Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.

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The Princess in Black by Shannon & Dean Hale & LeUyen Pham

Image from

Image from

Hale, S., Hale, D., & Pham, L. (ill.) (2014). The Princess in Black. Candlewick Press: Massachusetts. ISBN: 9780763665104

Annotation: When the monster alarm rings, Princess Magnolia jumps into action and transforms into her monster fighting alter ego, the Princess in Black!

Reaction: In this short beginning chapter book, the Hales introduce readers to the wonderful character of Princess Magnolia, who is a perfect, pink-wearing princess, until it’s time to kick some monster tush. Then it’s time for Princess Magnolia to don practical shorts, boots and a cape in black.

One of the best things about this book is the way Princess Magnolia embraces both sides of herself: the girly, super feminine princess and the strong, capable, monster-tush-kicking superheroine. I recently came across a great article about how it does a disservice to children and women to treat girliness as being less good than tomboyishness, and I think, in light of that, the Hales have done something remarkable here. This is a book that tells children that being feminine and wearing pink is great! And so is going out and saving the kingdom from monsters! The two aren’t mutually exclusive, and that’s a great lesson.

On top of that, the story is engaging and funny, and though this story is pretty brief, the Hales have managed to create fully realized characters and a world around them. The illustrations are bright and colorful and add a lot of whimsy and humor to the text.

I really, really hope there are going to be more adventures of Princess Magnolia/the Princess in Black. The Hales have only begun to scratch the surface in this one.

Media used: watercolor and ink

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website


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Diversity in YA Giveaway

Because I generally keep this blog fairly reviews-only, I have never talked here about how white-centric literature is or how important it is for the books we read to our kids to introduce them to all kinds of people with all kinds of skin colors, sexual orientations, interests, ideas and more. Books help introduce kids to the world around them, and non-white kids need to see themselves in the stories they read and white kids need to read about experiences beyond their own (and so do kids of color! but it’s easier for white kids to only read about white kids).

In an effort to advocate and promote more diversity in reading material for youth, groups have been formed to help bring people’s attention to this issue, including We Need Diverse Books and Diversity in YA. They both have a lot of great resources if you’re looking to expand the diversity in your reading and ways you can help ensure more diverse books keep getting published and read and honored with awards and accolades when they are deserving.

Which brings us to the main point of today’s blog: Diversity in YA is having a MEGA AMAZING Diverse Books Giveaway! Y’all should go enter because they’ve got 100 books to giveaway, and there’s bound to be something you’ve been looking forward to reading!

Lastly, the author Malinda Lo (who wrote Ash, the best lesbian Cinderella you never knew you wanted) has recently posted a great response to the question of why diversity in literature is important:

“Diversity is not important. Diversity is reality. Human beings are not all the same. We come from many different places and have many different identities and experiences. Having only one kind of human being in the stories being told is flat-out bad storytelling. Diversity is reality. Let’s stop erasing that.”

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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Image from

Moriarty, L. (2014). Big Little Lies. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. ISBN: 9780399167065

Annotation: Three women in a idyllic suburban neighborhood are dealing with different personal challenges as their children begin kindergarten, and they learn to lean on each other for support.

Reaction: So on the surface, this book is a mystery. It opens with interviews of the attendees of a Parent’s Trivia Night at the local elementary school where Something Has Happened, but we don’t know what yet. The main narrative arc then begins about six months before the Trivia Night, and leads us through all the events that led up to the Something That Has Happened.

But really? The mystery is secondary to the relationships between the three main characters, Madeline, Celeste and Jane, and what’s going on in each woman’s life. Which is not to say that I didn’t spend the entire book trying to guess what happened to whom, but I think this book really triumphs in it’s depiction of the friendships between adult women. In talking about this book with my own friends, that’s the one aspect that has been really refreshing; Moriarty’s characters rely on each other and become stronger through their friendship, and I don’t think that’s something you see very often in literature. And sure, Madeline is a little catty, but when it comes down to it, she’s all about supporting the women around her, even her nemesis.

On top of that, all of the characters in this book, even those we only see in their interviews and the entire class of five year olds, are all really well drawn and unique. There are a lot of characters in this book, and I think it would have been really easy for them all to become just part of the crowd, but by the end, Moriarty has told us significant details about every one.

On top of ALL that, this book was compellingly readable. I was listening to the audibook on CD in my car, and I found myself not only looking forward to long drives alone so that I could really dig into the story, but also sitting in the driveway listening because I had to find out what happened next. It was completely engrossing and emotional and funny, and oh my God, I want to be Madeline when I grow up. She’s the best. And there’s nothing I love more than when an author creates characters I want to hang out with.

Author’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks.)