Friday, February 01, 2008

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Published in 2005. 314 pages.
2006 Newbery Honor Book.

First sentence: Miri woke to the sleepy bleating of a goat.

Last sentence: From the cracks in the rocks all around, the miri flowers were already blooming.

Why I read this book: I've been meaning to read a Shannon Hale book for quite some time. My daughters are both fans, and because Shannon is a Utahn, I feel a sense of connection to her as well. When my church women's group book club discussed Princess Academy as a possibility for February's meeting, I highly encouraged that idea. We often choose books that I have already read - which is okay with me - but it's more fun when I get to read along, and having a deadline always helps my motivation in getting to something on my to-read list.

A brief description of this book (adapted from the ALA's description on the 2006 Newbery Medal and Honor Books page): Miri and the other young women of her rocky highland village are forced to leave their close-knit community to attend the "Princess Academy" when the palace priests divine that the prince must choose a bride from the territory where the girls live. Like the miri flower, which sprouts from the cracks in the linder rock, Miri proves herself to be strong, resilient, and courageous. The book is a fresh approach to the traditional princess story with unexpected plot twists and great emotional resonance.

My thoughts about this book: I love princess stories! Or maybe I ought to say that I love princess stories that are other than the "happily ever after" drivel I detest, ones that celebrate the strength, uniqueness, and often contrariness of the girls involved. Princess Academy met all my expectations. Miri is my hero!

A couple of favorite passages:

    Britta, one of the girls attending the academy:
    "The only thing I wish is that whoever does become the princess is happy, I mean really, really happy. Otherwise, what would it matter, right?" [pages 108-109]

    From a discussion between Miri and Britta:
    Miri slumped onto a boulder. "What should I say? That I like him so much it hurts?"
    "Maybe you should tell him."
    "But what if I do and he looks at me like I'm salt fish rotten in the barrel, and then I can never be his friend again?" [pages 169-170]

How this book helps me with my challenge goals for the year: This is my ninth book of 2008 and my fourth for the Young Adult Challenge. This one also qualifies for 888 (in my "Oh, To Be Young Again" category), the TBR Challenge (because it's been on my to-read list for more than six months), Celebrate the Author (more on that below), the Cardathon (my thoughts in that regard are here), and the Unread Author Challenge (since this was my first Shannon Hale book) - as well as the Winter Reading Challenge and the A~Z Reading Challenge. Don't you love cross-listing?!

Celebrating the author:

Author Shannon Hale, who has published five novels for young adults and one adult fiction book to date, was born on January 26, 1974, in Salt Lake City, Utah. She and her husband Dean Hale and their two young children currently reside in South Jordan, Utah. You can find out more about her - including bios as written by her husband and by her son - here. Her website also includes the following princess tips - which I think give some insight into who Shannon Hale is.
    I received a call from the UK branch of my book publisher, asking me to come to the UK to promote Princess Academy. Very cool. Part of the conversation went something like this:

      UK publicist: "We thought we might do a princess party and send out the invitations as though inviting the guests to attend the princess academy. But would you feel comfortable wearing a tiara to the party?"

      Me: "Would I feel comfortable wearing a tiara to the party? When wouldn't I feel comfortable wearing a tiara?"

    She also wondered if I could write some tips on becoming a princess, based on the story in the book. They made postcards with these tips on them, which some of you may have seen:

    How to Be a Princess

    Learn to walk with a boot on your head
    Put on your favorite dress
    Read books after everyone else has gone to bed
    Memorize all the rules
    Break the rules
    Save your friends from uncertain danger
    And, most importantly, just be a girl

Happy Belated Birthday, Shannon!



  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one! I love Shannon Hale.

  2. That sounds a great book and I liked the interview with Shannon too. I'll be adding ti to my list.

  3. I really liked this book. I think you gave it a great review; better than I could have done, anyway! Thanks for the link to her website, I'd never been there before.

  4. Thanks for stopping by! I've heard a lot of good things about this one, but haven't read it yet. I enjoyed Austenland.

  5. I loved Austenland and Book of A Thousand Days. I'd like to read this one soon. Thanks for the great review. I love Shannon Hale's website. She gives such great insights & tidbits into her books.

  6. I've loved all of Hale's book, but I think Princess Academy is my favorite. Miri is such a great character. Great review.

  7. I have yet to try Shannon Hale, but have The Goose Girl coming up soon. Not sure why Princess Academy never really caught my eye, but after reading your thoughts I think I might just have to add it to the "someday" list!

  8. I just discovered your blog and hoping to come back often. I have just discovered Shannon Hale and just finished reading Austenland today, my first Hale book. It read just like a movie. I could picture this as filmed as romantic comedy.

    I have A Book of a Thousand Days sitting on my desk waiting for me, and Princess Academy on hold at the library.

    I'm enjoying her so far. I enjoyed your review for this book. I've been to her website, but I like to read most of an authors books first before I read to much about the books.

    She seems very cute and outgoing. Her blog is fun. She was doing a book signing at The King's English Bookshop, here in SLC on Tuesday night. But I missed it. I would love to meet her.

  9. I liked this book a lot too. I enjoy a good princess story and I like strong yet still feminine heroines, which I felt like Miri was. I look forward to reading more of her books.