Beware of Cute Little Bunnies Especially if They Are Blinking at You
The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham (published 2016)
I first discovered Shannon Hale's writing through Austenland, of course. Like any good Austenphile, I have read many a fanfiction (traditionally published or otherwise) about Pride and Prejudice, though I think at the time that I received Austenland as a gift, I hadn't yet forayed into the internet for Austen FF. Though I had many issues with the plotline, I had many things I admired as well. So much so that when I saw she was doing revisions of the fairy tales (the Ever After High series), I jumped right in and asked Mini Me if she would like to read them. She politely declined. However, when The Princess in Black series first emerged, she was right on it. Because who doesn't love princesses in black?
My girls are a dichotomy in their likes and dislikes. My girls like trains, they like Star Wars, they like stuffed animals, they went through princess phases, they like all kinds of Lego, they like to sing and dance, they do martial arts and parkour and they like Harry Potter. In other words, they are the epitome of gender neutral. But more than that, they have quirky senses of humor. So of course Princess Magnolia AKA The Princess in Black emerged, it was right up their alley.
Little Lion is not a reluctant reader. She is a fluctuating reader--a term I just coined meaning that she has the skills and ability to read but doesn't always have the self-confidence. Is she 'behind' her sister in reading skills at this same age? Yes. But she's not behind for her age, it's just that Mini Me is gifted. (I try hard not to compare them in front of each other, but LL still feels it.) LL has had so much progress in her reading and is currently at level 'L', which I'm told is the goal for first grade at her school. And she's been reading every single sign we pass when we're driving.
Long story short, The Princess in Black series is a great transition series from picture books. There are short chapters and wonderfully illustrated pictures throughout in color. And the books stand alone, like all good series books should. The series in general has a quirky sense of humor about it, with Princess Magnolia foregoing all stereotypes and showing up as the superhero, while still pointing out all the various similarities between the two. Yet, Duff the Goat boy never figures it out. Plus the Hales have a knack for naming these characters--Magnolia's trusty unicorn is called Frimplepants AKA Blacky.
And The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde does NOT veer from this quirkiness--Magnolia starts out the day going to meet her friend, Princess Sneezewort, for brunch. Along the way, the monster alarm goes off and Magnolia must quick-change (her secret hideaways rival Batman's) and go off to save Duff's goats from....cute bunnies. Yes, cute bunnies. However, as any grown-up knows, bunnies eat everything and multiply like crazy. What's a superhero to do? Will the Princess in Black get caught up in their cuteness? (Yes.)
My favorite chapter is chapter 9. Mind you, the first time I 'read' this book was when Little Lion was reading it out loud to me on a rainy drive back home from a mini-vacation. So when she read "The dark one sings for us," I thought I misheard her and made her read it again. Nope, she was right. And then "it dances for us"--well, let's just say the Bookworm family car was full of chortles on that ride home. Shannon Hale and Dean Hale have delighted us once again in this latest installment of The Princess in Black.
Rating: Lowest shelf. We read this one over and over again.
Ages: 5-10 years old (and up). If you have 3 or 4 year old bookworms who are interested, you could also read this one out loud chapter by chapter, especially if your little ones like to chortle.
Bonus: The 4th book in this series was released last month: The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation. You bet that we'll be buying this one!
Addendum: In honor of Carrie Fisher and her untimely death, let's give a toast to unconventional princesses everywhere. Carrie Fisher, thank you for depicting Princess Leia the way you did, and thank you for being unapologetically you.