Monday, December 20, 2010

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday--Princess Academy (and a Giveaway!)

Thanks for all the comments on Friday guys (sorry for not responding--still catching up from being on vacation *drowns in laundry*).  I had a lot of fun in Vegas!!! Sadly I don't have any pictures to share (it rained the entire time, so there weren't any photo opps. Sorry) but I did a ton of eating and shopping and relaxing and oh, did I mention FUN. Yes-- <3 Vegas so much!

But I'm also sooooo glad to be home and back to my normal life and my normal blogging schedule. Which of course means another Marvelous Middle Grade Monday feature--and this week I'm talking about an absolutely beautiful book: PRINCESS ACADEMY, by Shannon Hale.


Yes, that shiny medal means it won a Newbery Honor--and it totally deserved it. This was probably the 5th Middle Grade book I bought and read (I started with the Newbery winners) and if I'd had any doubts that this genre could have beautiful prose and deep, powerful stories they were erased here. 

Don't be fooled by the title into thinking this is some fluffy fantasy about pretty dresses and fairy godmothers. The story is based off a fairytale, and there is a slight magical feel, but this is an emotional, rich story about a poor, uneducated mountain village that learns they are chosen to have a "princess academy" to prepare one of their girls to become the next princess.

We follow Miri, the youngest and smallest member of her family, who's been deemed by her father to be too fragile to help in the quarries that provide the only income for the village. As she struggles with feelings of uselessness and doubts her father's love, she's shipped off to the new princess academy to learn how to read and write and use proper social etiquette. And while she's there, she has her eyes opened to the power of education and discovers how many ways her life could be better if she applied her newly acquired knowledge. 

I know that may sound like a simple story, but the plot actually takes a number of surprisingly intense turns that keeps you turning the pages, needing to know what will happen next. And the writing is gorgeous. No really, it's GORGEOUS. Shannon Hale writes the way I *wish* I could write, but I'm just not lyrical or poetic like that. She is a master. *bows*

Obviously I love the book (I wouldn't feature it on MMGM if I didn't) and I highly, HIGHLY recommend it to any of you. I love all of Shannon Hale's books, but this one is definitely my favorite. 

And I know this book is sometimes classified as YA. But it really falls into that vague Upper MG/Lower YA Category that no one knows quite what to do with. Most of the time it's sold in the same section with all the MG books. But online it's listed as YA, probably because Miri is 14, which is a tad old for MG, and Hale's other books are YA. Personally I see it as MG, and know for a fact I would have loved it when I was 11, 12-ish. But I loved it as an adult too. So really it's for all ages (as most middle grade is). Trust me on this one, it's a beautiful book. You will not regret giving it a chance.

Which is why, as usual, I'm giving away a copy. You guys NEED to read this. Sorry, it's not a signed copy, but it's still a free book to one lucky commenter on today's post. All you have to do is follow my blog and leave a comment between now and 11:59 pm PST on Sunday, December 26th. I'll post the winner on Monday, the 27th. International entries welcome.

For another MG recommendation, make sure you stop by Shannon O'Donnell's blog tomorrow (she's doing her MMGM on Tuesday this week and you don't want to miss it.)

And if anyone else has done a MMGM feature today please, email me and I will add linkage. :)

Happy Monday!

49 comments:

  1. Sounds wonderful and I haven't read it. I'll have to mention this one to my daughter. Hmmm...Christmas maybe??

    Thanks!

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  2. That sounds like a wonderful book! Hopefully I get an amazon gift card from my husband this Christmas so I can catch up with all these recommendations. :)

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  3. This is a great book! I'm so glad you had fun on vacation!

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  4. Glad you had fun despite the rain. (Who wouldn't in Vegas, right?)

    I hadn't heard of this book. But HUGE fan of Shannon Hale here. Hope I win. *jumps up and down*

    Merry Christmas Shannon. Happy wishes for a sparkling new year. (((hugs)))

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  5. I love this book, and especially love the romance. :D

    My other favorite of Shannon's is Edna Burning. I love Finn.

    Have a great Christmas, Shannon!

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  6. I loved this book. I enjoy the upper middle grade books most and this is one of my favorites. Great choice. I have a copy already so don't enter me in the contest.

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  7. I second this with my hand waving in the air while jumping up and down!! This book took me by surprise. It is beautiful. You've made me want to read it again!

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  8. Oh I heart Vegas too!!!!!!!!

    I really enjoyed reading this book--I concur with your thoughts!

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  9. I love books about princesses. Sign me up! :)

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  10. You know, I'd heard about this book, but never looked it up. Something about the word "princess" in the title sort of turned me away, I think. Not that I take issue with princesses, but it did make me think it was just another fairy tale. I'm glad to know it's not. Although now I'm irritated with myself for having judged a book by its cover. Sounds like a lovely book.

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  11. This does sound like a lovely book, I'd love to read it. Happy holidays to you and your family.

    seriousreader at live dot com

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  12. hi miss shannon! mostly i dont like girly stories. but for sure i like stories where the mc could learn stuff that could change his life for the better. i gotta think if im gonna put this on my wanna read list but im thinking for sure my sister could want to read it. she 14.
    ...hugs from lenny

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  13. This is another book I"ve heard NOTHING but good things about. My students would love it.

    You keep on going with your rock star ways!

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  14. This is an awesome book and I'd love to win it :) Have you read her Goose Girl Series or Austenland? Love them!

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  15. Thanks Shannon, it's on the to read list!

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  16. I have this one, but I haven't read it yet. I think I need to make time for it soon! Another wonderful review, #1. Thanks for the shout-out. I'm glad you got my email. :-)

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  17. What a unique, different concept for a story. Interesting, and very cool.

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  18. This book is wonderful. I haven't read anything else by Shannon Hale yet (I know, right. What's wrong with me?), but hopefully I'll get those Borders gift cards I asked for and I can buy another of her books!

    I already own "Princess Academy" so don't enter me in the contest! Have a great week, Shannon!

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  19. Great review! I totally agree with your assessment. I love this book!

    lexie.bookbug(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  20. You're right, I wouldn't have guessed this story would have the depth you say it does. I'll have to check it out. :)
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

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  21. Sounds gr-eat! :) Enter me, please.

    I really want to check it out and blog about this book.

    -Aishah

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  22. As a middle school teacher, I'm always looking for engaging middle grade books to add to my classroom library! Thanks for the awesome review and for the giveaway!

    Jessi
    jlelliott08 AT gmail DOT com

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  23. Thanks for the recommend--it on my TBR pile now!

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  24. This sounds like a good book to read. Thanks for awesome giveaways :)

    khyla_808ATyahooDOTcom

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  25. I love this book! I believe this was the first one I read of Shannon's.

    taffy(dot)lovell@gmail.com

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  26. oh, i love this book! shannon hale is my FAVORITE author. i aspire to be just like her someday. :)
    what a great give away!

    also, i'm new to your blog. i found it by shannon hale tweeting about it. such a great read!

    happy monday.

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  27. I LOVED Princess Academy. Whenever a classmate of mine is under pressure to answer a question, I imagine quarry-talking her the answer.

    No wolf falters before the bite. Just strike.
    No hawk wavers before the dive. Just strike.

    Mud in my clothes,
    Earth in my hair.
    ?? in my ???
    Stone in my stare.

    I LOVE Shannon Hale. This book was amazing and unforgettable. See? I even memorized some of the poems in the beginning of each chapter.

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    1. I also love the poems before each chapter! They make it really interesting.
      Also, the line with the question marks in your post is "clay in my ears".

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  28. Shannon Hale is one of the most beautiful, lyrical writers I have read. I love her Bayern books. Thank you for the opportunity to own another of her masterpieces!

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  29. This is on my Amazon Wish List, which is currently as long as the Mississippi. Thanks for making me want to move it up a few spots!

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  30. I have one copy of this in my classroom but I haven't read it yet - I'll have to fix that. I love the look on her face on the cover!

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  31. Since all the best writers are named Shannon (flatter, flatter) I'm changing my name to Shannon right away. So, if I win, please announce the winner as "Shannon Michael G-G."

    Glad to hear you had a rocking good time in Vegas but, selfishly, am glad you're back at your blog.

    Love,
    Shannon M. G-G

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  32. Ooo, if this book is anywhere as good as Ella Enchanted...*swoons*

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  33. I adore Shannon Hale. This is actually on of her few fantasy titles that I don't have yet. I'd love to round it out.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  34. I haven't read it yet, but I WANT to! I've been following her on Twitter and she is delightful! And free books are always nice :)

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  35. Ooo! Enter me! I love the name Miri, and the cover is gorgeous, too! Sounds like a neat book.

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  36. I've read Shannon Hale's Bayern books and have been wanting to read this one for awhile now :)
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

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  37. I loved Princess Academy. I read a library copy, but would love to own it.

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  38. Princess Academy sounds like a wonderful book.

    Lol, why is it that laundry is always the first thing that tells you you're no longer on a vacation?

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  39. Sounds like something I'd enjoy reading. Glad you had a nice trip!

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  40. OMGOSH I love this book!!!! This was my introduction to Shannon Hale, pretty sure it was my introduction to 'all those princess books', and it will forever have a lovely place in my heart. It's what helped me make the transition from MG to YA, since it was shelved in the MG and her other books were in the YA. Ah, such good memories!

    So yes, count me in for the contest. :)

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  41. I read this book ages ago and LOVED it. I need to read it again sometime. Thanks for the chance to win!

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  42. Great book review. I've added it to my TBR book list. Thanks for sharing about it.

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  43. I'd never heard about this book before but it sounds like something I might enjoy.
    Thanks for sharing :)

    entrelibros_blog at hotmail.com

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  44. i've never heard about this book before. but really like to try it :_

    uniquas at ymail dot com

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  45. I would love to own this book. I read it a few years ago and really liked it. Thanks for reminding me about it again! Thanks for the giveaway.
    chickenherder@hotmail.com

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  46. *happy* I read this book! I don't remember a lot about it, but I remember liking this book :D Not entering btw :D

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  47. I love Shannon Hale's books! I've not yet read this one, but would love to! Thanks for the giveaway!

    Kira
    kira(dot)thomas(at)yahoo(dot)com

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Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3