The Twelve Dancing Princesses was not a fairy tale that figured heavily into my childhood. Mostly I remember either the fairy tales found in our red-covered copy of Andersen’s Fairy Tales or the Disneyfied or otherwise pop-culturified tales found in videos and Golden books.
My first real exposure to the story occurred this last February, when I read Jessica Day George’s Princess of the Midnight Ball. I loved the story. I loved how George told the story. I still haven’t read Grimm’s version–so I have no idea how it compares.
I haven’t been actively seeking out Twelve Dancing Princesses stories–but I managed to stumble across one this last week in my run through the picture book section of my local library.
And, boy, is this one a STORY!
Debbie Allen’s Brothers of the Knight is an imaginative retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses–except that instead of twelve princesses, there are twelve brothers–the sons of the Reverend Knight.
Reverend Knight is a hard-working black preacher in Harlem, taking care of his congregation and his twelve sons–Brooke, Bobby, Joe, Snacky, Gerald and Jackie, Teeny Tiny Tappin’ Theo, Lazy Leo, Big fat Raoul, Billie and Willie, and Michael (head of the clan, a ladies’ man). He tried to keep the twelve under check but without a wife (there’s no indication of what happened to her–I presume she must have died) he’s somewhat at a loss. He’s gone through dozens of nannies and housekeepers, but none of them can solve the problem that plagues the house–every morning, the twelve young Knight’s shoes would be threadbare and worn.
One Sunday after church, Reverend Knight goes into his office and prays for help with his sons–and when he gets home, a woman name Sunday is waiting on the steps. She wants the job of housekeeper. She’s come to help with the boys.
But can Sunday succeed in solving the mystery when all the other housekeepers and nannies have failed?
Turns out there are a lot of secrets in the Knight house–and Sunday’s determined to uncover them all. Who knows but she’ll have the Reverend Knight dancing before the tale is told!
I adored this rendition. It’s quirky, it’s fun, and it’s all about dancing (Sorry, I should have warned you that there’d be spoilers.) The story itself is fun enough–but add in that it’s narrated by the family dog and you’ve got utter hilarity.
Check this one out next time you’re at your library–and if they don’t have it, get them to order it. It’s a BLAST!!