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 Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

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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Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

Image from Goodreads.com

Image from Goodreads.com

Wilson, G. W., & Alphona, A. (ill.). 2014. Ms. Marvel, vol. 1: No normal. New York: Marvel. ISBN: 9780785190219

Annotation: Kamala Khan is a Muslim-American teen living in Jersey City, who, caught in a mysterious fog blanketing the city, wishes to become like her hero, Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel.

Reaction: This book is amazing. Seriously. So good. I’m not sure how this book got published, like who at Marvel thought a series about a Muslim-American Ms. Marvel was a good idea? Because that person deserves a raise. I’m so glad they took a chance on this. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to see more of in comics: strong female characters, great diversity, good writing and art. I am definitely going to start following this series (should I stick with trades or get individual subscriptions?) I want Kamala to be my new best friend or my little sister. She’s totally, delightfully clueless in the way of all sixteen year olds, and she’s such a normal American teen, except, you know, with super powers, which I think is such a positive message to be promoting in comics today, especially from one of the big publishers.

I especially love all the identity stuff they have her dealing with in this first volume. She’s a normal girl, except the people around her won’t let her forget that she is different, but she just wants to be normal, dangit. But at the same time, the idea of abandoning her beliefs and her heritage are not something she even considers. She might have issues with her local sheikh but not with her religion.

The art is also really fantastic in this book. Alphona does a great job of making her look like a 16 year old Muslim-American girl. I love that she doesn’t just look like a slightly younger, slightly browner version of Carol Danvers (and every other woman in superhero comics [though she does have super awesome hair]). She is distinct without being charicaturized, and I love that the art doesn’t have that high gloss, super polished sheen of other major superhero titles. It has a younger vibe to it, without the art being dumbed down.

All in all, I think this book is great, and I think everyone should read if only for the super awesome feminist, non-white perspective.

Author website

Illustrator website

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


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High School Banned Books Booktalk

Here! Have a booktalk presentation I did to my local library’s TeensReach group for Banned Books Week 2013. (If I had been planning this better, I would have posted this during THIS year’s Banned Books Week. Oh well.)