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Princess Academy Paperback – February 24, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5-9–The thought of being a princess never occurred to the girls living on Mount Eskel. Most plan to work in the quarry like the generations before them. When it is announced that the prince will choose a bride from their village, 14-year-old Miri, who thinks she is being kept from working in the quarry because of her small stature, believes that this is her opportunity to prove her worth to her father. All eligible females are sent off to attend a special academy where they face many challenges and hardships as they are forced to adapt to the cultured life of a lowlander. First, strict Tutor Olana denies a visit home. Then, they are cut off from their village by heavy winter snowstorms. As their isolation increases, competition builds among them. The story is much like the mountains, with plenty of suspenseful moments that peak and fall, building into the next intense event. Miri discovers much about herself, including a special talent called quarry speak, a silent way to communicate. She uses this ability in many ways, most importantly to save herself and the other girls from harm. Each girl's story is brought to a satisfying conclusion, but this is not a fluffy, predictable fairy tale, even though it has wonderful moments of humor. Instead, Hale weaves an intricate, multilayered story about families, relationships, education, and the place we call home.–Linda L. Plevak, Saint Mary's Hall, San Antonio, TX
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.
Gr. 6-9. Miri would love to join her father and older sister as a miner in Mount Eskel's quarry. Not a glamorous aspiration for a 14-year-old, perhaps, but the miners produce the humble village's prize stone, linder, and mining is a respected occupation that drives the local economy. When the local girls are rounded up to compete for the hand of the kingdom's prince, Miri, the prize student in the Princess Academy, gets her chance to shine. In addition to her natural intelligence and spunk, she discovers an intuitive, and at times unspoken, language that grew out of work songs in the mines and uses linder as a medium. With this "quarry-speech" giving a boost to her courage and intelligence, Miri leads her classmates in the fight against being treated as social inferiors in the academy, at the same time educating herself in ways that will better the village. Hale nicely interweaves feminist sensibilities in this quest-for-a-prince-charming, historical-fantasy tale. Strong suspense and plot drive the action as the girls outwit would-be kidnappers and explore the boundaries of leadership, competition, and friendship. Anne O'Malley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
And that is precisely why Princess Academy by Shannon Hale is essential reading. If a novel that's written in a seemingly tired subgenre manages to win a major award as this one did, something new and amazing must have happened there so as to overcome the reading audience's prejudice.
And Princess Academy was an original and amazing read. It was entirely worthy of being named a Newbery Honor award; in fact, it should have won the top award.
The main character, Miri, is fascinating. Bold, courageous, smart, funny. She's an utter joy to read about. As is the culture that Hale has created for the novel.
And there's nothing tired about this plot. Hale echoes some of the princess fairy tale conventions, but she's really remade this fairy tale story quite successfully. Just when you think you've got the plot pegged, there's a twist that throws you. A relationship develops as you didn't think it would, or a surprising enemy arises. It's an entirely involving story.
The story contains surprising layers of meaning, too. The relationships have depth, and there are valuable social messages here.
It's a really strong novel, definitely the best book I've read this year (regardless of genre).
"Criss Cross by Lynn Rae Perkins".
"Uh-huh. Is it any good?"
"Yep. It's nice".
"So what else got awards?"
"Well, there was something called Whittington by Alan Armstrong, Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, and of course The Princess Academy..."
"The PRINCESS Academy? Oh, ick, yuck, puke!"
"...by Shannon Hale. You've read it?"
"Well...no, not exactly. But how good could anything called The Princess Academy be?"
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a rough equivalent of several conversations I've had with various people in regards to Shannon Hale's latest little nugget of gold. Say the words "Princess Academy" to the well-read and instantly their faces scrunch up and either the word "ew" or the word "ugh" emits from their lips. Ask them if they've read the book themselves and you'll undoubtedly get a quick shake of the head. It isn't the actual book they don't like. It's the title. I imagine there must have been some long conversations over at Bloomsbury Children's Books when this title was proposed. On the one hand, if you put the word "Princess" in a title you can link it the oh-so profitable "Princess Diaries", Disney "Princess" line, and even the "Royal Diaries" line of books. On the other hand, you're going to lose numerous parents, educators, librarians, masculine readers, and other members of society who take one look at the title and brush it off. I gave the book a long hard look before I plunged into it. This I admit freely. And while I wouldn't go handing it silver medals just for existing, it's certainly an intelligent and well-written little story that's bound to be adored by fans of Hale's previous "The Goose Girl", not to mention Gail Carson Levine's, "Ella Enchanted".
It is a well-known fact that Mira is useless. That is to say, it's well-known to Mira. Every day she wants to go off and work in the quarry with all the other village girls so that she can contribute something to her little mountain village. And every day her father refuses to let her set even one toe near the quarry lines. Short for her age with little to do but speak to her sister Mara and her old childhood friend Peder, fourteen-year-old Mira is mired in her own shame when who should appear in the village but a representative from the king himself. It seems that the prince is in need of a bride. Sounds simple. Unfortunately the royal priests have declared that the woman chosen will have to be from Mira's tiny mining village. Which means, of course, that an academy must be set up for the ladies ASAP. Before any of the girls know it, they've been whisked off to study under the harsh tutelage of one Olana Mansdaughter. Far from her home and her previous assumptions, Mira thrives in an atmosphere of entirely new knowledge. Yet as she grows more self-aware, it becomes perfectly clear to all of the girls that only one of them will earn the prince's favor. And Mira does not entirely want it to fall onto her.
I just read the bookflap of my copy to figure out whether or not the bookflap writer (oh most unrewarding of jobs) had a better grasp on showing you some of the book's subtleties. No such luck. Rereading my own summary, the book sounds kind of cutesy. I despise the term "girl power" to the marrow of my bones, but this is certainly a tale of empowerment, no question. And telepathy. Empowerment and telepathy. We're in fairy tale country here, but aside from the occasional I-can-speak-to-you-through-the-rocks moment, the story is straightforward and sensible. Hale keeps her characters and emotions on a tight reign, never giving away too much or allowing too little. Attentive readers will probably guess at the prince's choice long before Mira does, but for others it will come as a pleasant and well-crafted little surprise. As a heroine, Mira herself undergoes the necessary growth and changes required of her. At the same time, she has a sense of humor. The book doesn't go in for many laugh out loud moments, but at least we're not watching a humorless EARNEST hero in the making.
I'm just waiting for the review of this book that decries it to be a Communist screed (which, obviously, it isn't but Amazon.com reviewers love making that accusation). You see, the girls often work as a whole to beat their enemies when they can't do it singly. They form a kind of insipient princess union so that their professor will lay off the harsh punishments and give them their basic human rights. It works like gangbusters (due in no little way to some fancy negotiating) and is a lovely little lesson in sticking together against a common enemy. The book also shows how a village that is seemingly doing well for itself can still benefit from a good education. In some ways, "The Princess Academy" is so practical in its system of checks and balances that you forget that the places mentioned in this tale don't actually exist. Hale excels at selling you an entirely new reality.
Chalk this book up to a nice little surprise. If you were to grab me by my lapels and demand whether this book should have gotten a Newbery Honor or "Each Little Bird That Sings", I would of course indicate the latter. But since "Little Bird" did NOT win and "Princess Academy" did, don't go scoffing at this book sight unseen. Bad titles aside, Hale has conjured up a nice little story and a worthy addition to any and all library systems.
Miri is a girl living on Mount Eskel, a remote and poor territory of the kingdom where they mine linder from a quarry to make a meager living. She struggles with wanting to work at the quarry along with the other girls, but her dad won't let her. She feels like an outcast. This year, however, the chief delegate of the kingdom arrives and makes a surprise announcement: it has been foreseen that the next princess will come from Mount Eskel and so, in order to prepare, a princess academy will be formed in order to instruct the eligible girls and prepare them to meet the prince.
What we find in this book is an encouragement towards education, understanding, and sticking up for others. We find girls who start off in competition learning to get along. We find courage, creativity, and empathy. I'd say this book is primarily character driven with Miri at the center of it all. She really is an admirable character and she learns many things along the way.
There's a tiny bit of fantasy mixed in with the plot, but not so much as to get in anyone's way. The majority of the occurrences are events that could still happen to our children as they're growing up, or children elsewhere in the world who come from more impoverished backgrounds.
So are there some things are are probably geared more towards a girl audience? Perhaps, but other than the idea of a princess, most of this book is applicable to all who read it. We all have dreams that we would do anything to achieve and awakenings along the way. If a book is wholesome for children because it promotes the values we want in our children, then shouldn't we, the adults, also read it to instill those values in ourselves?
This is a really good book and, again, I recommend it to all, regardless of age or gender.