Recommended for ages 8-12
In true fairy tale fashion, we have an evil queen, a magic spell, and a hidden princess. Young Violet has never known life outside of the castle tower: the evil Queen Bogdana imprisoned her mother shortly after Violet was born, believing that Violet’s beauty will allow her to create a spell that will make her just as beautiful. Bogdana enchanted Violet’s father, sending him away with no memories of his wife or new baby. Mother and daughter pass their days making up stories for one another, alone in their small cell. Thankfully, the palace staff looks after the two, even creating a beautiful garden to sneak the young girl out to once in a while, where she plays with the hummingbirds that live in the garden. As Violet nears the age where the queen can work her spell, she takes Violet, telling her she will become a princess and be adopted by Bogdana and the king, but can never see her mother again. Violet’s mother makes the sacrifice for her daughter’s sake, but Violet is far too smart for Bogdana – she knows something is strange in the castle, and she’s going to find out and reunite her family.
This is a wonderfully modern fairy tale that retains the sense of wonder and magic from classic tales. Violet is a spunky, smart young princess in training, the Bogdana is a perfectly evil queen with a deep-seated self-esteem complex. Ms. Schroeder may humanize Bogdana by letting us in on her motivation, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s done horrible things to people for the most insipid purposes, and Violet – a naturally lovely and kind foil to Bogdana’s darkness – is going to set the balance right. It’s a great book with strong heroines – her mother is pretty outstanding, herself – and I can’t wait to get this onto my shelves and into my booktalks. I love my fairy tales – the kids here all know it – so I’ll be chattering this up alongside Imelda and the Goblin King for a nice discussion on smart heroines. The black and white illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli add beautiful depth to the story.
Add this one to your middle grade fairy tale collections, and take a look at some more of the artwork here: