No Place Like Gnome(ville): The Monster Princess: by D. J. MacHale
Down, down, down, in places below,
Caves can be found where krinkle nuts grow.
This world full of monsters is quiet and gloomy.
It’s dark. It’s spooky. It’s not very roomy.
The creatures who dwell there are called rugabees.
They dig up the krinkles and fight off the fleas.
The best krinkle-digger was Lala, by far.
So fast, so brave, a rugabee star.
But Lala is an dissatisfied rugabee. She loves to sing and craves to wear beautiful gowns and dance at brilliantly lighted balls. But as there’s zero chance of that underground, Lala takes her aspirations topside, giving the three lovely princesses dwelling in the castle above quite a start.
The precious princesses don’t mince their words. “You’re stinky!” they cry as they catch her trying on their fancy gowns. But Lala begs for a chance, and the princesses soon adopt her as their monster mascot make-over project. Scrubbed and scented, coiffed and decked out in a gown which compliments (well, sort of) her green hair and murky complexion, she is ready to be smuggled into the ball.
When she entered the ball
It was perfect and bright.
But the ending was not
To be happy that night.
It seems that the pretty princesses neglected that all important mani and pedi, and Lala’s claws, so well adapted to digging krinkle nuts, wreak havoc with her silken finery. The impostor is exposed as a princess pretender, and the pretty princesses turn on her like the clique they are and order her out. Lala flees down, down, down to her underground refuge, doomed, she thinks, to be “forever a troll.”
But alas, Lala realizes that she’s still wearing the princesses’ tattered gown, and like the honest rugabee she is, she determines to return above ground to return it to its owners. But there she finds the princesses in extremis, about to become princess-flavored appetizers for a ravening beast:
She saw the three princesses huddled in fear.
Trapped by a Weevil who grinned ear to ear.
“MY! I’M HUNGRY TODAY FOR SWEET PRINCESS PIE!” it gloated.
And Lala, the champion krinkle-digger, just happens to have the right nutty snack along to divert the beast’s attention and save the pretty princesses from becoming the hors d’oeuvers du jour. All’s well that ends well, and Lala comes to the conclusion that digging krinkle nuts underground is her true calling and joyfully joins her family down under once more.
Here D. J. MacHale wryly reworks the perennial teen plot in which a clique of "popular girls" adopts some plain Jane and teaches her to walk and talk like a "Pop," until their made-over model fails to pass her popularity final at the prom. When the in-crowd sees through her pretense, the populars turn on their own creation--at which time the poor girl discovers who her "real" friends are. Ably abetted by Alexandra Boiger’s appropriately earthy palette, MacHale’s The Monster Princess (Aladdin, 2010) is a timely little takeoff on that ever-popular princess wannabe genre, with a pleasant “there’s-no-place-like-home (when you are a gnome)” conclusion, especially suited for the scary season.