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The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation – Book Review

The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation

Written by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Published by Candlewick Press.

The next instalment about the perfectly pink Princess Marigold and her secret alter ego, the monster-fighting Princess in Black.

 Also Available at Book Depository: The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation

 Other books in the series include:

The Princess in Black

The Princess in Black (Book Depository)
The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party

The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party (Book Depository)
The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde (Book Depository)

 

The Book

The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation is an early chapter book with full colour, attention-grabbing illustrations and great vocabulary, presenting an achievable challenge for young readers. Aimed at lower and middle primary readers or kids as young as four, if you’re reading aloud, it’s divided into 13 chapters of around 150 words each. Perfectly bite-sized, able to be picked up and put down, but at the same time, short enough to be devoured in one sitting.

The Pros:

It’s a great adventure story with simple concepts. There are monsters to be fought, who come out of holes leading to Monster Land to eat goats and generally cause trouble in the land above. There are secret identities and friends helping each other out. All the themes are gently dealt with, not interfering with the action. During Princess Magnolia’s vacation, a sea monster appears to threaten her friend, and the princess must find a way to save her without giving away her secret identity. But the implication is clear: she will sacrifice her anonymity if needed, to save her friend.

It’s good, simple fun, with some subtle lessons about friendship, sharing burdens, solving problems and celebrating success – even if it comes in a different form than you first pictured.

There is a girl heroine and a boy hero, both of whom have their own adventures and problems to overcome. It was a lot of fun to read aloud and enjoyed a warm reception from my test audience – my five year old daughter.

The Cons:

Considering it’s the fourth in a series, it could have had too much backstory to catch up on but this wasn’t the case. The obvious cons, such as poor writing, lulls in the action, boring or implausible characters or unconvincing illustrations, just weren’t there.

The only possible con for some (and in fact I consider it a pro) is the way the two main characters’ stories are separated chapter by chapter. First, Princess Magnolia has a chapter. Then, in the middle of the action, the chapter ends and it’s Goat Boy’s turn for a chapter. Then back to the Princess again. Some might find this disjointed. I didn’t; in fact I relished the use of suspense and the way it introduces more complex structures which children will see more of, as they read increasingly difficult books. My daughter didn’t have any trouble following the action.

Our Rating (channelling our love of ice cream, our rating system works the way we like our ice cream: the more scoops the better. Besides, good books should be devoured!

Best = four scoops):

four scoops icecream

Four scoops! Can’t talk, busy eating!

 

*****

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