Book: The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party
Author: Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Age Range: 5-8
The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party is the second book in the Princess in Black series, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale with illustrations by LeUyen Pham. This second book is even better than the first. My daughter and I both hope that there will be many more.
The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party is an early chapter book with frequent color illustrations. It is perfect for newer readers, but also works well as a read-aloud. As this installment begins, "prim and perfect Princess Magnolia" is about to host her own birthday party. She is interrupted, however, by a ring of her "glitter-stone ring", indicating that her presence, as the top-secret Princess in Black, is needed to fight monsters. As the story progresses, the calls keep coming, and the poor princess wonders if she will ever be able to open her birthday presents.
I read this to my daughter in a single sitting. She had enjoyed the first book, The Princess in Black, but this one she found hilarious. She was simply choking with laughter as the glitter-stone ring kept interrupting Princess Magnolia's party. She was sitting up in bed, tapping on the pages, saying things like: "Another monster!! This one is pink!". She was completely engaged. [This proved to be a less than perfect book for bedtime reading because she was so excited that she wouldn't settle down. But these are the risks we take.]
There's a passage late in the book which emphasizes the repeated nature of the interruptions. Several, but not all, of the sentences are followed by "Again." My daughter chimed in after every sentence with "Again." As soon as we finished the book she wanted to read it again, with Daddy. I was concerned when reading the beginning of the book that it was going to be too much like the first Princess in Black book. Little did I know that this repetitive structure was part of the story, the part that would make my own small child giggle uncontrollably. It's brilliant.
What I especially liked about The Perfect Princess Party was the extensive, though not overwhelming, use (as hinted by the title) of alliteration. This makes The Perfect Princess Party a delight to read aloud, though one might not notice so much if reading silently. Magnolia has a "favorite fluffy dress". She "slid down the secret chute." The "ballon bobbed." And so on. The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party is in any case sprinkled with enjoyable words to read aloud. Like "faithful steed" and "Frimplepants." The princesses who attend Magnolia's birthday party have fun names like Princess Euphoria and Princess Sneezewort.
As in the first book, LeUyen Pham's bright illustrations add humor and drama to the story. Young readers will especially enjoy watching Magnolia become increasingly disheveled after fighting a sequence of monsters. The visiting princesses are a multicultural lot, compete with the trappings of various cultures (dragon, giraffe, etc.). The party-related illustrations are generally pink and frothy, while the monster fight scenes are more bold and comic book-like. The drama of the fight scenes prompted an "Oh my!" from my own young listener.
The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party has everything a young reader (or listener) could ask for: a butt-kicking heroine in black, a lovely party with pink cupcakes and a beautiful young hostess, party games, and monster defeats. This second installment is a bit more pink than the first, which could turn off male readers. But I hope it doesn't. Because Princess Magnolia's struggles to do her duty, despite the pain of denying herself presents, should resonate with all kids. As should the laugh-out-loud humor and rich vocabulary in The Princess in Black and Perfect Princess Party. This party is not to be missed, and would make a pitch-perfect fifth birthday gift for any child. Highly recommended, and a must-have for libraries.
Publication Date: October 13, 2015
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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