A Tuesday Ten: A Dash of Romance . . .

It sounds a little odd to be talking romance in children’s fiction.  And especially speculative fiction.  In fact I wondered if I’d find anything to make a list out of.  Silly me,  there’s an abundance of possibilities out there–and not just the fairytales.  For my list, the story must have some kind of ongoing romance or romantic possibility that plays a part in the overall story.

1.

The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye (Doubleday & Company, c1980)

This is one of my favorite stories that takes fairy tale tropes and turns them on their heads.  It’s funny, charming and also a really sweet love story at the heart of it.  Princess Amy is granted an odd gift by her  fairy godmother–that she will be ordinary.  While Amy is perfectly happy with her lot, her parents decide to concoct a plot to win her a husband (sight unseen) through trickery.  Amy runs away instead . . . and finds just the right person for her, even if it takes both of them a while to realize the truth.

2.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow Books, c2000)

On the other side of the romance spectrum is this stunning gem of political fantasy.  This title is the second book in The Queen’s Thief series.  Eugenides  is the talented thief who stole a holy relic from The Queen of Attolia, making her lose face.  The Queen intends to take her revenge, but Eugenides plays a long game and he is out to steal much more.  At times brutal and heart-wrenching, full of cunning, treachery and intrigue, this spectacular piece of writing is not for the faint of heart, but is oh-so satisfying to read.

3.

The Girl Who Cried Flowers and Other Tales by Jane Yolen, illustrated by David Palladini (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1974)

One of my school librarians read this to our class when I was about eight.  I was spellbound.  Still am.  The title story of this work remains one of my favorite short stories to this day.  A girl is born from–I believe–a tree and adopted by a couple.  They quickly discover that when she cries, flowers come instead of tears.  She grows into a young woman weeping for people to give them the flowers they need.  Until she meets a man who falls in love with her, but he does not wish for her to cry or be unhappy, and so forbids her to shed a tear. . .  it’s an odd, soul-stirring sort of story.  Hard to find, but one I love.

4.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow, c1986)

A self-centered mercurial wizard meets his match when shy and skittish Sophie Hatter is cursed with old age and decides she’ll do just what she pleases.  It’s a great story and romance from one of the greats of British fantasy.   When Sophie goes to seek out the dread Wizard Howl to see if he can perhaps break the curse upon her, she doesn’t expect the magical misadventures that will follow.

5.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (Ace, c1982)

Time for some epic fantasy.  Harry has never felt she’s fit into her life quite satisfactorily . . . she’s always felt a yearning for something else.  Mad desert kings, midnight abductions,  ancient magical gifts, heroes and swords and battles against evil . . . it’s all there.  Harry is the girl of destiny who holds the fate of the country in her hands, armed with the legendary blue sword, Gonturan.  But in choosing to save the day, will she lose her heart?  I think this story must’ve hit every substantial tween marker for enjoyment with me.

6.

Pete & Pickles by Berkely Breathed (Philomel, 2008)

Yep, I’ve got a picture book on the list, and yep, it’s by Berkeley Breathed.  It’s one of those picture books that reminds readers this format isn’t just for the teeny listeners and readers.  Pete pig likes his life simple and straight forward, everything in order.  He’s content to live this way until he meets Pickles, an elephant on the run from the circus.  She brings disorder and randomness into Pete’s life.  And slowly staid Pete is brought out of his shell to embrace the wild and wacky.  But there are some bumps  . . . a heartwarming story that brought tears to my eyes and still makes me choke up when I read it.  A story of loss, renewal, and new love.

7.

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (HarperTeen, c2006)

The third book in the Tiffany Aching Quartet, this story is a poignant, funny and frightening look at first love and the shift for Tiffany from girl toward adulthood.  When Tiffany “accidentally” joins in a mystical dance, the Wintersmith, the element of winter, sees her and falls in love with her.  Now he’s courting her in ways that are causing trouble and outright danger for her friends and family.  Tiffany must set things right, but how do you reason with winter?  This story has Pratchett’s sharp wit and thoughtful look at what it means to be human.  Beautifully done.

8.

Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson (Scholastic, c1979)

Arriman the Awful, dread wizard of the North has decided to marry.  In fact he will invite all the local witches to compete in a contest to see which among them has the darkest powers . . .  Belladonna is head-over-heels for Arriman, but poor Belladonna is a white witch, with no dark powers to speak of–how can she ever hope to win her true love?  Fun and funny, Eva Ibbotston’s classical humor and charm woven into a delicious tale of romance, sorcery and just desserts.

9.

The Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce (Simon Pulse, c1988)

While these stories do not have romance as their main plot, the Lionness quartet surely has a strong romance plot running through all four stories.  Unlike many books where there’s a one true love, Alanna has several loves.  Love does not run smooth for this unconventional knight with her fiery magic and stubborn personality, she’ll have joys and hard choices to face,  but she’ll find her way through it and find the man who will let her be who she is.

10.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (Scholastic, 1997)

I started on a fairy tale rewrite and I’ll end on one.  I’m going to throw in a spoiler here for this book so be warned!

Ella has been “blessed” by her fairy godmother with the gift of obedience.  She must do anything anyone tells her to do–no matter how awful or dangerous or hated.  When her new stepsisters learn of of this, they take full advantage of poor Ella.  But Ella isn’t some quiet girl, she fights the spell that holds her and rebels in every way she can to keep control of her life.  By the end of the story, Ella knows she’s in love with the prince, and that he’s in love with her.  But her stepsisters know it too.  They want her to accept his marriage proposal, knowing that Ella is still helplessly under their control and must obey them.  Ella will not put her prince at such risk and so resists with everything in her, even when she is told to say yes to the prince, and finally defies the spell to tell him NO instead.  Things do resolve for a happy ending from there–but I always got a kick out of that desperate fight to NOT marry the prince.

So there you have my ten.  There are plenty more out there. What are your favorites?

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 February 12, 2014, in General Posts, Lists and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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