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The Thirteenth Princess Paperback – January 4, 2011


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006182500X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061825002
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4–8—Though clearly based on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," this addition to the burgeoning field of fairy-tale novelizations alters the original tale more than most others. It is the youngest—13th—sister, rather than a visiting prince, who discovers why the princesses are wearing out their shoes (and suffering from exhaustion). Zahler has created this sister and her complicated backstory with somewhat uneven success. For the first seven years of her life, Zita's been banished to the kitchen of the very palace where (unbeknownst to her) her father and sisters dwell. Her father evidently hates her because she was his last attempt at fathering a male heir. After Cook spills the beans regarding her royal lineage, Zita ventures to have a clandestine sisterly relationship with the older girls, sneaking into their room at night and returning to the kitchen each morning. Something is clearly ailing her sisters, though, and Zita's friendships with a stable groom and a reclusive old woman in the woods give her the assistance and skills she needs to break through the destructive enchantment that's harming them. She earns the recognition and love of the king and—of course—the love of the stable groom, and they all live, just as you'd expect, happily ever after. In the hands of masters like Robin McKinley and Gail Carson Levine, fairy-tale expansions gain depth and nuance. Zahler's retelling doesn't fully humanize its characters. She adds complexity without much resonance, making her book entertaining, but not compelling.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

After Zita’s mother died in childbirth, her father banished his thirteenth daughter to the servants. But working in the kitchen has its advantages: while her sisters remain captive in their moldering castle, red-haired Zita is free to roam the woods with the stable boy, Breckin. Zita tells her story chronologically, beginning with her childhood feelings of abandonment and her joyful reconnection with her older siblings. After her father threatens to fire the old nurse who cares for them, the princesses begin to waste away. Thanks to magic learned from a good witch living in the woods, Zita follows them to a dream palace where they must dance all night. With the help of Breckin—and later, Breckin’s handsome soldier brother—she discovers the source of their enchantment. Readers do not need to be familiar with the Grimms’ Twelve Dancing Princesses tale to follow the story, but those who are will enjoy the lively reworking of familiar elements. Though the author has published nonfiction for older readers, this is her first novel. Grades 4-7. --Kathleen Isaacs --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 42 customer reviews
The plot is intense and keeps the story moving along quickly.
TeensReadToo
I have to say that my favorite fairy tale of all time is The Twelve Dancing Princesses and when I saw that there was a retelling I just had to have it.
R. Allen
All in all, this is a quick, fun read which I highly recommend for middle-grade girls.
Kate McMurry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kate Coombs VINE VOICE on February 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this retelling of the classic tale, "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," Diane Zahler imagines a king who is increasingly angry with his wife for giving him daughters. When she dies in childbirth bearing a thirteenth daughter, he banishes the newborn to the castle kitchens in his rage. At seven, sort-of servant Zita learns she is sister to the princesses and daughter to the king. She doesn't bemoan her lot, but she does sneak around behind her father's back befriending her lovely older siblings. Happily, the older girls are very willing to take her under their wings. Zita also befriends a stable boy named Breckin whose brother is a soldier (aha!).

It isn't until she is older that Zita begins to worry that her sisters might be under a spell. For one thing, the twelve princesses don't understand themselves why whenever suitors come to call, they are unable to speak. Thus they all remain unmarried. Then Zita's sisters begin to appear weary and sickly, and their shoes start turning up with the soles worn through every morning.

With Breckin's assistance, Zita investigates her sisters' troubles; she also discovers a helpful witch living in hiding in the woods. (The king has banned magic from the kingdom, or so he thinks.) But someone is watching Zita, and she still hasn't figured out who is behind the malevolent spells. She even worries that the king himself has done this terrible thing to his daughters. Of course, our heroine eventually discovers the truth and saves her sisters.

Zahler's personable retelling offers readers a nice build-up of suspense. I like the author's vision of a castle on a lake, which starts out as a romantic gift along the lines of the Taj Majal and then literally gets moldy.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By cathmom&teacher on March 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
My 9 year old, who is a strong and voracious reader thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It has a strong storyline and interesting characters that really hold the child's attention. Her older teen sisters read and enjoyed the book too. This is one of those novels that you're thrilled to stumble upon because it is entertaining and very well written with classic good vs evil conflicts unlike so many of the dumbed-down, bizarre children's novels that are in the market today. Kudos to the author on a book well written.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kate McMurry TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Zita, the heroine of this novel, is the youngest of thirteen princesses, and the only redhead among twelve blondes. Her mother died giving birth to Zita after growing increasingly sickly with each successive pregnancy. The king had insisted his wife keep trying for a son, but with each new daughter, his despondency increased. Finally, when Zita was born and her mother died, in a fit of rage he consigned Zita to the servant quarters, not wanting to be reminded of his lost wife and his shattered dreams of a male heir.

Zita doesn't learn her history until she is seven, and it is not until she is eleven that she manages to piece together the entire history of her sisters' births and her own. Soon after, she is determined to find a way to get around her father's decree that she is not to associate with her sisters. They have been afraid to take any initiative to connect with Zita themselves, but they are happy to welcome her among them when she successfully figures out a way to be with them. She sneaks into their bedroom by means of a never-used dumbwaiter that leads from the basement of the castle to the highest reaches and connects with their room. Because Zita is spending time with her sisters, she is close at hand when their health begins to falter. They are exhausted all the time, and Zita notices that every night their shoes are worn out. Zita is determined to discover what is going on and ultimately only Zita stands between her sisters and slow death from a magical curse.

Zita is a lively, three-dimensional character with whom I very much enjoyed spending time. She is a strong, determined, loving, generous girl and a good role model in many ways for the young girls who will read her story.

The entire book is beautifully written.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kate B. VINE VOICE on March 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Thirteenth Princess is a captivating rethinking of The Twelve Dancing Princesses tale. Zahler skillfully combines the old fairy tale with new material to make the story seem fresh. Think you know the tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses? Well, think again.

From the get go, this novel held my attention with its flowing writing and detailed scenery. I could easily picture this breathtaking world that Zahler has created. The plot flowed along at a nice even pace with plenty of interesting characters sprinkled in. Zita is not your average servant, she is actually the 13th daughter of the King who in a fit of rage banished her to live with the servants. Upon her seventh birthday, Zita uncovers the secret truth behind her birthday.

Zita is a lively character filled with curiosity and love. She loves the servants, her new found sisters, and even had an appreciation for the father that banished her. To paraphrase a few characters, she has the best of both worlds. She understands what it means to be a servant, yet has the possibly to truly be a princess. In contrast to Zita are her twelve sisters. While the whole of them play a significant role in the overall plot, I found it very hard to distinguish each from one another. I am sure that every single one of them having a name that begins with "A" does not help much. I applaud Zahler for attempting to give each of the twelve sisters a certain characteristic to help identify them, but in the end, this did not help me too much. Many of them just blend into the background, never to be heard from again.

While Zita's world is fully explored, the world of the twelve dancing princesses does not get the same treatment. The novel focuses mainly on Zita, her life, and her attempt to rescue her sisters.
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More About the Author

I grew up reading children's books and never wanted to do anything but write them. Then HarperCollins Children's Books offered me a contract -- and now I'm the author of four fairy tale novels. Magic does happen! I live in the country with my husband in what is aptly nicknamed the Bug House. Visit my website at www.dianezahler.com.

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