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The Best Newbery Book EVER March 23, 2008

Posted by bookbutterfly in books.
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Before I continue on with my very first review, I’d just like to thank everyone who commented and thought my format was great! I wasn’t too sure whether it was too complicated or not, but now I think I should stick with it. Also, special thanks to Q, for giving me the spoilers idea. How awesome is that? Note to Summermoon: you have correctly guessed the book I reviewed! One last thing: please don’t expect anything great with my review, being my first. I skimmed a lot on the plot summary, especially in the spoilers section (I missed the main point, but my review was getting way too long, and I don’t want to say ALL spoilers), so don’t hold your breath. 😉 And now, my dear friends, I present to you….

PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale

Plot: Miri Larendaughter has been living in Danland’s quarry mountain village, Mt. Eskel, for all her fourteen years. While her widower Pa and older sister Marta head to the quarry to carve out the valuable linder, Miri tends her family goats, as she is forbidden from quarry work. She is convinced that she is of no use to the village, until, one day, it is announced that Mt. Eskel is the home of the Prince’s bride, and all young ladies, from 12 to 17, are to be taught and disciplined in an academy. Miri is unwilling to go, especially since she will be without her family and will no longer see her closest friend, Peder, often. The next day, all of Mt. Eskel’s girls are rounded up and marched to the academy, where Miri encounters several obstacles, including the cruelty of their tutor, Olana, and the unkindness of the other academy girls. Tutor Olana teaches the girls reading, writing, conversation, poise, and diplomacy to name a few, but her discipline is harsh, as she slaps the girls’ palms at the slightest misbehaviors, and locks them in a dark closet if they stand up for themselves.
*SPOILER ALERT!*
Because of these hard times, Miri discovers her gift to read, write, and even quarry-speak outside of the mountain. Quarry-speaking is a form of communication among the people of Mt. Eskel using songs and memories as they chisel away at the linder. Slowly, Miri gains her confidence in quarry-speaking and becoming Academy Princess, the top of the class, which is a greater honor than to be chosen by the Prince! Using her gifts, Miri is able to help her classmates succeed, and reaches her goal of Academy Princess. Along the way, she becomes close friends with 14-year-old Esa, Peder’s sister who has one lame arm; Frid, a strong 16-year-old who is respected by everyone for her family’s generosity; and Britta, a shy 15-year-old lowlander who has a totally different background from the others. After being chosen as Academy Princess, Miri meets the Prince, and is torn apart: does she really want to marry Prince Stefan and become a lowlander, or stay at Mt. Eskel where Peder is? At the climax of the book, bandits invade the academy and hold the girls and Olana captive. But with the help of quarry-speech, Miri is able to call for help to the villagers at home, and the villains are shooed away or killed (to say in the least; this part was written so much better in the book). Afterwards, Britta reveals to Miri her secret: she is in love with the prince, Stefan, and was sent to Mt. Eskel by her father, who faked his death, so that Britta could marry the Prince. In the end, Prince Stefan chooses Britta as his bride; in addition, Miri gets together with Peder, who shares the same feelings as her.

BB Beliefs: This is such a good book, that I can’t even describe it! The characters so real, you feel like you know them; the setting, though fictional, seems so close to home. And the writing is simply beautiful. I wish I had Shannon Hale’s lyrical skills and talent in writing, and, if she ever reads this, I’d like to say that I totally admire the quarry-songs at the beginning of each chapter!
Because of PA, I have actual become quite delusional and am now convinced that I can quarry-speak! It is so hard not to like this novel and not get into it. Don’t get me started about how much I love this book! Basically, anyone who is trying to discover who they are and what they’re good at must read this. It is no wonder it won the Newbery Honor, and I am so surprised it didn’t win the Newbery Medal. But Shannon Hale shall soon. Mark. My. Words. And if you’re backing away from reading PA just because of the title, DON’T. I did that for two years,I really did. (but that’s a whole other story, which I might tell in my next post) Lesson learned: Never judge a book by its title. NEVER.

Experiences: In the book, Miri was ostracized by her fellow classmates and was often alone; however this gave her time to study, read, write, and find her inner self. Throughout most of the books, she struggles to be Academy Princess. When I read this book, it was a few months after I had gone through similar events. No, I didn’t have to tend goats at home, or fight off bandits. I had tried so hard to be Valedictorian (or, as you can say, Academy Princess) in the previous year and was in constant competition with several of my classmates. On top of this, I didn’t have the easiest time “fitting in” and meeting new friends, since I was the “new girl” at the time. Luckily, all’s well that ends well, and I did become Valedictorian (yippee!) and I met fabulous, fantastic friends (you all know who you are, and I want to thank you so much for being the greatest pals ever) along the way. So if you ever ask me why I say Miri is like my fictional twin, here is your answer.

Age: This book is appropriate for any age, at the youngest, 9. But if I read this book as a 9 year old, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much. The best age to really enjoy PA in my opinion is 11.

Author Biography: Shannon Bryner Hale, born January 26, 1974, began writing since the age of 10. Before earning her Bachelors Degree at the University of Utah and her Masters Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Montana, she studied in Mexico and the UK, and was even an unpaid Mormon missionary in Paraguay. Afterwards, she pursued acting careers in stage, TV, and improv comedy. In 2000, she married Dean Hale, and thereafter had two children: Max (b. 2003) and Magnolia, aka Maggie (b. 2006). The Hales, along with a plastic “pet” pig, live in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her works are The Goose Girl (2003), Enna Burning (2004), Princess Academy (2005), River Secrets (2006), Austenland (2007), and Book of a Thousand Days (2007), all of which contain her signature lyrical writing. Shaniacs, LRRH-ers, and Shan-fans alike are anticipating Rapunzel’s Revenge (August 2008, this is a graphic novel), Forest-born (an accompaniment to The Books of Bayern, which are GG, EB, and RS), The Actor and the Housewife (her second adult novel), and an unnamed YA sci-fi novel. To this very day, she entertains her fans with comedy, interviews, and updates on her novels on her blog, Squeetus.

Awards: (with help from Squeetus)
*Newbery Honor Book
*New York Times, Book Sense, and PW Best Seller
*A Book Sense Pick for Fall 2005
*An ALA Notable Children’s Book
*2007 Beehive Award winner
*A New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
*A New England Booksellers Association Top 10 Titles for Fall
*A Book for the Teen Age by The New York Public Library
*Honorable Mention for “Favorite Novel of the Year,” PW’s 2005 Cuffie Awards
*Winner of the 2006 Utah Children’s Book Award
*A Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year, starred entry
*Nominated for the 2008 Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award
*Nominated for the 2008 Colorado Children’s Book Award
*Nominated for the 2008 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award
*Nominated for the 2008 Young Reader’s Choice Award, sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association
*Nominated for the Illinois 2008 Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award
*A 2007 DCF Voting Top Ten (Vermont)
*A Salt Lake Tribune Best Book of 2005
*Recommended Reads for Kids 2005 (Dover Community News)

Flowers: Perfect 10! ********** (These are Miri flowers, I promise) This book is definitely my #1 favorite. Period.

Lots of Love,
“Miri’s Twin”, bookbutterfly
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Comments»

1. Summermoon - March 23, 2008

Great first review! If I hadn’t already read PA, I would definitely do so now. 😀

2. Leanna - March 23, 2008

Great review! Princess Academy is one of the best books ever. 🙂

3. Bohae - March 23, 2008

I LOVE Princess Academy – it was the first book I read by Shannon Hale…

4. Madison - March 23, 2008

I must be weird, but I do not love PA. I mean, I like it and everything, but I just don’t love it. It just can’t compare to BoB for me.


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