Kuenzler, Lou. Princess DisGrace
21 June 2016, Random House
Copy provided by the publisher
When Grace and her father realize that her cousin, Precious, is off to boarding school at Tall Towers Princess Academy, Grace decides to tag along even though her cousin doesn't want her there and Grace has not applied or made any of the preparations the other princesses have. There's not even any room on the boat that takes everyone to the island! Luckily, even though Precious is rather rude, Grace makes friends with Scarlett and Izumi. Awkward and clumsy, Grace manages to make a mess of just about every princess lesson, from riding a unicorn to learning how to walk and sit properly. The other girls are mean to her, and when Precious steps over the line, her job as Golden Princess at a celebration is given to Grace. In typical fashion, Grace manages to destroy her dress and wreak havoc, although in the end, she does find that she has some skills.
Strengths: This is a British import with large print and a decent amount of illustrations. I can see beginning readers who haven't overcome their princess obsessions finding this to be the perfect book.
Weaknesses: I was very uncomfortable with the way Grace was treated by the other girls and also the staff. Her background was a caricature, and her clumsiness made fun of but never helped. Something about this is not in tune with modern US mores.
What I really think: Perhaps this is just too young for my students, and I don't fully understand it.
Shevah, Emma. Dara Palmer's Major Drama
July 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Dara and her friend Lacey-Lou are bound and determined to get into the school play, The Sound of Music. When they get put in the chorus, they believe that it's because Dara is Cambodian and doesn't look like an Austrian nun. When Dara's adoptive mother goes to school to complain to the teacher, she finds out that Dara didn't get the part because she THINKS she can already act and refuses to take part in workshops. Can Dara overcome her innate brattiness and learn enough to actually be in plays, rather than just daydreaming about being a star?
Strengths: It is an interesting to have a child adopted from another country, and there's lots of details about being in plays. This had some clever lines.
Weaknesses: Dara was SO whiny that I wanted to slap her, and the book had that breathless, whirlwind British style that US readers tend not to like. I was also slightly alarmed that Dara's own vision of herself included vanilla skin and golden hair. Something just struck me as off about the whole book.
What I really think: My readers who like British books are fewer, and I've got a ton of Renninson, Whytock, and Wilson to keep them happy. Will pass.