Discuss the function and communication of the verbal and visual narrative in "Princess Smartypants" and "Stinky Cheeseman" as well as their interrelation.

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allie-draper | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The narratives of "Princess Smartypants" and "Stinky Cheese Man" both verbally and visually play with our expectations.

The illustrations in "Princess Smartypants" wreak havoc with our traditional visual understanding of both a princess and a castle. Although she's pretty, blonde, and wearing a crown, that's where Smartypants's similarities to the medieval princess of our imagination end. She's wearing modern clothes and is almost always disheveled. The creatures that follow her around are more sinister than charming. And the scenery is full of anachronisms! Motorcycles and sports cars pull up outside a medieval-looking castle with horses and knights in armor.

The verbal narrative, too, sets us up to expect a traditional ending—but pulls the rug out from underneath us at the last minute. The idea of a princess who doesn't want to get married isn't new, and nor is the idea of a clever princess who plans to use a test to get rid of her unwanted suitors (that one goes all the way back to the Ancient Greeks). What is new, however, is that when the perfect suitor shows up and is not only successful but charming, clever, and compassionate, the princess manages to turn him away too! Instead of falling for the man who finally seems to be her equal, she remains convinced that she'll be happier single. She sends him packing by kissing him and turning him into a frog (another reversal of our expectations), and lives happily ever after just as she always was.

"The Stinky Cheese Man" also defies our visual expectations. The characters are all illustrated compellingly so as to look not only unusual but a little sinister as well. Many have too many (sharp) teeth and odd unhealthy (green) skin tones. The verbal narrative also plays with our expectations—the hen appears on the first page but is rebuffed by the narrator, who says they need to have a title page first and that this isn't the proper place to start the story. Jack interrupts Chicken Licken to say that they've forgotten the table of contents. Thus the form of the book constantly enters into the narrative itself. Stories that we think we know well have unconventional and surprising endings; Chicken Licken's panic that the sky is falling turns out to be wrong—but only because it's actually the table of contents that falls and squashes everyone. And the prince substitutes the pea for a bowling ball so as to end up with the girl of his dreams rather than waiting for a girl delicate enough for his parents. Many of the fairytales in "The Stinky Cheese Man" mess with our expectations in order to give agency to the characters that their traditional counterparts don't usually have—just like "Princess Smartypants."

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