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. :)