October 20, 2006

Princess Academy

By Shannon Hale
Rating:4 1/2 stars
2006 Newbery Honor
Reviewed by Noelle

Miri lives in the tiny village atop of Mount Eskel, where all the inhabitants mine the rare linder stone except for her. Miri believes her father won't let her work in the quarry due to her small size and she yearns to win his approval. Still, she is mostly happy tending the goats and harboring a crush on her longtime friend Peder. But life is turned upside down when a messenger from the king arrives with the traders and announces that the bride for the country's prince is to come from Mount Eskel. All the girls from 14 to 18 years old in the village will be required to attend an academy to train them as potential princesses and in a year, the prince will arrive to choose his bride. Despite the protests of the villagers, the group of girls set off on the 3 hour trek to the academy building where they are pressed by a harsh teacher to learn reading, writing, poise, conversation, dancing, history and more. Although the academy is difficult, the girls soon find themselves competing to be the most accomplished. Miri is right at the top of the class, but she begins to learn more than just the required items on the syllabus. She stumbles upon a way to use the almost magical "quarry speech" outside of the quarry, and her study of commerce opens up new possibilities to ease the hard life of the village. For Miri, the most important lesson becomes the realization of what she can do with her new skills as opposed to what she can win for learning them. This is a truly terrific story. What could have been another old Cinderella story is instead layered with fine characters and some very surprising plot twists, as well as a depth of emotion that could cause some tears to prick under eyelids. This is a story about friends and family, but also about taking risks and finding out what you really want. Anyone taking the time to read this worthy book will not be sorry. High marks!

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