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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible. Written and illustrated by Ursula Vernon. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin. 2015. $16.99 ages 8 and up

"There is a power that all mothers possess, although some of them rarely use it, to wake their children from a profound sleep. Queen Hamsterbone gritted her teeth, took a deep breath, and yelled: "IT'S TIME TO GET UP!" Harriet shot out of bed with her sword, swung it wildly over her head, realized that it was her mother, and dropped the sword on her own foot."

I have always been a fan of new takes on old stories - specifically, fairy tales. In this novel, Ursula Vernon uses the Sleeping Beauty tale and many of its elements to engage a brand new audience. It is the first in what is meant to be a series of adventures starring the persistently upbeat and no-nonsense Harriet Hamsterbone.

At her birth she is the victim of a curse involving  a hamster wheel. An evil and indignant mouse named Ratshade curses Harriet with an extremely long sleep at 12, all because she wasn't invited to the christening. Sound familiar? That changes pretty quickly. Being a modern and progressive hamster princess who pooh-poohs the norms in princess behavior, Harriet likes fractions and checkers, swordplay, and solo rides around her realm.

Harriet's parents love her with abandon, and worry daily about her future. They are bent on finding  a suitable prince to save her from the curse that threatens her. The caveat to the curse is that Harriet cannot die prior to the curse's promise. We learn quickly that her parents need not spend one moment worrying about their very accomplished heir. In fact, when she learns at 10 that she is the recipient of Ratshade's curse, she couldn't be happier.

"Until I'm twelve,
nothing can touch me!
The curse needs me alive until
I'm twelve, or it can't

"Um ... "


She spends the following two years participating in all manner of dangerous and exhilarating activities, glorying in that invincibility. When things go awry, Harriet proves her mettle as a brave and brilliant leader, focused on saving all that she loves.

The text is complimented with speech bubbles and graphic artwork that will have readers rolling with laughter, determined to share each observation and pronouncement made by the endearing heroine. She is a princess to be admired and honored ... isn't that what we want from our regal leaders?

Bring on Book 2!!!

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