The Princess in Black


An occasional series of brief posts on the 2015 AML Award nominees.


princess in blackIf you haven’t been reading Shannon Hale raging about the artificial walls we put between boys and books with princesses, you’re missing out on an important discussion. Me, I got this book (written by Shannon Hale and her husband Dean) to read it to my boys, ages five to eleven.

I sat next to my five-year-old and started reading it. He was sufficiently interested, but when I got to the line

But then, most princesses do not live near an entrance to Monster Land.

the other two ran over to follow along.

Middle son was reading Tintin so he would come over and leave and come over again, but when I finished reading it, the eldest was the first to respond to my what-did-you-think question with an enthusiastic positive.

In short, she’s doing a good job making the girl-half of the world boy-friendly.

As for the book, it’s very funny and charming and, simply, fun. It’s like a longer form (and wackier) version of the Ladybug Girl picture books (which, like the Princess in Black, set up room for a male sidekick). It’s also literalized—Princess Magnolia is an actual costumed hero; she’s not merely paying pretend. And the stakes are high. Goats will get eaten without the Princess in Black! Monsters are entering the her kingdom with goats on their mind!

I’m also fond of how Princess Magnolia is an actual cute little girl, including what I suppose we could call a bit of chub left in her cheeks. Sure her day job involves frills and tiaras and lots of pinkpinkpink, but she also kicks monster butt. And the character design and execution by LeUyen Pham makes that believable on both counts.

The story itself is not that innovative (can our hero save the day without having her secret identity compromised?) but the telling is a lot of fun.

It’s got a sequel headed to press; it’s been optioned, it’s inspired cosplay.

Sounds like a winner.

3 thoughts on “The Princess in Black”

  1. I saw this book and had to have it. I love it and so does my little girl. She even packed it into her suitcase to take to Grandma and Grandpa’s!

  2. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and should try reading it to my youngest, who is 5 and would probably like it. Despite the fact that I have 2 girls and 1 boy, the culture in my home skews away from princesses for a lot of reasons. My oldest daughter is 11 and has resisted all my efforts to get her to read the type of historical fiction I read as a child–Witch of Blackbird Pond, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Little House…–in favor of fantasy and dystopia. I don’t think it’s the fact that most of my preferred books have girl protagonists and her preferred books have boys; I’m not sure she’s even thought about that. She just really likes fantasy and action. And, if my kids’ school tried to exclude boys from a female author’s visit, I would complain loud and long until they stopped.

  3. I read this when it came across my desk to be cataloged for Special Collections and I *loved* it (and also immediately recommended it to a friend with a superhero-loving daughter).

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