Sunday, May 27, 2007

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Summary: 14 year old Miri just wants to live her life helping her sister and father mine Linder Stone in their far away village home on Mount Eskel. But this is not to be as it is foretold that the prince of the kingdom will marry a girl from Mount Eskel. All the girls are rounded up to attend a school to teach them how to be a proper princess. Hogwarts this school isn't. The academy is run by a cruel woman who punishes them at whim. However, while suffering through the winter at the academy, Miri learns to read. With reading, she learns that, despite what the traders have told them, their Linder stone is actually very valuable. While on a break to visit their families, Miri tells the miners this and thus empowered, the miners are able to extract good prices for their stone for a change. Suddenly, the poverty stricken village is able to see the fruits of their hard efforts. Even more, Miri learns that the Linder stone is able to pass thoughts and messages to other people near the stone. Using this magical "quarry speech" Miri is able to communicate to her fellow classmates without the headmistress knowing, enabling them to empower themselves more in asserting their rights, and especially, when a band of thieves come to kidnap the kingdom's newest princess.

Assessment: Another great one for the girls! Miri is a spunky, intelligent girl who doesn't want to be a princess really (although she is tempted by the fine gown the headmistress tells the girls that the new princess will wear); she mostly just wants to take care of her family. Girls will really enjoy watching Miri grow from a simple girl to one who slowly comes to realize that her village can make some decent money for themselves and that she can silently communicate with others through the "quarry speech." Miri goes from being the most despised girl in the academy to the most beloved through her hard work and determination. This is a great story of girls sticking together and empowerment.