The Wide-Awake Princess
Reading level: Middle Grade
Pages: 272 pagesPublisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (May 11, 2010)
When Princess Gwen (otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty) pricks her finger and sends herself and the whole castle to sleep for one hundred years, only her younger sister, Annie, is left awake. And only--Annie--blessed (and cursed) with being resistant to magic--can venture beyond the rose-covered hedge to get help. She must find Gwen's true love to kiss her awake. But what about the one hundred years? And who is Gwen's true love? Her irritating suitor, Digby? The happy-go-lucky prince Andreas, who is holding a contest to find his bride? The conniving Clarence, whose evil motives couldn't possible spell true love? Joined by Liam, one of her father's guards, Annie travels through a fairy-tale land populated with characters both familiar and new as she tries to find the prince to rescue her sister... and perhaps even discover a true love of her own.
This was such a cute book. I think E.D. Baker always does a fabulous job with her fairy tale retellings. The Wide-Awake Princess did not disappoint me at all. It had a voice all its own. I loved Princess Annie. I thought it was such a nice touch that the heroine of the fairy tale had no magical powers at all. In fact, at her Christening, her "gift" was the gift of no magic. How appropriate, right?
As you would expect from E.D. Baker, the humor was timely and well played. Annie was a sassy and independent thing--which I loved. I get so tired of princesses being portrayed as dependent and helpless. Annie was strong-willed and resourceful. She didn't need anyone's help. In fact, she saved most of characters in the story--herself included.
The other thing that I loved about this book was the subtle (and sometimes more obvious) mentioning of other fairy tales. There was Hansel and Gretel (very original take on this story) who were dining with a witch suffering from dementia. The witch had to leave reminders for herself on conversation hearts plastered to the walls of her cottage. (She also had a large pet rat named "Fluffy" that she thought was a dog.) There was the story of Rapunzel which was pretty ironic. If you think about a girl trapped in a tower with a prince that visits everyday, but never rescues her, you can't help but wonder what the draw is. Then another prince shows up on Thursday. You start to get an idea of what kind of girl Rapunzel really is with her weekly visitors. There was also a mentioning of The Princess and the Pea and a few other lesser known tales, all of which were uniquely incorporated into the story. I loved it.
I'm a huge fan of E.D. Baker after reading her The Princess Frog series. It doesn't come as much surprise that I highly recommend this one. It's perfect for middle grade readers. It was quick and witty, but it didn't offer many twists and turns. Honestly, though, the complicated plot twists aren't needed. They story reads perfectly well being straight forward and predictable. I do hope that this will become a series. I would love to find out what happens between Annie and Liam (love them). Plus, there were a few other "items" that could develop into another book or two. You'll have to read the book to discover those, however.