The Princess In Black, by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
The Princess In Black And The Perfect Princess Party, by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
The Princess In Black And The Hungry Bunny Horde, by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Good children’s literature, and these books qualify as that , often contain at least two layers of discussion, one layer that appeals to children, in this case very adventuresome but princessy sort of girls who want to dress in pink and look cute but also fight monsters, and another layer of meaning that provides additional enjoyment for the adults that must read these books to said adventuresome princesses . Given that I did not want to tie up two days’ worth of book reviews on these three princess novels, which share various elements and the same context, I thought it would be worthwhile to give my thoughts as a cynical adult reader on the novels of this series at length in a separate post but to review them here from the perspective of someone who is looking to recommend this book to those who are reading, providing a summary of the contents of the three books and then some brief comments about the overall world and context of these books that one could expect to see in future volumes.
The first book of the series introduces Princess Magnolia as the caped monster-fighting Princess in Black, where she uses gadgetry and a slight disguise to fight a forgetful monster who cannot remember why he is supposed to stay down in his hole and not try to eat the goats in the field above his resource-poor land, along with her trusty unicorn Frimplepants/Blacky, where her antics inspire Duff the Goat Boy to become a super hero too, the Goat Avenger. Duff seems to be the only guy in the story, and while Princess Magnolia is gone she has an elderly and suspicious Duchess Wigtower snooping around seeing what the young princess is hiding, setting up an attitude of mistrust between children and adults that is a commonplace of children’s literature, and one of its more lamentable elements. The adventure is fast-paced and Magnolia is suitably daring and brave to make her an appealing heroine to young pre-readers, while the layers of irony are enjoyable enough to be read with pleasure by those who are asked to read this book over and over again by bossy small children.
In the second book of the series, The Princess In Black And The Perfect Princess Party, we see a very frazzled Princess Magonlia switching between her two identities in a frantic manner. On the one hand, she has twelve suitably multi-cultural princesses from nearby realms at her castle to celebrate her birthday, but on the other hand her land is being overrun by continual raids from goat-seeking monsters from below, and so over and over again Magnolia is having to change in a hurry and fight a monster, return and make excuses, disguise her absences with various games that lead some of the more clever princesses among her coterie to start to wonder about the reason for her absences, and return with twelve pink stones from the last monster of the day to invade her small realm, before enjoying the rest of the day in conversation and fun with her friends. This particular book introduces Princess Sneezewort, who promises to be a clever and worthwhile friend to the harried pretty princess/caped monster fighter.
The third book of the series, The Princess In Black And The Hungry Bunny Horde, reminds us that cute bunny rabbits can be a menace, especially when they eat boulders and goat horns and think that princesses are yummy. The book has humorous and ironic lines about cute beings speaking in a language that only other cute beings understand, which explains a lot on why my life is so difficult sometimes in not understanding those around me. Likewise, it demonstrates that sometimes one does not defeat monsters with force, but by persuasion, as Blacky here serves loyally in persuading the bunnies that the Princess and her land are not yummy, so that they return home to breed like bunnies and eat the meager toenail clippings and monster fur that can be found below and not spread their desertification to the princess’ land. Afterwards the Princess in black and her trusty pony have a lunch, still in their disguise, with Princess Sneezewort, who is waiting for them at a cafe while they miss a brunch.
There are at least a few things that can be said about this series from its first few books. For one, the realm of Princess Magnolia must be very small if she can regularly eat with a neighboring princess who is not closely relate to her by riding on horseback for a fairly short time. This would signify that the princess rules over a land with a castle and a small village and some goats that would not have been out of place among the small principalities of the Holy Roman Empire. The princess only has one male friend, a goat herder, and a permanent vulnerability in the hole to monster land, which requires her continual vigilance, even as she is simultaneously forced to adhere to a rigid protocol involving clothing and social obligations. One wonders where her parents are, given that at her oldest Princess Magnolia is assumed to be a preteen, hardly old enough or mature enough to rule even a small realm, although at least it can be said that she is not snobby, as her defense efforts are for her entire realm and not merely for her castle, as she is concerned even about the fate of lowly goats, which likely represent a heavy proportion of the resources of her small realm. This is a world that invites questions as to logistics and the similarities between Princess Magnolia and other elite superheroes who use their wealth and large amount of private space to build their alter egos like Batman and Iron Man with their secret lairs and gadgetry. All in all, this is a worthy and entertaining series for girls, as it appears not to be written with the intent of being appealing to boys, and the sort of book that gives its readers the sobering lesson that one can be both adventuresome and princessy, but that the result of straddling those two worlds often involves a lot of stress and the need for disguise and discretion to prevent disapproval from those who do not think it suitable for princesses to wear black or neglect their toilette.
 See also:
 I find that for a single man with no lovely princesses in my life that I read an alarmingly large number of books relating to princesses: