Flashback Fridays: One little, two little, three little princesses . . .

You’re a girl on the way to school with a homework assignment you just couldn’t complete. Then something strange happens, you close your eyes for a moment and reopen them to find yourself in a carriage in an entirely different place.  You’re treated like a princess–in fact you are made a real princess, but something definitely isn’t right here . . .

Do you remember:

The Seventh Princess by Nick Sullivan (Scholastic, 1983)

I’m sure many of you have gotten those Scholastic book order forms at school over the years.  I certainly did–and got to order a few of my very first personally chosen books.  This was one of them.  I think it was likely my very first real world/other world crossover fantasy.  The type where characters in a realistic fiction setting get thrown into another world of fantasy and magic.

I won’t pretend this is the strongest or best story ever written.  But it was one of the early fantasy books that got me on track for the brilliant stuff–and I’ve never forgotten the book completely.  Jennifer is your average school kid on her way to school with an assignment she hasn’t done: My Strangest Dream.  Jennifer can’t think of a single dream she’s had and so has not completed her work as she might normally have done.  On the bus trip, she closes her eyes for a moment, opens them, and decides she must be dreaming now!  She’s riding in an ornate carriage through an unfamiliar country.  There are fancy clothes in the carriage she tries on.  When the carriage stops, she’s greeted at the entrance to a castle and called Princess Miranda.  Though Jennifer tries to correct their mistaken assumption, she soon learns that no one is interested in her protests.  They know that she’s not actually a princess, but she will become one and be treated like one . . . until her time runs out.  It turns out she is the seventh in a line of girls who were princess before her–and each one has disappeared at the time of the full moon.  The king is bespelled and the prince is missing.  A wicked enchantress with fearsome harpies at her command has wound her spells into the court . . . and Jennifer is her next target.  Jennifer’s only hope lies in finding the Paladin scrolls . . .

It’s a fairly traditional fantasy adventure, a prince in disguise,  an evil witch, magic scrolls and all the rest.  Though I will give it credit for a rather unique way in which the Paladin scrolls actually help Jennifer.  Likewise the harpies are  a fairly unusual touch in the story.  The heroine is fairly intelligent in her response to her surroundings, even if the telling of the tale remains fairly simple–this would work for about a strong second or third grade reader as a nice intro to fantasy.  I will admit that as a kid, I immediately wanted to magically be transported to my own magical world (I tried often) and this book got read probably ten or twelve times over the year.  My biggest complaints?  The supporting beginning and end bits with the essay “My Strangest Dream”.  At the end of the tale, Jennifer is granted some magic that allows her adventures to be written out for her school assignment, and the question of “was it all a dream?” front and center.  I can’t quite express how much I dislike that particular plot device.

The book was repubbed in 2001 with this awful cover. It really conveys nothing of the story, while I give a lot of credit to the orginal cover for nailing the story atmosphere.

The author hasn’t written any other children’s fantasy that I can find.  The one thing that is notable, seems to be that he’s gone on to narrate audio versions of many fantasy works, both for children and adults.

My copy of this book is old, and worn, with that particular fragile yellowing that is so common with books from the 80s.  Inside it has an old wizard stamp I used to use to mark all my books, and my script writing announcing that it’s the property of yours truly.  It may have never won an award or gotten on a grand old book list, but it was a lot of fun, and a great stepping stone at just the right time.  Thanks, Mr. Sullivan, for giving me some great memories on my fantasy reading beginnings!

What was the first book you owned?  Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on January 4, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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