2005
ISBN: 1845071026
Age Levels: 5-8

Book Review

In this adaptation of Washington Irving’s Moorish fantasy, a young prince named Ahmed is born in the city of Granada in southern Spain. The royal astrologers declare that the boy will be unlucky in the "mysteries of the heart." Ahmed’s concerned father locks the boy in a high tower to keep him "safe from the perils of love."

There, Ahmed’s only companions are birds. He listens "to their chatter" and learns their language. Through them, he hears of a fair princess, living in a high tower far away. A dove tells the prince that this girl is his "twin soul." After an exchange of letters, Ahmed escapes the tower and eventually makes his way to the princess.

When Ahmed arrives, a tournament is being held to choose a husband for the princess. Ahmed, with the help of an enchanted horse and magical armor, beats his rivals. The king is "angered by this stranger" and rides "to deal with him." When Ahmed unseats the king, he escapes by galloping back to the mountains. The princess is heartbroken and vows not to eat nor drink. "The king proclaimed that whoever cured her would receive a rich reward."

Prince Ahmed comes to the princess’s chamber and begins "to sing words from his lover's letter." The princess is cheered and asks for a bowl of peaches. The king tells Ahmed that he may choose his reward. Ahmed asks for an ancient chest. Opening the chest, he pulls out a magical carpet with which he and the princess fly away. The couple land in Granada where they are crowned King and Queen.

Prince of the Birds is gracefully told. The stylized illustrations—awash with golds, greens, and purples—are filled with details that evoke the time and place perfectly.

Classroom Experience: We took this book into a third-grade classroom that was in the middle of a unit on fairy tales and fantasy. The teacher read the story aloud to the students. Students then drew a story web which included the characters, situation, setting, and problem.

We also used the book with a small group of high school students who were learning the skill of synthesizing. The students read the original fantasy written by Washington Irving. They then read Prince of the Birds. The students spent two class periods discussing the adaptation by Amanda Hall, analyzing what she included from Irving's original tale, and how. The students then chose an original fairy tale or fantasy and adapted it to picture-book form. Each student presented his or her tale. The lesson was extremely successful. Several of the students chose to share their books with a class of first graders.

Highly recommended. Suitable for district-wide purchase.

Reviewed by the teachers at Education Oasis
©2005 Education Oasis

About the Author

Amanda Hall studied illustration at Cambridge School of Art and started her career as a children's illustrator in the late 1970s.