Brave Donatella and the Jasmine Thief

32p. 978-1-57091-729-5.
Gr 1—3—Duke Cosimo de'Medici of Florence, collector of exotic plants, jealously guards the jasmine brought from India by Vasco da Gama and is known to torture those who displease him. Antonio, the youngest gardener, is "made bold by love" and cuts a small sprig for beautiful Donatella. The duke notices, discovers Antonio is the thief, and has him imprisoned in a distant town. When Donatella learns what has happened, she plants the jasmine in a clay pot and walks three days and two nights to Volterra. There she drugs Cosimo's guards with tea infused with poppy petals. She rescues Antonio, and they flee. At her wedding Donatella wears a sprig of jasmine for happiness and good luck. For this memorable love story, McAlister supplies historical background in an author's note. Hendricks uses colored pencils and a black fine-line marker for the illustrations, framing most of them with gold bands and featuring trailing vines and white jasmine blossoms in the borders. Pair this title with Paul O. Zelinsky's Rapunzel (Dutton, 1997), another love story with an unusual plant at its heart and the Italian countryside as its background.—Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN
Cruel Duke Cosimo's gardener, Antonio, risks his life to steal a sprig of jasmine for his love, Donatella. McAlister's story, with its elements of bravery, trickery, and love, reads like a classic fairy tale; in a welcome twist, a woman (Donatella) saves the day. Hendricks's delicate-lined colored-pencil and black marker illustrations show a great deal of emotion. Bib.
Donatella is an appealing heroine. Calm, brave, and determined, she uses her cooking skills to outsmart Cosimo’s prison guards. The young lovers’ triumph over the selfish duke is a satisfying ending, especially as an explanation for the Italian tradition of brides wearing jasmine. Donald Hendricks’s finely detailed illustrations portray a lush Italy, full of blooming plants, sumptuous food, and rich architectural detail. Flowering jasmine vines form a lovely border around much of the text and illustrations. An author’s note provides helpful historical background information on the real Duke Cosimo de’ Medici. Fairy-tale fans especially will be drawn to this tale.

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