Review of Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror

Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror
by Natasha Farrant; illus. by Lydia Corry
Intermediate    Norton    217 pp.    g
5/20    978-1-324-01556-7    $19.95

The framing structure for this collection of princess stories is elaborate. When an enchantress is invited to be the godmother to a princess, she realizes that she doesn’t know what qualities a true princess should embody, so she sends her magic mirror on a quest, across the world and across centuries, to observe princesses and come up with a definition of princess-ly excellence. As the enchantress loses and finds the mirror, we move from one folktale-inflected setting to another — medieval Europe, North Africa, Scotland, the Amazon — all reminiscent of the old-fashioned tradition of “fairy tales from many lands,” there as here unsourced. The eight stories feature heroic princesses who are physically brave, rebellious, cheeky, intellectually curious, empathetic, and attuned to the natural world. They save their communities from attack, they rescue those in peril, they stand up for themselves, they speak truth to power. They find satisfaction, acceptance, and love. The writing is jaunty, and the lushly illustrated and decorated pages are full of movement, detail, and character. The point here is obviously an antidote to the glitter-and-big-hair trope of the pop-culture princess, but the illustrator does throw a sop to princess enthusiasts with her generous use of pink.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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