Flashback Fridays (Blog Post flashback): Violets are blue, rosemary’s green, when I am king, you shall be queen . . .

Tomorrow I’m heading up to the Christening of my newphew.  Yours truly gets to play godmother!  Yep an actual factual godmother–and I couldn’t be more delighted.  But given that I’ll be away and occupied, I didn’t want to leave this week without a Flashback post.  And the Christening brought to mind the trouble that Christenings often cause in stories.  Especially if you invite fairy godmothers.  You never know just what might happen!  So here’s a post from about a year ago on one of my favorite books from my childhood (and one I still think Disney should make into a movie).

You’re the seventh princess born to the King and Queen and a fairy has gifted you with the ability of being ordinary.  You grow up with freckles and “mousy” brown hair and a love of playing out of doors.  You’re parents are conspiring to marry you off to a prince through trickery and a dragon, so you run away . . .

Do you remember:

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The Ordinary Princess written and illustrated by M. M. Kaye (Doubleday, c1980)

Princess Amy of Phantasmorania is the seventh princess born to her parents.  Everyone knows the seventh daughter is the most beautiful one ever, and Amy’s six sisters are lovely as it is.  At her Christening, Amy’s parents invite a godmother who bestows upon their daughter a most unusual gift: the gift of being ordinary.  So rather than being a perfect princess, Amy grows up with freckles, brownish hair, and a love of adventure and playing in the out of doors.  This dismays her parents who want what’s best for their unusual daughter, but despair at ever finding her a royal match.  Princes come courting, expecting the seventh princess to be stunning and retreat after seeing her.  So they concoct a plan to hire a dragon to lay waste to the kingdom until a prince comes and defeats it, thereby winning the princess in marriage (sight unseen).  Amy overhears and runs away from home, refusing to be a part of such things.  She trades dresses with a town girl and goes and lives in the forest with her animal friends.  She’s quite happy for a time . . . until her dress starts to fall to pieces.  That’s when her unorthodox godmother steps in again.

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Her godmother suggests Amy find work in a nearby kingdom’s castle.  And Amy heads there, securing a position as a kitchen maid.  While working to earn enough for a new dress, she encounters a young man one night after a grand feast, sitting on the table and helping himself to the leftovers.

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Percy and Amy strike up a warm friendship that starts to become something more.  With Amy’s true identity a secret–can  there possibly be a happy ever after? You betcha!

I read this and loved it from the first.  It’s one of those stories I want to read to my daughter in a few years a story that provides us a very atypical princess who manages to live her own life (Amy is not a helpless damsel, and though she’s not a kick-butt heroine, she’s a delightfully vibrant protagonist.)  Perfect for younger readers, the  illustrations (also by M. M. Kaye) are charming and memorable.  Even after years, I still remember the specific illustrations and love them.  It’s a love story, a fairy tale and a wonderful heroine all tied into one book.  This is one I keep thinking would be tailor-made for a Disney animation.

Looking back at the story there’s something else that’s significant here.  Amy looks like an ordinary girl.  She’s not horrendously ugly or disfigured.  This isn’t Fiona by day, ogre by night type of thing. Amy doesn’t have to be transformed, she’s happy how she is.  She never yearns for the beauty of her sisters.  Amy’s to princesses what Tree Change dolls are to Barbie and Bratz.  And . . . you know what?  She’s beautiful as she is–and readers will absolutely be convinced of that by the end of the story.

A look into the author’s bio reveals this is her only book ever written for children.  She’s done some lauded writing for adults, particularly books reflecting her time living in India, but no other work for young readers.  I can’t help but regret the fact that this gem is so singular.  It’s still available on library shelves today–though with a different cover.  It’s worth a read.

Any other fans out there?  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 April 30, 2015, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ooh, me! I love this book so much! and I plan to read it to my daughter in a year or two, too.

  1. Pingback: My 400th Post: What Brought Me This Far: 100 Books in my Blood | Views From the Tesseract

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