Tuesday, October 26, 2010

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.

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.

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  • You have an amazing website. Very high quality posts and great reviews. I'm glad I found your website!

    But searching your site is hard, really hard! The only way really to find a review is by scrolling pages and pages over and over. Your labels are near useless: "Beginning Chapter Books (Grades 1-3)" and "Beginning Chapter Books (Grades 1-4)". Seriously? You have so lengthy, high quality reviews with so much knowledge and insight to share and then you make it so hard for people to access.

    Some suggestions: simplify your labelings greatly, use fewer labels more consistently, put a menu of labels in the right sidebar, separate grade levels from topics in labels, do what you can to improve the search facilities.

    Hope you'll consider these suggestions to make your quality work more accessible.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:25 AM  

  • Thanks for your high praise, Anonymous.

    I am limited in format to what Blogger offers, so that there is no way to put a list of keywords as a sidebar. Likewise, I cannot separate the grade levels from the subject headings in the tag lines. I only get one box for keywords!

    As keywords I use a slightly simplified version of the standard Sears List of Subject Headings, used in most public and school libraries. Because I do titles for infants through high school ages, there ARE a lot of subject possibilities to be included. I try to use the same keywords for similar books and to try to offer more than one way to look up a given book. At the request of several readers, I also add "Boy Protagonist" or "Girl Protagonist" where it might make a difference in a reader's search.

    There IS a fairly useful SEARCH function. At the left top of the screen there is a Search Box, (following the red square with the Blogger iconic B) for readers to search by subjects such as GHOST STORIES, FRIENDSHIP STORIES, MIDDLE SCHOOL STORIES, BEAR STORIES, etc. You can also use it to search by titles or authors. It is not perfect, I admit, but I have no control over its algorithms. It is what it is! (After having had the EXCELLENT library catalog software on my job, which did Boolean logic and wild card* searches, this one IS definitely second-rate.)

    I hope these explanations help you out a bit and give you an idea what I am up against. I did a great deal of my own original cataloging in my school library and thus am acutely aware of the limitations here. I do take the assignment of keywords/subject headings very seriously here for the comfort of the reader.

    Thank you for the feedback!

    By Blogger GTC, at 8:53 AM  

  • BTW, Anonymous, in regard to "Beginning Chapter Books, Grades x--xx," I added that heading BECAUSE teachers of reading on the elementary level need that tag seriously to locate controlled such books for early independent readers. These "beginning chapter books" are a crucial step in developing good readers; they do, however vary somewhat in their reading levels, some such a bit about the "Beginning Reader" category, and some going as high as third or fourth grade AR levels. Librarians and teachers use these tags, as I know from my school experience, to select books for their school or classroom collections. If the tag says Grades 1-4, I am trying to say that some high-level first graders will find it accessible, but that the subject content, age of characters, etc., also make it appealing for slower or reluctant readers up to Grade 4.

    I'm trying to be helpful to my colleagues out there in the trenches!

    By Blogger GTC, at 8:59 AM  

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