Friday, November 27, 2009

Fiction, Fantasy, and YA: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Bibliographic data
Hale, Shannon. Princess Academy. Bloomsbury Publishing, New York, 2005. ISBN: 1-58234-993-2.

Brief plot summary
Miri has only ever known the simple life on Mount Eskel. Now she and the other girls are required to go to the “Princess Academy” in order to prepare themselves for a possible life as a princess then queen. Through the academy, Miri learns to read and in turn learns of different places and different ways of life. As the time comes near for the prince to come and choose his princess, Miri must decide if she wants the prince to choose her or if she would rather save her heart for Peder, a boy that she has grown up with.

Critical analysis
What little girl has not dreamed of growing up to become a princess? Princess Academy is a beautifully written tale about Miri, a girl who has tried to fit in and contribute to her family and community all her life. As Miri is taken with all the other girls of the village to “Princess Academy”, she begins to realize who she is and who she could be. Shannon Hale has taken what could have been a simple story, and reinvented it through vivid characters and surprising conflicts. Although it drags in places, readers will be able to see a clear view of the world that Hale has spun. “The east says it’s dawn/My mouth speaks a yawn/My bed clings to me and begs me to stay/ I hear a work song/ Say winter is long/ I peel myself up and then make away;” at the beginning of each chapter, there is poems such as this one that foretells what is going to happen. This touch of poetry completes this old fashioned fairy that will soon be a classic.

Review excerpts
Kirkis Reviews: "An unalloyed joy."
School Library Journal- “This is not a fluffy, predictable fairy tale . . . Instead, Hale weaves an intricate, multilayered story about families, relationships, education, and the place we call home."
The 2006 Newbery Committee: "When it comes to contemporary classics, Shannon Hale has the makings of someone whose books will be read and reread for decades to come."
A Newbery Honor Book
A New York Times Bestseller
A Publishers Weekly Bestseller
A Book Sense Bestseller
An ALA Notable Children’s Book
A NECBA Top 10 Fall Book
A Book Sense Children’s Pick

Related Books:
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
River Secrets by Shannon Hale
Economics is a big part of the life in Mount Eskel. Students could look at life in the mountains versus in the valley. They could also compare the different characters. Shannon Hale has written so many vivid characters that students could create a diagram showing how they are alike and how they are different.

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