If 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.