Monday, September 15, 2008

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben is not your typical princess. First of all, her name isn’t pretty and feminine – it’s Ben, short for Benevolence. Secondly, she is chubby and graceless. And her life is far from perfect, especially after her parents and her uncle, the king, die on the same day. It is assumed that they were killed by the neighboring Drachensbetts, long the enemy of Ben’s people. Ben goes to live with her widowed aunt, Sophia, who is now serving as the Queen until Ben is old enough to assume the throne. Ben soothes her grief with food and sullenness, causing her aunt to keep her in a tower room until she learns to behave. But this punishment turns into freedom when Ben discovers there is something very special about this room, and the castle as well. The story is told from a future Ben’s point-of-view, as she attempts to set the story straight on the events that made her famous. The voice is authentic and old-fashioned, and beautifully written. All of the major characters are complex and well-drawn – we see the spoiled as well as the mature Ben, the aunt who is both cruel and caring, and the Drachensbett rulers who are both enemy and friend. This book has garnered rave reviews, and will be on many people’s short list for a Newbery honor. Review by Katie Corrigan

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