Sometimes you just want an old-fashioned story of a princess making it out of a tough situation by the strength of her wits and the loyalty of her friends.
Princess Juniper of the Hourglass by Ammi-Joan Paquette. Philomel, 2015.
13-year-old Princess Juniper schedules her life tightly, always trying to pack in more than will really fit so that she will be the perfect princess for her kingdom. Still, her thoughts are lighthearted when she asks her father for a kingdom of her own, just for the summer: it will be good practice for her, as well as fun to make a kingdom only of kids her age. She’s working on assembling the perfect crew, recruiting help from book-loving Erick in necessary job titles, and letting kids do what they feel drawn to even if it’s not what they’ve been trained to do, including letting girls work as guards.
Then the king sends them all out in the middle of the night, and includes Juniper’s snobby and bullying older cousin Cyril and a couple of his friends – definitely not what Juniper had in mind. The tiny “kingdom” is a hidden valley surrounded by mountains and reached through secret passageways. With a river, fruit trees and more, it’s everything Juniper could want. But Cyril has no intentions of letting Juniper be in charge, and no one else seems to find working fourteen-hour days as fulfilling as Juniper always has. And – why did the king send Juniper and the other kids away so very quickly and secretly?
Juniper’s good intentions may not get her as far as she’d like, but her willingness to learn from her mistakes and from others advice made her a character I wanted to succeed. Even though I have met very few kids with Juniper’s level of work addiction, the balance between work and play, and one’s own standards and others, is both tricky and valuable. It’s all wrapped up in a sparkling adventure woven through with darker threads. Mostly, this stays on a level that’s exciting without being too scary for elementary students able to read a full-length novel on their own. There’s appeal for older readers, too, but I’d peg this most solidly for third through sixth grade readers. I’m curious to find out what Princess Juniper does next!
This book has been nominated for the Cybils. This is my own opinion, not that of the committee.