This modern fairy tale by Shannon Hale is published by Bloomsbury USA and is written for kids ages 9 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Life is quiet in Miri's mining community until a delegate from the lowlands arrives and announces the prince will marry a girl from her region. Since the girls on Miri's mountain are considered rough and uncultured, the lowlanders establish a year-long preparatory princess academy, which every girl between ages 13 and 18 must attend. Initially, Miri and her friends are reluctant to go; the academy is located three hours from home and run by a harsh woman named Olana. But as Miri discovers the joy of learning, she begins to wonder what it might be like to be a princess. Amid events like sparring with her teacher, meeting the prince and surviving a bandit attack, Miri must decide whether she wants to become royalty or remain loyal to her mountain home.
None, though the mountain people believe in a "creator god."
Miri's affectionate father is extremely protective of her and won't let her work in the mines like the others. She later learns it is because Miri's mother died in a mining accident. The adults in town behave with a respectful, parental demeanor toward all the children. Olana initially provides harsh punishments for the academy girls, including hitting them and locking them in a rat-infested closet for hours. Although she softens a bit and earns the girls' respect, she ultimately admits that she lied to the girls (telling them the princess would get a fancy house for her family) to get them to work harder.
Other Belief Systems
After days of fasting, the priests of the creator god perform a rite that helps them decide which region of the kingdom the future princess will come from.
Bandits hold the girls captive in the academy for days, tying them up and injuring those who rebel.
Peder kisses Miri on the cheek.
Newbery Honor Book, 2006; ALA Notable Children's Book, 2007; Beehive Award, 2007; New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing; Publishers Weekly Cuffie Awards, 2005; and more.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Miri questions and argues against the rules of the academy a number of times.
Do you think she's right in doing this?
- Is Miri's behavior respectful, or should she have acted differently toward authority figures?
- Does Miri do the right thing by helping the other girls pass their princess exam, or is she cheating?
- How did you feel when you learned that Britta's father had involved her in a lie so she could marry the prince?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.