The Ordinary Princess (Book Review)

The Ordinary Princess (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you enjoy fractured fairy tales (but gentle ones)

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The Ordinary Princess

By M. M. Kaye (author and illustrator)

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

What would happen to a fairy tale princess if she were simply ordinary?

This book came with my homeschool curriculum. I didn’t think my 7- and 8-year-old boys would be interested, so I swapped this one with The Secret Garden, which they loved. That didn’t stop me from reading this tiny book for myself, though.

My copy came with a preface by the author, and I’m glad I didn’t skip it. She says that after going on a fairy-tale-reading-spree, she realized that most of the princesses fit a certain model—beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed, and graceful. This is only to be expected in fairy tales, right? But, the author, like so many before and after her, wondered how the story might change if the princess in question were ordinary. She said that she sat under a tree and wrote the whole thing by hand in one sitting.

This book isn’t exactly a retelling of any single tale (that I can think of). It nods mightily to Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, but it’s not a spinoff. It stars Amy, the seventh and youngest daughter of a noble kingdom, and she’s cursed with ordinariness.

Because she’s nothing special to look at, the king and queen can’t marry her off. Amy becomes so weary of the endless string of suitors who arrive, take one look at her, and then awkwardly contrive early departures. So, she must figure something out—and that something is her future.

The curse turns into a blessing. Amy learns the virtues of independent thought, hard work, and healthy physical exertion out of doors, all of which (come to think of it) line up neatly with The Secret Garden.

This book is short and takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to fairy tales, mildly mocking them. It reminds me of About the Sleeping Beauty by P. L. Travers. It’s long been fashionable to recast these timeless tales to suit modern tastes, pointing out how sexist and violent the originals are, and aren’t we much better in this day and age? But, we’re not better, and it does no good to scoff at folklore, myth, and fairy tales. But it’s okay to look at them and wonder why. Wonder how and if. What else are they for if not that?

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