Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon. Grades 3-6. Dial Books, August 2015. 247 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.
Princess Harriet is not what you might think of as your typical princess. She is great at checkers and fractions and loves riding her quail Mumfrey and dreams of slaying dragons. Her deportment teacher tries to get her to act more "like a princess", but when he tried to make her walk around with a book on her head (for posture), he was found in the library with a book stuffed in his mouth and Harriet was grounded for a month.
But Harriet doesn't know about the curse that was placed on her at her christening. When she's ten years old, Harriets parents decide it's time to tell her about the curse. They sit her down and tell her about her christening when the wicked god-fairy Ratshade showed up and put a curse on the princess: when she is 12 years old, she will prick her finger on a hamster wheel and fall into a deep sleep.
But to her parents' surprise, Harriet is actually pretty thrilled about the curse! Since the curse won't happen until she's 12, Harriet knows the curse will have to keep her alive until then - curses are strong magic! She's invincible! So, Harriet sets off for the life she's always wanted: adventures, dragon slaying, hunting down ogres... But what will happen when Harriet turns 12? Can she find a way to escape the curse for good?
This is a super cute and funny fractured fairy tale that is going straight into my booktalking roster for this school year. The graphic novel / prose hybrid will be very appealing to kids and the nonstop action makes this book quite a page-turner. Harriet is a kick-butt princess who is continually bucking the mold and taking offense when people tell her that she's not "princessly". She is a princess, so anything she does must be something a princess does!
In that way, I really appreciate the understated feminism in this title. Harriet never apologizes for being brash and physically active and brave. She doesn't keep it a secret. It's part of who she is and anyone who has a problem with it is not worth Harriet's time. The reader's not hit over the head with "Harriet's doing things that aren't typically what a princess DOES!" because there is no such thing as a "typical princess"; everyone is different and Harriet's just being Harriet.
This book is Babymouse meets Whatever After and will appeal to fans of either series.
For another book on ladies who don't lay down and accept their fairy tale fates, check out Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale.
And readers who enjoyed the kick-butt princess of The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale will also love Harriet's adventures.
Readers looking for more fractures fairy tales might enjoy Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine or the tales of E.D. Baker.