‘The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party’ by Shannon and Dean Hale

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Rating: 4 1/2 stars

“The Princess in Black” was followed by “The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party,” both by Shannon Hale and her husband, Dean Hale. Both books are much loved by early chapter book readers, and local librarians report that they can’t keep the books on the shelves.

That’s wonderful for many reasons. The Princess in Black also happens to be Princess Magnolia, a princess who adores pink, tiaras, glass slippers and high tea. She loves all things girly — until her glitter-stone ring sounds the monster alarm. Then it’s time for Princess Magnolia to step into the broom closet, shed her glass slippers and pink dresses, and become the Princess in Black. As her alter-ego, she saves the kingdom’s goats from goat-eating monsters. She wrestles and fights them in very un-princessy moves while Duff, the goatherd, watches.

It’s a secret no one must know, although in the first book, Duff has a momentary suspicion. In the second book, during Princess Magnolia’s princess birthday party with twelve princesses attending, she must fight monsters. Princess Sneezewort suspects something, and young readers will worry that Princess Magnolia’s secret will be discovered. But in spite of many, many monster alarms during the Princess’ birthday party, all ends well. Readers will enjoy reading about the excuses Princess Magnolia makes each time the glitter-stone ring sounds the alarm. First the princesses play hide-and-seek (during which Princess Magnolia disappears), then have races (during which Princess Magnolia disappears). Each time she returns to her party a bit more disheveled and frustrated. The surprise reaction of the last monster is charming.

The illustrator creates drawings with just enough detail to charm readers without overpowering the text. The twelve visiting princesses in the second book are of all colors and nationalities.

The two books would be great gifts for young chapter book readers or any children aged six through nine. Even younger kids would love these; either good readers or with adults reading them out loud. The stories are filled with humor and action, and they show that girls, even girly-girls, can also fight crime and be heroes.

And the third book in the series, “The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde” is about the power of cute — and how things may not be as they appear. Get readers hooked now and they will eat up these sweet treats.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by Candlewick for review purposes.