It's been a while since I've reviewed a picture book here, but this one deserves a review. At the library on Wednesday, Margaret wanted books about ducks, so we got those and then as my eye skimmed the shelves, I saw the words, "Amazon Queen."
You all know I had to get that.
How the Amazon Queen Fought the Prince of Egypt is my new favorite kids' book. And this review is 100% spoilers, so there's your warning.
So it starts off as any Amazonian story does: women living free without men, happy, la la la. Then they find that an Egyptian army has camped nearby, so they send someone, Ashteshyt, to dress as an Egyptian soldier (beard and everything) to find the layout of the camp and other strategic information. I'm not sure how you pronounce Ashteshyt, and my few attempts have involved my saying "shit" at the end of it.
Anyway, with their knowledge of the Egyptian camp, they go and kick butt. It's really bad for the Egyptians. And the leader of the Egyptian army, Prince Pedikhons, is all, "I won't stand for this! Women defeating my soldiers? No!" By the way, I pronounce Pedikhons like Pelicans but with a "d" instead of an "l." I'm probably wrong with that one, too.
So yes, classic Amazon women kicking butt.
Then Pedikhons challenges the Amazonian queen, Queen Serpot (and always tempted to leave the "t" silent like in ballet) to hand-to-hand combat. She, being brave, accepts.
And so the next day they fight all day long. It's really intense and their moves are compared to awesome animals. Very exciting. And then it gets dark and in order to be fair to each other and to themselves, they decide to put their fight on hold until the morning. Then standing there, they start chatting. Pedikhons explains why they came (to see if the stories of Amazon women were true).
So this is where the book jumps from awesome women-kicking-butt to really wonderful feminist story telling. I'm going to just quote the whole page.
It was then that Prince Pedikhons looked at Queen Serpot and saw that she was his equal. And he did not know where on Earth he was, from the great love that entered into him.
And it was then that queen Serpot looked at the prince and saw that he was her equal. And she did not know where on Earth she was, from the great love that entered into her.
And later Serpot and Pedikhons made an alliance and conquered India together.
Oh my goodness. I fell in love with this book exactly at that moment.
- There's no mention of romantic love, just that love entered into them. You can make the leap that they were romantically "in love", but you can also read that as compassion, I think. And when we all stop our quarrels and look at the people around us and really see them all as our equals, don't we have the same sort of experience of great love entering us? I love that this book's prerequisite for loving our fellow people is giving others the same value as we give ourselves.
- There's no "best" in this love. He didn't love her because she was the most beautiful or the best soccer player or the woman with the most burgeoning muscles. She didn't have to be the best at anything. And same for him. She loved him without him having to be the most handsome, best dancer, or the most kind man. We don't have to be the best to be loved.
And this book gets even better: it's based on scrolls that were found in Greece and are currently being held in Vienna! And some of the phrases in it- like the comparisons to animals fighting and "the great love that entered into him" are taken directly from the scrolls. That makes this the best picture book ever. Read it. And treat everyone as equals and love them.