Thursday, October 10, 2013

October Book Review: Princess Academy

October's book for our Mommy and Me Book Club was Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.  This book is slightly above Chloe's reading level, but Santa's elves had a very special reason for sending it to her this month.  (More on that later.)  The best piece of advice I can give anyone who wants to do their own Mommy and Me Book Club is to choose books that are on your child's reading level.  (You can find the reading level or recommended age of the reader on the back cover of the book, the inside cover, or online.)  If you choose a book too far above your child's reading level, they may get frustrated and give up and hate you and throw the book in your face.
Princess Academy is a Newberry Honor Book by the amazing Shannon Hale.  The short description on the inside cover reads:

While attending a strict academy for potential princesses with the other girls from her mountain village, fourteen-year-old Miri discovers unexpected talents and connections to her homeland.

Based on the title of the book and that description, you may be thinking this book sounds a bit . . . fluffy.  This is not a fluffy book.  I read it a few years ago and immediately wanted my daughter and every daughter everywhere to read it.  I even tried getting Harrison to read it, but duh.  It's called Princess Academy
This is the first fantasy novel Chloe had ever read and between the difficult names and the unusual settings, she had a hard time following it.  So, we read the first chapter together.  She said it helped her understand it a lot better to hear it read aloud, so I borrowed the audio book from the library.  Chloe listened to the CD's as she read along in her book and was able to understand all of it just fine.  The books we've read for our book club, thus far, have pretty much been G-rated.  I'd say Princess Academy is more PG-rated, because of some thematic elements and moments of peril.

A few weeks ago I saw a flyer at the library announcing that Shannon Hale was coming to St. Louis for a book signing!  After doing a few backflips, I decided that would have to be our book club meeting.  So last night we drove to the library and waited and waited and waited to meet her.
A few years ago, My Awesome Friend Wendy gave me a copy of Austenland and told me I had to read it.  I loved it!  It was the first chick-lit book I'd ever read that didn't fill me with self-loathing.  I went to the library and looked up other books by Shannon Hale.  She also had a series of young adult novels called the Books of Bayern.  I tore threw those in a week and also picked up The Book of a Thousand Days (my personal favorite) and Princess Academy.  I love her writing.  Her books are imaginative, smart, fun, and funny and always keep me interested.  I've read a lot of children's books with my kids and I know how rare that is.

Last night Mrs. Hale told us about her new book, Ever After High, and then answered questions from the audience of mostly young girls.  She was so delightful and hilarious!  If only she knew how much we would be best friends.  Chloe was brave enough to ask Hale a question.  She asked how long it takes to write a book.  Anywhere from months to years, said Hale.  Then she talked specifically about how long it took to write a few of her books.  Interesting. 

Here's Shannon Hale rapping.  (That's not a euphemism.  She's really rapping.)

Then she signed our book! 

Then we made up a new best friends secret handshake and took a picture.

As a special treat, I got Chloe a copy of Ever After High (Which should be on her reading level.  Yay!) and Shannon Hale signed that one, too.  Clearly she doesn't know Chloe at all, but maybe this inscription will inspire Chloe.  My daughter could probably stand to be a little more rebellious.  I'm so grateful for authors like Hale who give young girls such strong role models to read about.

9 Wisecracks:

Wendy said...

So so fun!!!

Nicole said...

You cannot top this month! Time to stop reading, I guess. What a treat to meet an author/kindred spirit! Bridget won Princess Academy at a library bingo night. That would be cool to listen to it and read along. You're like an idea factory, man!

Chelsea Dyreng said...

Wow. I am speechless. And in tears.

Tammy and Alvin said...

So jealous! We love Shannon Hale and were actually thinking of reading Princess Academy with Miriam this month for our book club before we saw your post - so don't think we're copycats.:) Actually, I wish we could be copycats and meet Shannon Hale in person. Does she have St. Louis roots or something? How did she end up at your library out of all the cities in the country. Awesome! I just checked our library catalog for the 'Ever After High' book, but we don't have it yet. Guess it's too hot off the press.

Patti said...

What Chelsea said. Reading your blog was like watching a movie. Could something so perfect actually happen in real life? Well done, Melissa. Well done.

melissa said...

Way to keep me grounded, guys. ;)

Amy Maxwell said...

I'm so proud of Chloe for asking a question! Was she nervous? I don't remember when I went through my "never ask a question or make a comment in large group settings" phase, but I don't think I would have been brave enough to do that when I was her age.

Ellee Peterson said...

Book of a Thousand Days is my favorite Shannon Hale book too!!! And you should read "Midnight in Austenland", it's a sort of sequel to Austenland!

(ps - if you're wondering who the heck I am, I'm Clark's wife! :) I am so excited to officially meet you and my other Maxwell cousins at Amy's wedding!!!)

melissa said...

Ellee, I totally know who you are! And I really enjoyed Midnight in Austenland, too.

Can't wait to meet you!