HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Ordinary Princess
Author and Illustrator: M. M. Kaye
Publisher: Puffin Books, reprinted in 2002
Related website: http://www.penguin.com/youngreaders (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Kaye, M. M. The Ordinary Princess (published in 1980 by Doubleday and Company Inc.; republished in 2002 by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers of the Penguin Group, 345 Hudson St., New York City, NY 10014). King Hulderbrand, whose great great great grandmother was apparently Princess Aurora of Sleeping Beauty fame, and Queen Rodehesia, rulers of Phantasmorania who live in their castle at Phanff, have six beautiful princess daughters named Diamond, Opal, Emerald, Sapphire, Crystal, and Pearl. Then they have a seventh daughter, Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne. Seventh daughters are supposed to be especially lucky. The fairy godmothers give her gifts of charm, wit, grace, and courage. However, the fairy Crustacea, who is old, rather deaf, and of uncertain temper, gives her the gift of being ordinary. Unlike her sisters, she has brown hair and freckles, and prefers outdoor adventures.
In fact, Amy is so ordinary that would be suitors find excuses to leave as soon as they meet her. When she grows up and her parents agree to a scheme of hiring a dragon to attract some prince in an attempt to marry her off, Amy runs away, and, because she is so ordinary, she easily becomes the fourteenth assistant kitchen maid at the royal palace of King Algernon at Amber in the neighboring kingdom of Ambergeldar, where she meets a strange young man named Peregrine (or Perry) who calls himself a “man of all work.” What will happen to Amy? Will she ever be able to return home? And exactly who is Perry? Author Mary Margaret Kaye (1908-2004) was born in India and spent much of her childhood and adult life there. She became world famous with the publication of her monumental bestseller, The Far Pavilions. She is also the author of the bestselling Trade Wind and Shadow of the Moon.
The Ordinary Princess is a charming modern fairy tale with the message that people should simply strive to do their best with whatever they have and not allow themselves to be poured into the mold of what others expect. Some references to dancing at royal balls occur, but there is nothing really objectionable. Feminists ought to like this story about a strong young woman who seeks her independence, works hard, and achieves her goal. But they don’t, because her quest ends up being defined primarily by finding her true love. Most modern feminists are not just “pro-female” but genuinely “anti-male” in their approach to all of life, including literature. The book would obviously appeal mostly to young girls, but boys might identify with Perry. I do not offhand remember who recommended it to me or exactly how I came to know about it, but I enjoyed reading it.