*NEWS* and The Thirteenth Princess, by Diane Zahler, for MMGM

After a whirlwind few weeks, I am pleased to publicly announce that I have accepted an offer of representation from Peter Rubie, of FinePrint! There were other offering agents, but Peter understood my book and its needs in a way that–well, maybe it’s the geek in my talking, but it seemed kinda like a super power. I’m excited to work with him on my Fairyland Witness Protection middle grade, and any other books that come along. Here’s to hard-earned happily ever afters, my friends!

Enchanted tree with Once Upon words

And with that news, the book I’m spotlighting this week underwent a last minute switch. Sometime soon I’ll give you my thoughts on Mango Delight (hopefully with a bit of book photography, because the story is begging for it) but it felt more appropriate to spotlight The Thirteenth Princess today. The morning after signing Peter I made a stop at my beloved local book shop, Quail Ridge Books, and with the help of their excellent kid’s staff found some great comps to read. Then I strolled through my local library to see what browsing would bring, and stumbled on this gem by Diane Zahler.

cover the thirteenth princess

My initial interest was a tiny bit skeptical, because I’ve read so many lovely retellings of the Twelve Dancing Princesses story that I wondered if this one could possibly offer anything fresh. However, the back cover flap had me instantly intrigued. A secret, unwanted, thirteenth sister? I had to read more. And read I did…finishing this book in one day! Now, in all truthfulness, I was nursing a bit of a bug–symptom of my flibbity jibbits from the week prior–and also reading with an eye toward fairy tale adaptation/mashup research. But all the same, it’s not often I put real life on hold like that!

What kept me reading? Undoubtedly the biggest impact was Zita’s voice and the perspective she had while facing her challenges. For, despite being a princess, Zita is a simple kitchen maid in her father and sisters’ castle. Her father loved her mother very much, but longed for a son and heir. As each daughter was born, his joy in the child’s birth diminished, until he paid the eleventh and twelfth princesses little heed, barely even naming them. The queen became worn down, and was slow to recover from the successive pregnancies, so it appeared the twelfth princess would be the last. However, circumstances goaded the king and they tried for one more child. When this final baby, the thirteenth princess, proved the death of the queen the king he refused to look on the child, and banished her to the kitchens.

Growing up motherless and far from her royal family, Zita was hardworking and happy. However, she began to ask about her parentage and eventually uncovered the whole story. This was a happy day for her, because she saw herself not as someone cast off, but believed now that she belonged in some small way and was related to the beautiful princesses she looked up to and admired. She began to have secret greetings with them–for the girls always loved her, from afar–and finally the princesses discovered a way to smuggle Zita into their room on Sunday nights, for sleepovers with her sisters.

Of course, their is sadness in the way their father behaved. His face was set in a permanent sneer, and what little love he had for his first twelve daughters did not extend to Zita. This problem became more pronounced when the older girls began to fall ill, mysteriously wasting away. Young Zita, with her work-roughened hands and ruddy cheeks, was banned from being near them. Of course, she’s wasn’t going to let that stop her, and gathered her small circle of friends to help her in saving her sisters.

But really, while the plot was fun and I loved this twist on an old fairy tale, it was the big-hearted way that Zita reaches out to this shattered family of hers and mends them slowly that I really adored. I don’t want to say more than that, because this is a story of how seemingly simple things in daily life can bring strength, and therefor the magic would be easy for me to spoil, but I am definitely recommending it!

Let’s see what Apricot-kitty has to say:

Apricot direct at camera w J“I liked this book, but I do wonder why it is that the humans in so many of these stories must work as maids or scrubbing servants of one kind or another. Cats make our magic while we nap. It’s our greatest gift. I take it humans find theirs in the bottom of a dirty sink?”





That’s a good question! If so, I’m in trouble, because my kids have done most the dishes in our home for some ten or so years now. Do you suppose they’d mind if I took over? 😉

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday reviews, spotlights, interviews and giveaways, be sure to stop by Shannon Messenger’s blog. Thank you so much for stopping by, and happy reading!

16 comments to *NEWS* and The Thirteenth Princess, by Diane Zahler, for MMGM

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