SCJBA Nominee - Princess Academy


5-stars.gif5-stars.gif5-stars.gif5-stars.gif5-stars.gif  Five out of five stars - Hold on tight to this one!When I saw the title, I immediately thought..ewww.....another middle school princess story!  Don't be thrown by the title - this is not the stereotypical chick lit.Princess Academy is a delightful book!  Hale takes the reader away to the poor but proud mining community called Mount Eskel.  Here, it is announced that a prophecy has decreed the royal prince from the wealthy lowlands will soon arrive to select his bride.  The mountain girls chosen will have to attend the Princess Academy in order to learn proper etiquette and to become suitable young women before the prince's grand arrival. Miri finds herself among the chosen.  At first, she is excited about the prospect of living among the wealthy, traveling to exotic places, and being provided with the opportunity to offer her own family a much better life.  When it appears Miri will be chosen, she suddenly feels torn.  She realizes there is no better life than the one she has.  How can she love a prince when she has already given her heart to another?  This beautifully written book contains several unexpected twists and turns that will engage the reader throughout.  I love Hale's simple prose, and the beauty in her words and descriptions. 

 Miri questioned a friend's mother, Doter, on why her father would not let her mine the quarry in the village.  Miri felt it was because she was physically weak.  Since the town depended on the miners who worked in the quarry, Miri always believed she was inferior to everyone else -  a disappointment to her family and to the entire town.  Doter explains that Miri's mother was injured in the quarry when she was pregnant with Miri.  This is what caused her death after childbirth.  She goes on to explain, "Your pa is a house with shutters closed.  There are things going on inside that a person can't see, but you sense he has a wound that won't heal.  Marda takes after your pa, but you, Miri, you are your ma alive again.  How could he bear letting his little girl step foot into the place that took the life of her ma?"  They walked back through the village and Miri kept her eyes on the ground before her.  The whole world had shifted, and she was not sure she could keep her feet.
She was her ma alive again.  (page 176)

I fell in love with this charming story.  You will love Miri and the other girls attending the Princess Academy, the mysterious "quarry-speak" that Miri was finally able to learn and use to save the lives of her friends, and the quaint traditions of this simple, mountain community.  The only negative aspect of this book is that the story had to eventually end.