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The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party: 08/13/16

The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale

The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale is the second book in the series. It's Princess Magnolia's birthday and all she wants to do is have her other princess friends over for a party. The monsters, though, won't let her go for more than a couple minutes before she's back to having to fight them again.

About half of this book is a rehash of the first and I was afraid it would continue along those lines. I know Zorro, the basic source material here, does the same, and has more than 100 years, but here, it gets old quickly. More on why in a bit.

First though, there's the back half of the book which sets up a cliff hanger. As Magnolia and her royal friends appear to be children, the birthday party includes children's games. One of those that she tosses out as an excuse to once again run off to hunt a monster, is hide and seek. The problem with hide and seek is that secrets just might be revealed by accident!

Take for instance, a princess who is drawn like the living embodiment of a wallflower. She even has a daisy for a hat. In three different illustrations, she is shown as a natural master of hide and seek, at least on the hiding part. Her skirt matches with the curtains. Her entire ensemble is a double for a floor lamp. She blends in perfectly with a throw rug.

Those who hide, though, are also good at finding other's hiding spots. Or in this case, Magnolia's secret passage to her alter ego's lair. One hopes that this princess can be taken on as an understudy.

And that leads me back to the problem with the running gag. In this world Magnolia as a princess knows she must dress and act a certain way. That involves a lot of pink (although not all of her princess friends follow this rule) and acting demure. However, there is a monster problem which she keeps in check by dressing in black and fighting the monsters in hand to claw combat.

It's implied repeatedly that should anyone find out about Magnolia's other life, bad things will happen. What these consequences are, though, are never stated. How bad are we talking? Will she lose her title? Will she be jailed? Will she be excommunicated? Executed? Put on time out? Laughed at?

These unspoken consequences that are there as a threat of unknown quantity belittle the message that girls should aspire to being anything they want. I really want Magnolia to stand up to all her guests and proudly declare her dedication to her people and the methods she uses to keep them protected. That's an important message too: people (not just females) where different costumes depending on what they're doing — what they need to do.

A soldier has fatigues, dress uniform, and maybe a slinky black dress for other occasions. Or maybe she likes to wear bright pink when she's out and about. These can all be the same person, filling many roles and being a role model in each case. That's who Magnolia should be, but isn't yet.

Three stars

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