The Brave Princess and Me
The Brave Princess and Me
In that moment, I understood exactly what the princess
was doing. Of course, she understood every word the
guards were saying! And, of course, she could have easily
answered their questions. That was the secret she had
shared with me. Would the guards believe her act?
Would they leave her, and us, alone? I prayed they would
Go, but they were not yet ready to.
The Brave Princess and Me is inspired by the true story of Princess Alice von Battenberg who married a Greek prince and lived in Athens during World War II. Princess Alice was a great humanitarian who became known for her charity work during the war. Born with a hearing loss, Princess Alice learned to lip read and was always helping others. This virtue arose from her feeling of being different and of always being excluded or ignored. The story is told from the point of view of Tilde, a young Greek girl and a Jew. In 1941, the Nazis invaded Greece, arresting Greek Jews and sending many to concentration camps.
Tilde and her mother arrive at Princess Alice’s door one night, after having been on the run from the Nazis. Tilde’s father was prominent in the Greek government and, at one time, was friends with Princess Alice’s father who promised Tilde’s dad that, if the family ever needed help, they were to go to him immediately. Tilde and her mother were welcomed into Princess Alice’s home upon arrival, and the princess hid the mother and daughter in an apartment. The princess, knowing she could be taken prisoner, or worse, if the Nazis discovered she was hiding Jews, used her hearing disability to her advantage when the Gestapo arrived at her door after someone reported seeing something in a third floor window.
In The Brave Princess and Me, Kathy Kacer has created another brilliant historical picture book based on a true story from World War II. The story of Princess Alice and her heroics during the war are not well-known, and Kacer has spotlighted this story of bravery. The story is short, but it packs a lot of punch in illuminating lessons of heroism, courage, and bravery. As well, the author emphasizes the plight of the Jews during the war and the need for people to not be bystanders but rather to do the right thing. If one could sum up The Brave Princess and Me in one word, altruism would be it!
The illustrations by Juliana Kolesova are reflective of the story and the period in history – dark and haunting but exceptional in their presentation of the story, itself, as well as the emotions of the characters and the setting. Included at the end of the book are three pages of information expanding on the life of Princess Alice. Princess Alice’s son, Prince Philip (husband of Queen Elizabeth of England), once stated that it never occurred to his mother that she was doing something special by hiding Jews; he believed she would see it as a “natural human reaction” to helping others. Princess Alice was awarded the title Righteous Among the Nations in 1949, with the award being accepted by Prince Philip. This award, the highest honour in Israel, is granted by the government of Israel to non-Jews who, during the Holocaust, risked their own safety to help save the lives of Jews.
Kacer has created a wonderful story about a topic that needs to be explored. Picture books are often a great tool for teaching children about history. The Brave Princess and Me deserves a place in every public and school library, not just because of the story, but also because of the lessons that can be learned from reading it.
Carmelita Cechetto-Shea is the Library Consultant for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education, Sydney, Nova Scotia.