I want this book, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, sooooooo badly.

What book are you longing for?

“Mother knows best! Take it from your mumsy…”

Best Disney princess movie yet, I think.  I love that Flynn Rider undergoes plenty of character change along with Rapunzel.  That’s just so uncommon in Disney princess movies!

But Disney’s Rapunzel certainly got me thinking more about a subject that has tickled at the back of my mind for quite a while:  Why in the heck are there so many books or stories featuring bad mothers/absentee mothers?  I suppose there are plenty of books and stories where both parents are negative forces/absent, but perhaps because I am a mother, I’m particularly bugged by the moms.  And this is not a new trend in writing, either.  Consider some traditional fairy tales, like Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and even the real story of Rapunzel!

Here’s a thought:  Kids love adventure, and let’s face it, sometimes mom and dad squish the adventure bug (Especially mom.  “Be careful, Jack!”  “Don’t do that, Susie!”). Better to be rid of the parents, right?  Or perhaps a child’s need for nurturing parents is a crucial aspect of the young character’s development?

I had planned to dissect this a bit more, but my kids want me to play with them.  Ironic?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Are the parents in your favorite stories a positive presence or a presence at all?

Book Review: The Frog Princess, by E.D. Baker

My daughters have had a rough winter and early spring.  They caught every virus available and were on antibiotics a couple of times.  We even have a designated “puke bowl,” in my house (If you come over to eat, and we serve you something in a big sky-blue bowl, you’ll know we don’t like you very much.).  The Flute became so attached to her puke bowl that she started calling it “my pet.”  Then she gave it a proper name. The name she chose was Eadric.

You may think this is random, but it isn’t.  The Flute fell in love with this name when first she heard it, which was when we read her E.D. Baker’s THE FROG PRINCESS.

From Ms. Baker’s website:

Princess Emeralda isn’t exactly an ideal princess. Her laugh sounds like a donkey’s bray rather than tinkling bells, she trips over her own feet more often than she gracefully curtsies, and she hates the young Prince Jorge whom her mother hopes she will marry. But if Emeralda ever thought to escape from her frustrating life, she never expected it to happen by turning into a frog! A deliciously original and fast-paced fairy tale that turns the tables on the traditional frog-prince story, featuring a fascinating and hilarious cast of characters and starring a witty and unforgettable princess.

You may well wonder who Eadric is in this story.  Well, he’s the frog prince.  The delightful frog prince.  How often have you read a fairy tale retelling where the love interest isn’t very interesting?  I adore Disney’s animated “Cinderella,” but…Prince Charming seems pretty brainless, to me.  For one thing, he promises his father he’ll marry the young lady whose foot fits a glass slipper, and that only works because, fortunately, Cinderella wears a size 3 shoe, and the only other females in the kingdom who are so dainty-footed are children.  The other thing that bothers me about Prince Charming is he doesn’t go search for Cinderella himself!  He sends the Grand Duke after his promised fiancee.  One would think he would be eager to make sure the girl who was brought back to the castle to marry him was the right girl.  One would think.  But that one is not Prince Charming.  I much prefer Flynn Rider (aka Eugene Fitzherbert) from Disney’s “Tangled”–a movie that is full of strong, well-developed characters.

But back to THE FROG PRINCESS.  The characters are refreshingly mentally sound (even if they possess some magical tendencies), with the exception of the half-cracked and fully wannabe witch, Vannabe.  But she’s supposed to be odd.  There are some talking animals in the book, too, which the Flute loved. The story is fast-paced, but not too exciting for the Flute, who is still very young for even Middle Grade novels, such as this one.

THE FROG PRINCESS is the first book in a series, and I’m eager to try out the other novels, too!

Book Review: THE GRIMM LEGACY, by Polly Shulman

Ever wonder what you’d look like wearing Marie Antoinette’s wig?  Well, if your hometown had a library-esque “circulating material repository” like the one in Polly Shulman’s THE GRIMM LEGACY, you could try on the famous queen’s wig (Don’t worry–it’s not the one she was beheaded in!).

I fell in love with the plot of THE GRIMM LEGACY the minute I read the jacket flap.  This book does not disappoint.  Imagine working at a place that’s kinda like a library, but instead of checking out books, patrons can check out STUFF.  Cool concept!  Even cooler is the fact that the circulating material repository checks out magical items collected by the Grimm brothers when they were researching their fairy tales!  The Grimm Collection contains items such as the twelve dancing princesses’ shoes (some of them), Snow White’s wicked stepmother’s mirror (horrors!), and a bludgeon that unlocks locked doors.  Now, I love my public library, but I think I would flip for a circulating material repository like the one in THE GRIMM LEGACY!

Now, a word about the writing in THE GRIMM LEGACY:

It’s wonderful.

I was very impressed by Shulman’s ability to satisfy the reader’s obvious questions without spending a lot of time on the nitty-gritty of how a circulating material repository would work.  The main character, like the reader, has questions, and the big ones are answered, but in answering the questions, Shulman doesn’t bog down or slow down the story.  Also, many Grimm tales are referenced throughout the book, and while I hadn’t heard of several of them, my lack of knowledge didn’t prevent me from understanding the book.

I would recommend this story to any young person who enjoys contemporary magical realism (Harry Potter is an example of contemporary magical realism–or magic that is somehow tied to our world rather than to an entirely made-up world).  I would also recommend this book to fans of fairy tales, of course!  Give THE GRIMM LEGACY a try if you’ve read and enjoyed Jessica Day George’s PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL, Robin McKinley’s BEAUTY, Jaclyn Dolamore’s MAGIC UNDER GLASS, Shannon Hale’s THE GOOSE GIRL, or, to step away from the fairy tales, Marianne Malone’s THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS, or E.L. Konigsburg’s FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER.