As my boyfriend put it, "this is the most stereotypically girly childhood favorite book you could possibly have picked." He's right. I still love it.
T...moreAs my boyfriend put it, "this is the most stereotypically girly childhood favorite book you could possibly have picked." He's right. I still love it.
The Ordinary Princess is a book that's written for kids who are just beginning to read chapter books, and it preserves fairy-tale logic. It's the story of a princess whose six sisters are all beautiful, charming, and absolutely boring; she's "cursed" with being ordinary, a hoyden. Nobody wants to marry her, so her father threatens to hire a dragon to lay waste the land (with her as prize), and then... There's no swashbuckling here: the Ordinary Princess's rebellion stretches about as far as running away and no further. If you want swashbuckling, go read Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede, which deals with this same sort of thing in a much more feminist and action-packed way.
And yet - I can't get over how simply charming the royal house of Phanffaria is; how sweet the song "Lavender's blue / rosemary's green / when you are king / I shall be queen" is; how simply charming it is to have a story which preserves all the logic (good and bad) of fairy tales and yet wherein the lovers fall in love based on their personalities, not based on the fact that the princess has to be "saved" by the prince. The only saving that happens here is - well, but I'll let you find out.
This is a very mild reworking of the fairy tale trope but, I think, a significant one. The 1950s are stamped in many places (at one point, the male lead teases the female that he might spank her; the female teases the male that she might slap him). But that very fact makes it a wonderful comfort read.(less)
When I first read this book (as a child), I didn't realize that it was an attempt to bring objectivism to kids, to which I can only say, "hahahahahaha...moreWhen I first read this book (as a child), I didn't realize that it was an attempt to bring objectivism to kids, to which I can only say, "hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!" And yeah, okay, it was Ayn Rand for 10-year-olds. That said, I still really like it. I feel like it was formative for me. Do I agree with everything in it? No. But I prize individualism and self-sufficiency - and I think that this book may have been part of what made me that way. Those are values I'd like to pass on to my kids, even if some other values in the book aren't (ex: I would like my kids to be OK with taxation; I would like my kids to believe in God). I plan on giving this book to my children when I have them.
I had forgotten that the book is very realistic and even horrific at times. It glosses over most dead bodies (it's a postapocalyptic world) - but not all of them. The kids use guns and Molotov cocktails to defend themselves. One of the characters gets shot. I appreciate that the book includes these things and treats them as tools, not as things to be purely scared of or to be purely repulsed by. I don't think that any kid would come out of this book saying "let's go shoot people!" They might say "I'd like to learn how to shoot a target," though.
This book is awesome as far as feminism goes. While there's a slight traditionalist skew in the roles characters take on, I don't think it's egregious, and every character is represented as doing every thing (building, cooking, teaching, caregiving). A climactic scene involves the protagonist standing up for herself when a boy jeers at the idea of a female leader. The heroine protagonist works with a group of kids of mixed gender. On the other hand, the enemies are mostly male ( they are represented as a violent, hyper-masculine "gang" that only accepts male members).
Race-wise, the protagonist says some regrettable things about the Pilgrims defending themselves from Indian raids (less than a paragraph). Other than that and the white girl on the cover, there is no mention of race. Most of the names are easily within the "average name" bracket for when it was written (protagonist Lisa, her brother Todd, their friends Craig and Jill...) but since you rarely hear characters' last names, I found it easy to imagine them as any race at all. If you get past an assumption of whiteness, I think this book isn't problematic, and if you're reading it to a kid, you could easily update it as you went.(less)
This book wasn't what I expected it to be. I thought it was going to be much more... I don't know... fantastical? That isn't the right word. I expecte...moreThis book wasn't what I expected it to be. I thought it was going to be much more... I don't know... fantastical? That isn't the right word. I expected a high fantasy (with the "windseeker" title and all). But by the end, I had gotten through all the wacky plant-computers and so forth and was thoroughly entranced. The format of the story, in some ways, reminded me of Haroun and the Sea of Stories - nearly discrete incidents following one after the other (this is not the format of my own favorite childhood books). I enjoyed it, despite it seeming somewhat unfamiliar.
And the story is wonderful. I really, really enjoyed all the magnificent and curious plants and animals that Zahrah meets, and I completely empathized with Zahrah; her understanding of the world is just like mine was when I was 13! The book manages to strike a balance between "Zahrah is basically a good girl" and "Zahrah is not a total goody-goody" that's rare in kid lit.
One thing that really challenged me about this book: it forced me to examine my lack of colorblindness. That is: I usually assume characters in books are white. This book didn't let me do that. It gently reminded me, whenever I started to imagine the characters as white, that no, they're black. No, they're black. No, dammit, Nnedi Okorafor is from Nigeria and she's not writing about white folks! At first I found this distracting and difficult, but by the end of the book I was grateful. I've read a lot of Octavia Butler and I never had this experience, and now I realize that that's because I was envisioning her characters... as white. Frequently. Against textual evidence. My brain betrayeth me. In any case, not only did the gentle reminders help me remember who the characters really are, by the end of the book I didn't need them. The training wheels could come off and I could hold not just Zahrah in my head as a character of color, but all the other characters too. (less)
If you take a peek at what I said about A Princess of Roumania, it holds true here. A bit confusing, in a dreamlike way, but nevertheless fantastic; t...moreIf you take a peek at what I said about A Princess of Roumania, it holds true here. A bit confusing, in a dreamlike way, but nevertheless fantastic; things are holding together better than I thought they would, and I feel like I'm getting the hang of this universe, growing to understand what rules Paul Park plays by. Lovely.(less)
Don't be fooled by the title. This isn't about vampires, and it isn't about princesses, at least not in the fairy tale sense.
A Princess of Roumania wa...moreDon't be fooled by the title. This isn't about vampires, and it isn't about princesses, at least not in the fairy tale sense.
A Princess of Roumania was a fascinating, wonderful read. It reminds me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones, but it doesn't have the same sense of rushing towards an ending where everything will almost-but-not-quite make sense, that you have to reread three or four times. (DWJ fans will know what I'm talking about.) It starts off seeming to be a standard cross-world fantasy, but the world that Miranda (the protagonist) crosses into slowly reveals itself, becomes more shocking, more wondrous, more different.
One thing that took me by surprise was realizing that this very adult-feeling book was about a young girl who menstruates for the first time during the course of the book - on-camera, even. I really appreciate that. The way Miranda is described rings a lot truer to me than most descriptions of teenagers, perhaps because she takes herself just as seriously as I take myself. This isn't about an adult looking back at teenagerhood and moralizing, it's about a teenager living her (strange, fantastical) life.
And the writing's lovely too.
The only thing that stops me from giving this book five stars is that it's so much the beginning of a series. I don't think I can properly rate it five until I know what the denouement will be, and we haven't gotten there yet. I feel as though there are lots of little theme-tendrils just poking their heads out of the ground, and pretty soon I'll see them grow, but later, not yet.(less)
But We Are Not Of Earth was, I think, my introduction to sci fi, and it holds up very well on a re-read.
++++ • Simply written, but not insultingly so....moreBut We Are Not Of Earth was, I think, my introduction to sci fi, and it holds up very well on a re-read.
++++ • Simply written, but not insultingly so. Appropriate for ages 10 and up. • No gender weirdness whatsoever. It is so incredibly rare to find a sci fi book that (a) treats men and women as exact equals and (b) doesn't make a big issue of it. • Classic bildungsroman. • Introduces you to some of the major preoccupations of sci fi - critique of society, exploration, mental expansion. • Has characters that are in many ways similar to the characters of Ender's Game - like Ender's Game, it is a gifted child's manifesto. • The themes of estrangement/heritage are incredibly evocative to a preteen beginning to search for their adult identity.
---- • Tendency to add "space" to words in highly gratuitous fashion, ex: "space geography," "space credits." Also, slightly irritating futuristic names, although by no means a major-league offender in this respect (could be way worse). • Slightly old-fashioned diction.
You know it's a good book when the worst thing I have to say about it is "slightly old-fashioned diction"!(less)